Savage Love

Too Fast

Comments

1
Love you, Dan. Can't tell you where my sex life would be without your gay, drunkenly dashed-off advice.
2
Love you, Dan. Can't tell you where my sex life would be without your gay, drunkenly dashed-off advice.
3
Time always tells. Ain't it the truth.
4
Excellent advice to GOY. (You really are great with the kids, Dan: I type that as a parent.) The 'check for explicit consent the first time' standard is a great idea, and relying on your partners to always follow that and all the other best responsible sex protocols is a very bad idea. Sometimes they're horny or inexperienced or clueless or drunk or just don't care.

Especially if not asking means SEX! Sex might happen right now, Oh boytomefinallyYES! Stopping all that to calmly make sure your partner is as into it as you, as if you figured this special connection between you could be only on your side, is a point where a whole lot of people decide that lust and hope are going to win over theory, if they even know the theory.
5
I'm just impressed there is a city somewhere that has an LGBTQ prom.
6
Great column as usual, but I've been waiting for Dan's comments on the President's support of gay marriage and (even more so) his comments on rabid homophobe Charles Worley, a North Carolina preacher who's said that gays should be penned up somewhere with an electric fence around them, and that "40 years ago, they would've been hung from a tree."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22…
7
Hmmmm...does anyone else think that maybe GOY needs to ask her new "friend" to move out and find some other vulnerable person to take advantage of? Seems like that should have been part of the advice offered (and the hardest part of the situation).

Did I mention that for the first time in my life, I really really want to travel to Ottawa? That exhibit sounds awesome!! And there's no reason that kids can't get edjacated from more than one place. Best. Museum. Ever.
9
Re: Sex: A Tell-All Exhibition, the upshot gets even better. Attendance has been many fold greater than for typical exhibits, thanks to the free publicity and the allure of forbidden knowledge. Hell, I may go myself (I'm in Ottawa).
10
Dan, this week's letters make me wish I'd had a friend like you, in high school. (We're not far apart in age.)

I'm glad I have a famous-person-friend like you, now. Thanks for helping people be less hung up, overall.

11
Dan, I'm glad I've had the pleasure of meeting you in person, and I second @10, Eva Hopkins' comments!

I wish there could have been amazing guys like you doing their damnedest to end bullying in public schools waaaaaaaay back when I was K-12. If I didn't have two fantastic friends and one outstanding teacher, I would have dropped out long ago. God knows what would have happened next.

I love your column! You ROCK, and keep it up!!!
12
There's a movement in sex-ed circles to replace the old opt-out consent mantra, "No means no," with a new, improved opt-in consent mantra, "Yes means yes." YMY says it's not good enough to wait for the other person to stop the action with a "no," which many people—particularly young people, particularly young girl people—have a hard time doing. You have to get a "yes."

Siiiiigh. Really? Verbal consent for every single move?
Am I the only person who thinks that's super uptight? "May I kiss you, please?" "May I take your shirt off, please?" etc etc etc. Give me a break...
13
@12 - I agree with you.

In my experiences, people appreciate sexual confidence. Asking and waiting for explicit permission for every single advance is the antithesis of that. You should be able to get by in life by a combination of body language and non-verbal cues.

14
Dan didn't say get a 'Yes' for every single move. Was it Oberlin that had that as a campus policy? At a guess, I would say get a solid Yes before anyone's genitals are touched. #13's right about reading body language--pay attention to whether your partner is enthusiastic, or has kinda checked out a little. If unsure, try saying, "Mmmmm, I like this," and see what they say.
15
"This situation could have been avoided if you had a sassy gay friend." :D
16
Some thoughts about yes-means-yes here: http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2012/05/a…

Asking (and saying yes) would be sexy if we hadn't learned from movies that it's not or that you shouldn't have to.

TL/DR: "Do you want me to fuck you?" "Yes!" What's not sexy about that?
17
Regarding the sex exhibit: Why is generally men who get all uppity about these things? From defunding Planned Parenthood to legislating the contents of a uterus to deciding who has the right to love who to providing useful sex education, it seems to be men who are all uptight about this.

For a gender so interested in porn, Viagra and trying to get laid they sure want to ensure that no one has any idea what sex is or what to do about the results of it.
18
Thoughts about yes-means-yes here: http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2012/05/a…

It wouldn't seem un-sexy if we hadn't learned from movies or whatever that you shouldn't have to ask.

"Do you want me to fuck you?" "Yes!" What's not sexy about that?
19
The previous unregistered comment totally beat me to adding that Pervocracy post! It is perfect, though.

"Yes means yes" doesn't mean, "You have to be absolutely desperately horny or your consent isn't real", it means, "all parties involved should be absolutely certain that what is going on is at the very least mutually agreeable". Where your certainty comes from is between you and your partner(s).
20
@12, 13, confidence doesn't necessarily mean leaving the consent behind. And it doesn't mean a failure to read body language and non-verbal cues. Also, "yes means yes" doesn't necessarily mean checking in every two seconds for every single touch. It can be made very hot: 'I really want to go down on you. Would you like that? Yeah?' All this while kissing, touching, etc. It can serve dual purposes, too. You can both receive consent and use it as an opportunity to figure out what your partner wants, likes, is uncomfortable with. It makes sex with a new partner an exercise in communication which, in turn, makes for better sex.
21
The previous unregistered comment totally beat me to adding that Pervocracy post! It is perfect, though.

"Yes means yes" doesn't mean, "You have to be absolutely desperately horny or your consent isn't real", it means, "all parties involved should be absolutely certain that what is going on is at the very least mutually agreeable". Where your certainty comes from is between you and your partner(s).
22
Gah, sorry about the double comment... :(
23
@7 - you should visit Korea! They have whole theme parks dedicated to sex and sex education called Love Land: http://curiousphotos.blogspot.com/2007/1…
24
I do have very hot memories of the first time with one of my exes who was a virgin at the time. We had a long session of intense foreplay, I stopped to put on a condom, got above her, then paused, looked her in the eyes and asked "yes?". She looked back up at me and replied "yes!".

At the right moment and done well, getting explicit consent can be fun and very sexy.
25
@20, that sounds like it would be hot, the first or second time. Wouldn't it get to be kind of a drag after that, though?
26
I liked Dan's focus on what the unhappy person should do next time:
"I don't have to wait for someone to give me a 'chance' to say no. I can and will say no whenever I want to."

Won't solve all problems, but it sure helps the next day if you know you weren't sending mixed signals. Listen to your own feelings, put them into words in your head, and if you want your partner to know, say them out loud.
27
@25 (Howlin' Jed)--

Why would it be a drag to find out what your partner's in the mood for today? I mean, unless your partner only ever likes to do one thing, sexually, in exactly the same way-- exactly the same position, speed, amount of pressure, etc, etc, etc. Otherwise, they're going to be in the mood for different things on different days, and how are you going to know what it is today if you don't ask? (I mean, they can and should tell you if they have something particular in mind, but in that case, they're asking you for consent for that particular activity, you know?)
28
Regarding the whole yes-means-yes vs. no-means-no ... thing, here is my disjointed and incoherent perspective:

I am a heterosexual, cisgendered male. I was raised in a progressive, liberal household, and the unspoken refrain that I heard every single day during puberty, high school, and sex education was, "If anything goes wrong in a relationship or in sex, it is ALWAYS the man's fault, even when it isn't, because men have it easier than women." Trouble communicating? It's because men aren't cultured to communicate. Either partner not wholly satisfied with sex? It's the man's fault. Woman decides she was t entirely okay with sex? The man raped her, and even if she doesn't press charges or he is acquitted, he is still scum and only got off because society hates women. And so on. The only way yo avoid being scum as a man is to defer to everything the woman says and ask for explicit verbal consent before initiating anything, and even that is no guarantee because society has conditioned women to prefer decisive, assertive alpha-males who simply take what they want and damn the consequences.

I recognize, intellectually at least, that these sentiments do not reflect what most people think. However, I also have MASSIVE self-esteem issues AND have trouble reading people AND was very nearly arrested and charged with pedophilia by one of the first women I dated long-term after I revealed to her that I have rape fantasies of being an underage teen getting assaulted by adult women.

It's hard for me to trust people, is what I'm saying.

As a result of it being so difficult for me to trust people, I require explicit, repeated, VERBAL consent before I initiate anything sexual, even kissing or hugging. And whenever anything goes less-than-perfect, my first thought is usually, "Well, she didn't consent to me pulling at her hair when I rolled over, so I'm going to jail for rape."

So yeah. That's where I stand on the consent issue.
29
@6 A friend of mine posted another pastor's response to that hateful preacher on Facebook. I'm not a religious person but I think it's a great idea.
http://www.thegodarticle.com/15/post/201…
30
Re 12, 13, etc: I agree that the extreme version (I want to put my noun on your noun, I want to verb your noun) doesn't have much connection to the way actual people have actual sex. However, if it would be your first time together, breathing "How far do you want this to go" mid-foreplay is perfectly sexy. The idea is that the first time with a new partner, or the first time trying a new act with an existing partner, you try to build in a little discussion. It can be very little, like 24's "Yes? Yes."

Body language is great, but how many 16 year olds are great at reading it? There's a very human temptation to put the best possible gloss on things, especially when you feel you and this person must have a special connection or this wouldn't be happening.

Dan gets at the big problem with Best Sexual Practice Theory, which is that it's a good thing to practice oneself, a blessing in a partner, but ridiculous to assume that everyone around you knows about it, cares to use it, and practices it the same way you do.
31
@12, 13: And sometimes you'll wind up coercing (which, depending on the specific situation and reader, may or may not be "rape") someone who isn't secure or assertive enough to define and enforce hir boundaries. Confidence is not antithetical to consent. The fact that people find determining consent itself to be unsexy is a huge part of the problem - it's why many of us feel the term "rape culture" is an appropriate description of the contemporary climate around sex.

Yes, asking before acting (in unfamiliar situations i.e. with new partners with whom one does not have a mutually-established framework of implicit consent) is such a heavy burden; how could anyone be expected to undertake it in order to combat something as trivial as the normalization of rape? /sarcasm (in case it wasn't fucking obvious - I can't be sure, since you seem to actually be advocating that position)

Home run answer... er, sports metaphor, sorry; Tony-caliber answer to the first letter, Dan!
32
@28: For an unspoken refrain that was really, really detailed.

You say you realize most people don't think this way. Rather than having terrified sex with women you dislike and feel incapable of trusting, certain you are always one elbow bump from a rape charge, please consider getting some counseling so you can shift toward a less fraught view of women and men and how they interact.
33
Re nonverbal cues and body language: Every person who ever claimed something to the effect of "Her lips said no no but her eyes said yes yes" believed he or she was an expert at reading body language.

And how are young, sexually inexperienced people (the subject of this column) supposed to be expert at reading sexual body language in all its subtlety?
34
@7 Wouldn't be so fast to assume GOY's friend is an uncaring clod taking advantage of her. She's a young girl, too, and there's a lot of unsure ground here for both of them.

I frankly don't understand "She never gave me a chance to say no." Saying no takes 1 second. If you're not confident enough to just say it when you feel it, you're probably not confident enough to stop things even if you're asked.

The asking before acting is a great idea, by why assume her partner is any better at this than she is?

She needs to talk to her in a private place far away from the bedroom, be honest about her feelings, and assert herself in the future. Which, yeah, is pretty much Dan's advice.
35
@32: Therapy would be nice if I could afford it, or if I were in any position emotionally or financially to date right now (I have zero interest in casual sex because That Is Something That Scumbag Men Who Are Scumbags Do), or if I had any faith left in therapists. The therapist I saw in middle school broke confidentiality to tell my dad everything I told him, and to tell my mom to call the cops on my dad because he thought my dad was a pedophile because he is gay. The therapist I saw throughout high school didn't even TRY to help, but was perfectly happy to bill my dad for four years. The most recent therapist I saw gave me a book on low self-esteem to read, and after reading eight chapters of "You Are a Bad Person for Putting Other People Before Yourself and Not Thinking You're the Pope of Chili Town," I tried to kill myself.

And this was after I started on antidepressants.

For now I'm simply working on getting myself in better physical and financial shape and trying to disavow myself of the notion that anyone ever deserves sex or a relationship. My thinking is, by doing the latter, I can both learn to respect women's consent/capacity to consent AND give myself a self-esteem boost, because any relationships I enter from that point on will be freely and willingly give rather than deserved or obligated.
36
@31 - I would rather fly to Yemen in the middle seat between Michelle Bachmann and Snooki than turn this board into a debate whether tacit acceptance of sexual advances without verbal consent = rape. But anyway....

Dan's advice was solid. You can and will say "no" any time you want. That should end things, and will end things with the vast majority of the population. The rest are rapists.

Scenario #1 - Kissing going well, move hand to thigh. Hand goes inside panties. Peel down panties. Kiss down stomach. Oral Sex. Which steps do we check in with?

I will grant you that there are pushy, persuasive and downright aggressive people out there. I have dated plenty of them. One of them even sold me a car the other day. Part of being a responsible person is enforcing your own limits. Financially, personally, sexually. To escape that makes a person a perpetual victim.

37
wait a minute...

yes means yes?

I am on board with establishing consent (yw ladies) but this imo goes to far.

anyone involved at anytime in the act has the right to put a stop to the procedings - but yes means yes treads dangerously close to i wanted it this last night but this morning i felt differently get campus security on the phone its time to ruin some lives.

38
@35 my (non-expert) understanding is that starting antidepressants leads some depressed people to attempt suicide, perhaps because they finally have the energy. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/Info…

Have you tried Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns? It helped me a lot. (Or was that the "...Pope of Chili Town" book you mentioned? Your description got a chuckle out of me, so thank you for that :-)
39
Explicit consent, with a verbal "yes" fosters communication; and helps young people just navigating the non-verbal sexual communication learn. There are also people who do not read or use non-verbal communication well; my daughter is one, and she could easily misunderstand or be misunderstood once she gets old enough for sex. Best to be sure, even if it's not sexy for some people. Just like it's best to use a condom with a new male partner, even if it's not sexy.
40
Re "yes means yes" --
Don't think of it as asking permission, think of it as communicating about what you each want. Are you interested in your partner's pleasure and happiness? If yes, then this thread already has lots of advice for how to help a less experienced partner express desire (@14, 16, 20, 24, 27, 30).
41
@EricaP (#38):

You're welcome, I'm glad I could make you laugh.

As for the book, it was actually "The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem," by Nathaniel Branden, who, it turns out, was one of the founders of the Objectivist Movement and cheated on his wife with Ayn Rand and blamed his affair on his low self-esteem. Beyond the inspiring-me-to-attempt-suicide thing, that was one of my other major complaints about the book: the author created a whole theory of psychology to justify the fact that he was a cheating asshole. (The third big complaint was that his "examples" from "patients" he'd "treated" over the years were all so vague and devoid of any specifics--plus, were only about people who were already rich and successful, and thus who I have no sympathy for their Rich People Problems of "But I never WANTED to be a wealthy businessman, I just wanted to be a painter and now I am sad because for the first time in my life of being a wealthy businessman I'm not getting what I want"--that I'm sure he just made them up.)

But anyway.
42
@stormcrow, @mydriasis, I agree, "yes means yes" (what a logically fallacious term for "opt-in", b.t.w.) goes too far. Apart from retroactively makes rapists out of almost all of us and imbuing sex with an Orwellian 1984-like quality, it fails to take into account the simple fact that anyone so eager to please that they cannot bring themselves to say no, will likewise not be able to bring themselves to NOT say yes.
43
Hey bundleofnerves, hang in there.

I can vouch for EricaP's testimony for "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy" by David Burns.

It helped me immensely. (Along with Savage's words)

Now, while the book does grant you the responsibility of your feelings, it does not blame you for them.

The book just lets you know how to train your feelings to treat yourself better. It also lets you know how to deal with other folks.

Good luck!
44
If it is done playfully, it can be very sexy to ask for permission for every move.

"May I suck your cock?"
45
I don't know if the point has been made, but to me it seems like "yes means yes" is not a huge improvement over the former mantra. If a person is too acquiescent/intimidated/hesitant to say "no", I somewhat doubt they'll be assertive enough to say "no" even if their partner asks permission.

I also don't think it makes to replace "no means no" with "yes means yes". They both have their place. A person's "no" should be inviolable -- not open to more cajoling and wheedling. But it is also very important to have good communication skills and to remember to check on your partner, since an absence of "no" does not mean that a person is mentally ready.
46
A lot of people responded to my post with variations of the same things, so I'll sort of blanketly respond to the two main points made.

1. "It can be sexy if you do it right!"
None of the versions anyone here gave seemed sexy in my book. Again, we all have your preferences. If a guy verbally checking for your consent gets you wet, that's fine. But that's not how I like to do things.

2. @ John Hortsman

As a woman I find it offensive that people think I'm unable to assert myself enough to say one fucking syllable, and have to work on the assumption that I can't say no. I care a great deal about other women who do have a hard time with these things, and I'm concerned about their wellbeing, but there has to be a better way.
47
Yes means yes is also referred to as enthusiastic consent. The idea is not to get bogged down in the details of exactly how many times and in what ways one has to ask and receive permission...the idea is to actually communicate (!!!) about your sexual desires and ideas with your partner. Do you like X? Do you wanna try Y? Gosh, I'd really like to Z tonight, what do you think?

It's all about increasing communication and ownership of your own sexual desires.

"No" still has its place! If we all practiced enthusiastic consent, felt free to say no, and respected other people's nos, the world would be a better place.
48
Yes means yes is also referred to as enthusiastic consent. The idea is not to get bogged down in the details of exactly how many times and in what ways one has to ask and receive permission...the idea is to actually communicate (!!!) about your sexual desires and ideas with your partner. Do you like X? Do you wanna try Y? Gosh, I'd really like to Z tonight, what do you think?

It's all about increasing communication and ownership of your own sexual desires.

"No" still has its place! If we all practiced enthusiastic consent, felt free to say no, and respected other people's nos, the world would be a better place.

Best ever cartoon about enthusiastic consent: http://campus.feministing.com/2010/10/27…
49
Um, sorry that posted twice. Newbie in the commenting (not the reading).
50
There is a whole lot of space between the model that posits that any sex about which one party feels some reservations should be retroactively defined as rape, and the model that posits that no one excels at reading body language like a horny inexperienced nervous virgin desperate to establish a connection. We can come up with something reasonable in between here.

No means no makes sense as the base standard, because it puts the responsibility for what is happening on you, where it belongs. But that can be expanded with the suggestion that a considerate partner makes sure their newbie partner has an opening to say "here's the line I want tonight."

@36: "Kissing going well" implies that you have done no more than kissed before this scenario unfolds, and that you do not know each other terribly well. Is she a virgin? Has she done this before? How far is she comfortable going? Do you know the answers to none of these because the two of you aren't that closely acquainted? So, yes, somewhere between kissing and oral sex you could check in with your partner. Breathing "should I take these off?" or "how far do you want this to go?" around the panty removing stage is not going to harsh anyone's mellow. It's a reasonable standard of behavior for you to exhibit, not to require in your partners. But by modeling it hopefully you'd help them get better with future, perhaps inexperienced, partners.
51
My@46: Okay, words don't work for you. But this is a column about kids, sexually inexperienced, not sure they're ready for sex, not sure how to indicate what they do and don't want. Can you at least allow that, maybe, for 16 and 17 year olds experimenting with partners the same age, a few words might be a good idea? The way you get good at reading body language is practice, and these kids, even Dave in the second letter, don't have that much of it.

(Btw, I agree with you on the by-definition-lacking-agency thing being demeaning to women. It always seems purdah would be the logical next step, for our own safety.)
52
@sessie

You think that comic is.... good... and a good and realistic way to do things?
53
@51

16/17 was a short enough time ago for me that I remember it quite well (the sober parts, anyway). Personally, I'm of the opinion that even teenage girls can be taught to be assertive enough to stop something when they don't like it.

In fact, the ability to say no, isn't "learned" at all. It's unlearned. Especially in girls. This is the real problem, and one we should be addressing.

I feel that "yes means yes" tacitly assumes that it's an unrealistic goal to hope that women and girls can learn assertivenes so we'd better teach men that women need to be monitored. They can learn to be assertive. Before I turned 18 I had many many many experiences where I said no, even in very frightening situations, even with drugs/alcohol in my system.

But to answer your question, I guess in the limited context of young/inexperienced sexual activity, a policy like that might help? But as many people mentioned, most of the forces that stop her from saying no would still be at play to make her say yes. You can ask for consent in a very domineering or pressure-laden way, and it's just as bad as - maybe even worse than - saying nothing at all. I don't think any amount of slogans or rules can make up for the core problem that causes women engage in sex acts they aren't comfortable with. We need to address why they do them in the first place.
54
@my:
what's not to like about "Ok. Can we roleplay abstinent vampires?"?

Maybe talking isn't doing anything for you, or maybe you hear all this communication (the comic and suggestions above) said in a very serious voice. For me it sounds cheeky and sexy.
55
One more thought, and then I need to do other things:

I strongly believe that anyone who thinks they're mature enough to have sex needs to be willing to do so with the emotional responsibility of a grown-up. No treating your partner like crap and then whining about how you couldn't help it what with being so young.

That said, if one's partner is young, inexperienced, a virgin, unsure they're ready for sex, thinks they are but isn't sure what they're comfortable with and how to discover and explain that, is having sex but it's still pretty new, etc, then one should take a little extra care in establishing consent. Allow for a spot things could stop. Check that heavy breathing doesn't mean anal is good to go. Maybe your partner is these things because you are yourself, and maybe your partner is these things because you met an awesome 20-something formerly supershy geek who could never quite bring her or himself to figure out how this worked with another person but with you they suddenly understand why sex is supposed to be such a fabulous idea. (If you have no idea if your potential partner is these things because you haven't gotten to know them that well yet, again, a little caution is kind.)

The letter writers in this week's column are 16 and 17. We're talking about sex ed, which in this context is something one is teaching to kids not yet having sex, who are figuring out how to responsibly navigate those negotiations.
56
@my at 53:
I agree that no amount of slogans or rules will make women be more assertive - nor men.

But I think for young people to learn to incorporate playful communication to ask for or give consent is important.

And not only women are the "victims" of the lack of communication. A friend once told me about his horror when a sex partner inserted her finger in his ass without asking before. She had read in Cosmo that all men like that. He hated it. It was dreadful for him and for her. Not sexy for either in the end.
57
"I feel that "yes means yes" tacitly assumes that it's an unrealistic goal to hope that women and girls can learn assertivenes so we'd better teach men that women need to be monitored. They can learn to be assertive. Before I turned 18 I had many many many experiences where I said no, even in very frightening situations, even with drugs/alcohol in my system."

What's ironic is that the YMY crowd is quick to trot out horror stories about how often girls freeze up because they're afraid the guy will continue if they offer up a no. This accomplishes exactly two things; It ignores how easily the same fear would prompt an insincere "yes" (with the follow-up "you must ignore your partner's express stated desires and decide if they're really enthusiastic enough" implicitly infantilizing women), and at the same time discouraging women from seeing their partners as caring people who will respect a frank no.
58
@migrationist

1. No I get that it's meant to be "cheeky" or "fun" and lots of people here posted their own versions of how they'd do it or how they've done it or how they've seen it done and they found it to be sexy.

I just don't, that's all.

And for me, I like being the passenger's seat. I like not knowing what they're going to do, and when they're going to do it - that's exciting. I guess you could go so far as to say that for me personally, the absence of checking is sexy, in a way. But that's a hard thing to explain, especially to people who have different attitudes.

2. Again, I mentioned above that I think a YMY policy might maybe help (for young people) but I don't believe that it would really be that helpful in practice for the reasons I mentioned above, as well as other posters.
59
Yes means yes:

"Taking it off here, Boss?"

"Take it off there, Luke."

FUCKING HOT.
Well, I guess if you want to role play prison ditch digging it would be.
60
i think that the comic is good - yes, a little cute and vanilla-pie, but that's the demographic i guess. there is no way i would get into a sexual situation without some discussion (even, "so... do you want to play?") i try not to go anywhere near a new lover without an in-depth discussion around boundaries and risks - what is affectionately referred to as 'the 101'... it's just simple common-sense, how can you even start without that? you have NO WAY of knowing what they like; what they are/are not up for; or even what they think of when they say 'sex', without that discussion. without the info how can you possibly have a good time?? spending the weeks/months/years/whatever while you get to know someone, talking about what turns you on, and where your boundaries are is also a great way to get into their bed in the first place. ;-)
61
I think we're drawing out the large gulf between what sort of behavior is reasonable (aka rational) to expect from those around you, versus what sort of behavior is reasonable (aka responsible and mature) to exhibit oneself.

It's reasonable to expect a partner to obey your "No." It is not reasonable to expect your partner to ask for a yes in exactly the right way at exactly the right moment such that you didn't feel pressured to give that yes: that's back to expecting mind-reading, as in 57.

It's reasonable to treat your inexperienced partner, who is just figuring out what they might want sexually and where their lines are and how to communicate them, with a degree of extra care. Check in now and then. Even if you are inexperienced yourself.
62
@61 In other words, it's hot if my husband throws me up against the wall in an alley, rips off my panties and fucks me right then and there with no condom. (Because he knows quite well I'd love that.)

If we didn't know each other quite so well, he'd be well advised to check for a 'yes' or some enthusiastic body language before proceeding.

63
@62

If body language counts as 'yes' then we're getting out of YMY and into common sense.
64
@mydriasis I have a friend that feels like you do, wanting her dates to be aggressive... except when she doesn't want them to be. I could be wrong, but I'm assuming that you don't want every guy you have coffee with to shove his tongue down your throat without warning.

So I posit that even for people like you that prefer unexpected and/or aggressive partners, the first few times together it's still a good idea to ASK if it's okay to kiss/touch/fuck and after a time or two you then give some sort of blanket consent: "Oh, Brad, you don't have to ask! Just grab me and go for it, I LOVE that!" Every couple/triad/group is different, but it's polite and respectful of the person you're with to begin by gaining permission to proceed.

No, it won't stop people from being coerced, but it can end of lot of the "not-rapes" that happen because some men/boys are otherwise uninformed or badly educated and take silence or insecurity as "yes".
65
This breaks my heart. Nobody who needed to ask ever did, making either Yes or No an unattained luxury. At least I'm out of it now. Better luck to the rest of you.
66
@63, Of course enthusiastic body language counts as 'yes'. But ambiguous body language doesn't count as yes, the kind that GOY was putting out: "I didn't feel like our relationship was ready for sex, but I went along with it"
67
i'd also like to point out that body-language is subculture-specific. and gender-specific. even things like whether someone pushes back = enthusiasm or back-off, and rolling over in bed = 'no sex' or 'just do me honey'.... before getting into what _that_ look or gesture meant. this is a big enough problem, even in my small city, that someone is starting up a workshop/discussion on cross-gender/cross-culture sexual cues and etiquette.
the point is you just can't assume anything.
68
@67: Horseshit. In most of those cases, there's plenty of time for the people involved to learn the other person's signals, if they're so inclined. Someone you've known for a while is worlds different from a random.

A re-read of GOY's letter underscores the heart of the problem;

"How can I get her to understand, or at least respect, how I feel if she doesn't understand why this was a big deal for me?"

Trying to shoehorn this into a consent issue ignores the much larger "respect your partner, be a decent human being" issue.
69
YMY would have helped me a lot with my first sexual relationship at 18. I went a lot further, a lot faster, than I was comfortable with. I had no idea how to voice the "no" that was running through my head (maybe it sounds silly, but it's true), and the guy I was with was thinking "Well, she'll stop me if she's not comfortable. Hey, she's not stopping me, this is great!"

I definitely don't categorize it as rape, but I did deal with a lot of guilt afterwards. If he'd clearly asked before taking my pants off, or I'd somehow been more assertive, I could have saved myself a lot of worry/pain.
70
Agree that checking in constantly is kind of lame, but I have to say being a overly passive partner is even lamer. We should encourage people to see sex as something you DO, not something that just happens to you. Even when I'm not on top or performing oral I expect my partner to give some input as to their preferences and needs with BOTH words and physical cues. Accepting the idea that you can be a passive non-involved partner, who's only responsibilities is saying yes or no to the encounter then just accepting whatever their routine is while keeping a grip on the emergency brake equals epic fail. It makes sex sound like a soda fountain. As for the love of dominance (which I agree can be nice), even subs communicate sometime during the sexual process. So obviously there's ways to maintain the suspense of the next moment without imitating a fleshlight.
71
I could be wrong, but I'm assuming that you don't want every guy you have coffee with to shove his tongue down your throat without warning.

No, I don't want that, but I (and most women) know when a guy is about to make a move. As I said above, I have been in situations where people have made moves I wasn't okay with. I said "no". Or moved, away, or pushed the person back as the case may be. 9 times out of 10 that isn't even needed. That's the beauty of body language and paying attention to what's going on.

So I posit that even for people like you that prefer unexpected and/or aggressive partners, the first few times together it's still a good idea to ASK if it's okay to kiss/touch/fuck and after a time or two you then give some sort of blanket consent

Look, if that's what you want, that's fine. But if someone tried to do that the first time (let alone the second time!) I'd find it off-putting and insecure. Luckily it hasn't happened to me yet.

@gash

I prefer nonverbal communication. Nonverbal =/= passive, for the record.
72
I've been pressured by quite a few guys in my life who would have been thrilled if I'd just kept my mouth shut and let them fuck me. And that's what happened sometimes. Was I able to say no? Certainly I was physically capable of it. Sometimes I did. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, I didn't. Should I have done so when I didn't really want to have sex? Probably, but there are a lot of reasons for a woman to keep her mouth shut and let a guy do what he wants.

I threw myself out of a moving car once because I refused to go somewhere with the person driving, and he declined to stop to allow me to exit safely. Someone who is arguing that 'yes means yes' is a bad idea strikes me as in the same league as that driver. You've decided where you're going, and you don't care if your passenger wants to go there or not. If you find it non-sexy to make sure that your partner is consenting, then please remove yourself from the pool of prospects so I never have to run into another person like you. I've met far too many already.
73
@69: "If he'd clearly asked before taking my pants off, or I'd somehow been more assertive..."

If you were advising a young girl who reminds you of you, like GOY, one of these would be in her control, and one would not. Best to focus on where she has control.

More generally to the thread, reading the examples I'm becoming convinced that YMY is not helpful. The question needs to be asked at the right time, in the right words, in the right tone... it's superhuman. If your lover is that good, they can mindread and don't need the verbal communication. If you are afraid to say no, then "You want this, right?" is probably not going to elicit an honest response any more than a failure to ask. A firm 'no' would have done so much more than wishing our lovers had done it differently.

(I still think that, with an inexperienced partner, building in a 'how far do you want this to go tonight' pause is considerate. Even if you are also inexperienced. Assuming that everyone around you will do that for you, though, is just not going to work outside of a theoretical space.)
74
What the fuck is with people who can't seem to learn that communication is a good thing. Do I and my partner always get verbal consent before sexy times? No, but we've been together for two years and know each other well. Experience with each other comes with the benefit of knowing what the other enjoys and will be up for most of the time. However when we first got together? We went with enthusiastic consent, we always asked if the other was interested in sex in general before getting it on and before any NEW activity was started.

It's not hard and if saying "do you want sex tonight" is so unsexy to you that it makes you completely lose interest: get over it. I would certainly prefer to make sure someone I'm having sex with is on board and comfortable with everything than to leave them feeling icky or violated. That is just being a considerate human being.
75
@73, I don't think YMY is a question to be asked and answered.

I think YMY is an attitude, that if you're getting a vibe of uncertainty from your partner, you back off until you're more sure what your partner wants.

And for the less aggressive partner, YMY is an attitude that you take responsibility for figuring out what you want, and communicating it.
76
I wish we could hear from GOY 4 years from now. I believe one possibility, if we could, would be that she'd say that she realizes that that relationship wasn't going anywhere anyway. She might say that it had less to do with the too-fast-too-soon sex and more to do with trying to make her first sexual encounter be with someone who had so much serious drama at home that she had to move out. The thing I'm seeing is Miss TFTS (too fast too soon) was feeling pretty powerless, saw someone willing to save her (GOY) and did what drowning people often do. They throw their arms around their rescuer with so much force and desperation that they bring the rescuer down with them.

There's no way of knowing this now, but I speculate that after GOY has a number of excellent sexual experiences, she may find that the real problem with Miss TMTS is that the 2 of them didn't click together anyway. Slowing down to get a positive yes wasn't going to change that.
77
@71 I agree that nonverbal isn't the same as passive or minimal communication. Still for somethings verbal is best, especially when there's any chance of physical harm (aka anal) and/or risk of miscommunication or presence of inexperience at play.

On the podcast a few months (?) ago a guy was complaining that a chick who had her head pushed down to dick level as a nonverbal cue for oral was "rounding up" the experience to assualt. Now even though she went through with the sexual act she was never the less still deeply offended and hurt afterwards. Which she was kind enough to demonstrate by telling people on campus that she was assualted.

So I think the safetest bet is communicating, even if it's only to tell them up front that you tend to rely on nonverbal.

EricaP brings up a good point. How well you know someone makes a great deal of difference in whether to use more or less communication and what type.
78
There seems to be a strange conception among some of the opt-in proponents that sex can just happen by surprise. Oops, he just tripped over my cat and his penis fell into my vagina! Have you guys ever actually had sex? For anything to really happen, from kissing to penetration, requires the actual active participation of the woman from start to finish, from opening lips for kissing to taking clothes off or allowing them to be taken off to physically allowing penetration (since we are not talking about rape here). Active physical participation, like it or not, is consent. It is unfortunate that people give consent against their better judgment, but it happens all the time in all spheres of life. But when we are talking about someone who gives physical consent against their better judgment, why do you think they wouldn't also give verbal consent against their better judgment?
79
@78 cockyballsup
They are talking about rape here! You and mydriasis seem to either have no sympathy for young people who are relatively sexually inexperienced, or are just plain shockingly ignorant. Sex looms very large in some people's minds. How can you not know that this is a seriously unnerving thing for some? Congratulations if you're so on top of things that it was never an issue for you. Surprise: many people are at their least rational in sexual situations.
80
@75: I'd make a distinction. And again, limiting this to one or both partners fairly new to sex and/or each other, because long-term relationships do operate on a different kind of earned trust.

It is good to read and respond to nonverbal cues, even if they are not the ones you're hoping for. It is foolish to assume your partner (as here, a new to you and very inexperienced partner) is going to be good at reading your cues. There was a bit somewhere upthread about teenage boys clumsily failing to read their partners, and, um: Yes. In and out of bed. Teenage girls too, as we see in GOY's letter. They don't have experience. And layering our hopes onto things is pretty human, believing that what we feel in terms of lust or emotional connection must be mirrored.

There exists enough swept away by an experienced partner porn (not just for women; see Dan's made-up letters from straight guys who were turned gay by such an encounter) that ambiguous signals could be very readily taken as consent by a someone who is trying to do the right thing, has their brain clouded by lust, and isn't getting any physical or verbal slow-down cues that they recognize. Scarleteen had a nice list of such cues, but it comes back to: Should you, a teen, read Scarleteen and take its advice to heart? Yes. Should you operate as though your partner has done so? No.

So I agree with you about mindset. But it's not a mindset you can assume in your new partner. Hey, maybe they had bad sex ed and no one sent them the Scarleteen link and they need some guidance.
81
IPJ @80 agree completely.

82
78, we're not talking about consent, we're talking about having fun together.

I refer you to ChiTodd @68:
>> Trying to shoehorn this into a consent issue ignores the much larger "respect your partner, be a decent human being" issue.>>
83
"In fact, the ability to say no, isn't "learned" at all. It's unlearned. Especially in girls."

Uh, hold on a second. That is NOT true in all situations. I can clearly remember times when it was a very big deal to even ASK anyone to stop something, let alone act as if it was my right to do so. Girls are heavily, heavily socialized to go along and be agreeable.
84
@83

I think you're confused. "Girls are heavily, heavily socialized to go along and be agreeable" was exactly my point. Baby girls are very good at communicating a nonverbal no. When little girls learn how to speak they are very good at saying no when they don't like something. Then it is socialized out of them. That's what I was implying when I said it's "unlearned".

@ Mr. J

I'm one of the younger posters on here. I was a teenager not too long ago, and as I mentioned above, I remember quite well what it's like to be 16. Did you actually read what I wrote @53? In fact in another post I explicitly said "I care a great deal about other women who do have a hard time with these things, and I'm concerned about their wellbeing" - don't tell me I'm not sympathetic. Plus ignorant? Again, if you read my post you'd see that I alluded to the fact that I've been in the kinds of situations where these issues become very important. I don't like plastering every graphic aspect of my personal history on SL comments but anyone who was paying attention would pick up on the gist. To your last point, at the risk of becoming redundant, I do realize that other people were "less on top of things" as you say, but that doesn't change anything in terms of my issues with the YMY viewpoint.

Honestly, I don't know how you could have actually read my posts and come to the conclusion you did. I'm a little offended, TBH.
85
@83, I think what mydriasis was trying to get across is that at the age of two, all kids know how to say NO--they say it loudly and frequently. It's over the course of the next ten-twelve years that girls are socialized to acquiesce. And then we turn around and tell them that, in one circumstance, they need to say No.

I can see where this would be very confusing to teenage girls. I can't speak to teenage boys' experience but I imagine they get some conflicting messages as well. Encouraging communication around sex and emotions can only be a good thing.
86
@84--darn my slow typing!
87
@84: Thanks for clarifying, mydriasis. I thought you were talking about girls having to unlearn the good-girl-gatekeeper-legs-crossed stuff in order to say yes to sex.

For me, it's not about assuming that anyone can't learn to be assertive. It's that many, MANY people (including lots of guys in my experience) HAVEN'T yet learned to be assertive, and don't deserve to be treated any worse because they haven't. Also, I wish very much that I'd been brought up with clearer ideas of consent in all situations, not just sexual ones -- I can think of lots of actions of my own that I regret, where even people much older and usually more assertive than I was froze up when I did something inappropriate, and I didn't realize for ages that I'd been a jerk to them.
88
The idea of a yes-means-yes policy, rather than insisting on no-to-mean-no, has been around for nearly 20 years. The campus action referenced in #14 was the Sexual Offense Prevention Policy adopted in 1993 by the student-faculty-staff Community Government at Antioch College. It drew slick scorn and sick rantorums from Garry Wills on down to hairy-palm-snicker-snicker snotasses at the time, but subsequent date rape cases large and small on too many campuses to count have cast the SOPP in a far more positive light. Ironically, the SOPP expired when Antioch sUniversity shut down Antioch College in 2008 and has not been re-enacted since the college was reopened as an independent entity in September 2011. The full saga is for another time and place, but one local note is in order: Antioch University Seattle and the other four Antioch University campuses around the country no longer have any organizational, financial or legal ties to Antioch College.
89
The idea of a yes-means-yes policy, rather than insisting on no-to-mean-no, has been around for nearly 20 years. The campus action referenced in #14 was the Sexual Offense Prevention Policy adopted in 1993 by the student-faculty-staff Community Government at Antioch College. It drew slick scorn and sick rantorums from Garry Wills on down to hairy-palm-snicker-snicker snotasses at the time, but subsequent date rape cases large and small on too many campuses to count have led many hasty critics to reconsider the SOPP in a more positive light. Ironically, the SOPP expired when Antioch University shut down Antioch College in 2008 and was not re-enacted after the college was reopened as an independent entity in September 2011. The full saga is for another time and place, but one local note is in order: Antioch University Seattle and the other four Antioch University campuses around the country no longer have any organizational, financial or legal ties to Antioch College.
90
I could be wrong but I think what the anti-YMY peeps here are saying is that we need to teach people to read their partner's signals better.

Really it should not be that fucking hard to notice your partner is not into whatever you're doing. We shouldn't HAVE to say Yes or No. It should be obvious by how we're reacting!

That said... let me give an example... (warning: heteronormative sex talk coming) of what I think *is* problematic, and I think this has a lot to do with how women are socialized, is often women are not clear when they mean no. If you really don't want to have sex with a guy, you need to say a firm, clear no, and move away. Now some people assume this is obvious. Well no it's not always and I'm going to tell you how...

Many years ago, nearly 20, I was in my late teens and went out of town with my boyfriend and an older friend of mine who was married (hey it's Nebraska, we do that there). We went camping. Her husband had to work so he was home. We had a cabin type thing on a lake. Was awesome. We met some other people there and some drinking and bonfire was going on. Roasted some steaks, potatoes, drank and went swimming at night, that sort of thing.

Her and this one guy hit it off. I mean she was all giggle goofy and not mentioning her marital status. Frankly her husband was a dick so we didn't care. She stays out with this guy and my boyfriend and I head back to bed. We're all sleeping in the SAME ROOM in different beds. I sleep with my guy on one bed, and we wear pajamas because this is Nebraska and people don't get frisky in the same room.

A couple hours later I'm awakened by her and the guy crashing into the room, shhhhhing one another, making out hardcore. When I say hardcore I mean her legs were wrapped around his waist as he was walking. With her tongue down his throat. They collapsed into bed and in short order said they were both too drunk and would just sleep by one another. At this point they both disrobed completely and went to sleep. Cuddling. Naked.

At some point a few hours later I woke to them having very loud noisy aggressive sex. At one point I heard her say "wait. omg wait, no, we can't do this." He quickly replied "oh come on, you know you want it" and she just said "oh god" and the rest was a bunch of moaning, position switching, including her on top, and large orgasms from them both. Lots and lots of extremely explicit "fuck me hard" dirty talk. My boyfriend and I lay in the next bed mortified. I just was not that kind of person then. I mean I'm not super into it now but I'd be more "whatever" and roll over and go to sleep. Then I was mortified.

The next day I woke up to give her the raised eyebrow. I found her in the bathroom sobbing hysterically and a complete wreck. Imagine my surprise when she informed me she was not crying out of guilt but because she had been raped.

Now I had the good sense to not say "oh bullshit!" (tho I wonder now if I should have?) because I just really did not know what to say. But clearly, she absolutely completely felt she'd been raped. I'd known her since we were little girls and she was no actress and quite possibly the worst liar I'd ever met in my entire life. No she was absolutely convinced she'd been raped.

I asked, gingerly, "did you tell him no?" and she said, very tellingly "well, not very well I guess!" And went on to explain she'd been so afraid she just went with it because she was so afraid what might happen if she said no strongly and firmly, and just resigned herself even though she didn't want to. Technically. I mean wtf my guy and I were right there and my guy was HUGE and a bar brawler. We were 5 fucking feet away!

Now that's just one incident. Am I blaming women? No but I am saying we need to be VERY CLEAR. Men (or hey women either!) are not mind readers and if you're moaning and grinding your hips against someone and sleeping naked by them it's pretty reasonable for that person to think you might want it.
91
@90: "We shouldn't HAVE to say Yes or No. It should be obvious by how we're reacting!"

But if this were true then saying Yes or No wouldn't be a big deal.

Your story of your friend is... It's so troubling to me, as a mom of both a girl and a boy, as someone who cares very deeply about date rape (defined as where 'no' is ignored). When riding on top of someone moaning 'fuck me harder' is characterized the next morning as passive resigned sex you were nonverbally indicating you didn't want. As a woman who does NOT believe women have no agency (and who never had a 'no' argued with, even though I was a shy and timid teen) it's deeply frustrating to see this kind of rewriting of the night before.

So many of these memories seem to be summed up, "If the person with me had acted differently, or if I'd been more assertive..." One of those is within your power to affect.
93
90- wendykh Thank-you! Thank-you for telling that story. I've mentioned in this column before my own story of the friend who cried rape the morning after. It may be rare, but it does happen, and I've had friends who still believe that it must be rape if she feels it was.

Let me zero in on your one line: "I had the good sense not to say "oh bullshit!" (though I wonder now if I should have)."

In my case, I did as you did. I gingerly danced around the possibility that I didn't think it was rape without coming out with a clear "bullshit." Later, I suggested that therapy was the best option for my friend, but she continued to blame me for her woes because I left open the possibility that I didn't believe her. (I didn't, though I did have my doubts. Unlike you, I wasn't there and was going only by her account of the drama.)

My question is: What happened next? Did your friend suffer any trauma from the rape? Did your friendship with her survive given that you weren't sympathetic to ordeal she'd been through?
94
@87

I know where you're coming from and appreciate the intent behind the YMY policy, but in order for it to work two things must happen

1. people have to be willing to adopt it (and as you can see it isn't across the board popular)

2. it has to be able to prevent the kind of consent issues created by NMN. I personally don't believe it does, and many other people brought up the fact that the kinds of forces that stop the 'no' from happening would probably make a 'yes' happen as well. Especially since everyone's so keen on talking about super young inexperienced people. To go with the typical straight situation (but it applies across the board, IMO) If you've got a sixteen year old boy who's been taught to check and get a 'yes' - you don't think the fact that he's young and desperate to get it on and very eager and exicited won't come through in the way he asks? You don't think the girl will feel immensely pressured by all the same societal things telling her that if she likes him she should want to make him happy? You don't think there's the same kinds of psychological forces guilting her, telling her she let it get this far and she'd be a tease if she didn't say yes? I think maybe, in some situations, that added opportunity to refuse might help, but I'm not convinced it would made a big difference.

And in my opinion, it shifts the attention away from the real problem at hand, as if to say "young women aren't assertive, so let's just do this instead, and then problem solved". (Yes, there are men who lack assertiveness too, and I'm concerned for them as well, but my understanding is that YMY is mainly addressing the hetero concern above)
95
@wendy

Saying 'no' can be body language (pushing someone away or moving away) or it can be words. I do think being able to read body language is important (though really, who doesn't understand what being pushed away means), but I wouldn't argue that that's my focus. I think ideally everyone should be assertive enough to stop a situation they aren't happy with (sexual or no). As I said before, we're all born with that ability - it's either socialized out of people or stifled by low self worth.

As for your story...

I have to agree with IPJ and Crinoline. Calling that rape is deeply, deeply troubling to me. I don't believe she was lying to you, I believe she was in denial. There is a big difference between 'I'm going to let you do this to me because I'm afraid of you' and what happened with her. Guilt can make the mind do crazy things - especially when the memory is foggy because you were hammered enough to have sex a couple feet away from two other people. I think she was drunk, and into it, and not thinking about her man. Next day comes around and she becomes so overwhelmed with guilt she goes into denial mode.
96
I hope my kids can find advice like yours Dan. Not that I don't offer it.. but I am their dad after all, and have no credibility because of that. I may have to leave the screen up sometime so they can find you on their own.
97
I read the notes on YMY. I think it is a great idea. I'd like for it to work. I've done it many times with my partner.

Outcome: It is terrible. It doesn't work.

My partner asked me to do this and, of course I did, multiple times. But it was always so power oriented. Finally I asked her to take on the asking and that way... THAT way, she could be saying what she wants instead of me having to. Well, let me tell you, we tried that once and she got a taste of how awkward and lame that is. The asking, the asking again, the next asking... We have never done that again and she doesnt' ask that of me any more either.

Again... I'd like it to work. It doesn't work for us. The complications of sex ... continue.

98
@97, I'm intrigued and perturbed by your note. If you have an established partner, haven't you built a shared repertoire of activities that you both generally like, and that work well for your bodies? Things usually get much simpler after two people have had sex a dozen times. I think of YMY and NMN as approaches to fumbling your way through sex with a new person, especially when there's no mutual understanding of whether sex is even on the table.

In any case, YMY shouldn't mean one person has to keep asking. If you're both on board, and know each other well, then each person should be figuring out what he/she wants, and communicating that (with words or body language) to the other person.
99
Wendy, I can tell another story like that from the "perpetrator's" perspective, having been accused of assault. In mine we both were clothed. She was too vulnerable and I should have been more sensitive to that, but I did kiss her in mutually-consented full-body contact, with mutual grinding. Then, feeling like her vulnerability was too high, I left her dorm room.

The next day I was confronted for assault, her friends giving me the evil eye, shunned, college staff giving me the evil eye and questionning me.

She later confessed, but only to me. She was mad because I hadn't gone further. Oy.

I ask this... if you know, as Wendy knew from 1st hand knowledge, that it was not rape, you have to let that guy know that you know. Being falsely accused is severe victimization of its own and a discredit to the real victims of rape.
100
@99

I'm sorry to hear that.
Your point is something I forgot to mention but meant to. "Rape" is not a one-sided term. By defining a situation as "rape", the woman is also defining the man she had sex with (or other acts with) as a "rapist". I think calling the man in wendy's story a "rapist" is completely unfair.
101
I love this man, as gay and as drunkenly dashed off his advice is.