She Tried to Tell Him She Didn't Want to Have Sex and He Somehow Didn't Get It



@31 "if you say no and they don’t stop you can’t put it down to miscommunication."

You say that like removing the ambiguity is a bad thing. It's a good thing. Instead of sraying with someone who knowingly violates your boundaries because it COULD have been a miscommunication, you get clear evidence that the person knowingly violated your boundary and DTMFA. I'm fucking baffled by the apparent widespread desire people have to make excuses for assholes who mistreat them.


@40: "But none of this changes the fact that there are no such things as magic words that a strong feminist self-advocating woman can say that will peacefully and calmly end uncomfortable situations like this, and it troubles me a bit that so many people here think it can."

Except that, for around 90% of men (research on how many men rape isn't conclusive, see e.g. ), these words very much do exist, and they are, "I don't want to have sex with you." 90% is a pretty good chance of something going your way; I really don't think that not trying to use your words to express your preferences is justified when the strong majority of men will take no for an answer. Granted, your qualifier "peacefully and calmly" is pretty subjective, but if you can't deal with someone being unhappy, you really, really aren't ready to have interpersobal relationships at all, because people are sometimes unhappy with our actions, decisions, preferences, etc.


@57: "Why are we expecting someone who is so thoroughly conditioned to be passive and compliant to be fully aware of and capable of articulating the ways in which she feels violated?"

Because people can't read minds and suck at reading body language (and that's within a given (sub)culture; except for shared reflex responses like the pain response, it's non-functional cross-culturally), making clear communication THE ONLY POSSIBLE STANDARD FOR INTERPERSONAL INTERACTIONS in a heterogeneous society. Do we need to change our culture and the shitty ways it socializes people? Yup. I don't think we should change norms to make it mandatory for people to draw out any possible objections from someone who resists expressing zir preferences, especially in contexts where those objections are a deviation from the established norm/pattern, as they are here. If you can't handle asserting yourself, you can't handle interacting with humans in contexts that don't have detailed, clear, explicit rules for the behavior of all, like a sports match.


still, so much about how she needs to communicate and nothing about his lack of communication. Nothing about how he should’ve said “hey let’s have sex, are you up for it? “

non-verbal sex initiation must account for nonverbal consent or rejection. You reach over, kiss her neck, rub her body and she doesn’t move doesn’t respond doesn’t make a sound? Do you continue or do you open your mouth and ask for what you want?


re non-verbal sex initiation - I think it's polite to do things that would normally turn my partner on when I initiate. I think it's aggressive to initiate by moving a partner's hand or head toward my genitals or to just start humping away.

re nonverbal rejection - I think it's polite to gently push a partner's hands, head or body from me if I'm not horny. I think it's rude to passively let a partner continue with sex that I don't appreciate, especially if I'm unwilling to reciprocate if asked.

re passive sex - If I can't stay awake, I might want them to beat off while they are going down on me or squeezing my boob or kissing me, while I lie there or even fall asleep. In turn I appreciate when a lover is tired but still willing to give me a passive assist.


@105. John Horstman. But it's a bad thing in that you might have to acknowledge to yourself you were assaulted or (in the worst eventuality) raped, rather than being able just to put it down to a bad night.

Women (sometimes) are prepared to think, 'well, I didn't enjoy it; but if I said nothing, it was just an unpleasant miscommunication, and if I said something, it was assault'.


Philophile, that sounds reasonable and normal for many couples I’m sure, especially ones that have been together a while. It doesn’t sound like the LW was trying to be rude, but trying to avoid confrontation, literally the first time she had ever declined to have sex with him. Because nothing get you in the mood like drunken boorish behavior.

I guess the point I’m trying to get it, and why am frustrated with so many of these comments, is that her communication in that moment was not unclear. there is nothing unclear about being completely unresponsive, which is far different from being “passive“. It was an understandable, and common response to that sort of situation, rather than trying to argue and negotiate with an aggressive drunk person. Where she needed to find her words was for the next morning, with an unequivocal “your behavior was unacceptable and too many nights like that and were done”. if she has trouble standing up for herself in that moment, it is definitely time for some therapy and/or soul-searching. I’ve had to come to terms with my conflict averse behavior in the sorts of things that I allowed to happen. It doesn’t get better on its own


Zbot, I guess I don't understand the difference between passive and unresponsive, I am using the words interchangeably. I think that people are picturing a different sort of behavior on her part, she only described that she stopped reciprocating. And when a guy has done that to me, acted like he was satisfied with sex and wanted it to be over and didn't care that I was still horny, it has made me feel horrible and worthless, like my pleasure isn't worth as much. I've usually gotten that feeling if the guy comes and doesn't feel like continuing until I get off, with an established sex partner that feels soul crushing. But it has happened that a partner has hit on me, and when I've responded, he has stopped overtures and become unresponsive before I stopped, like he was happy receiving attention for a bit but didn't care much about what I wanted. In the worst feeling situations for me, the guy initiated, only to become unresponsive, not clearly stopping things but letting me continue to try to turn him on with no reciprocation. I've been told that I was wrong to continue the sex my partner started, once he stopped reciprocating, I should have known that he wanted to stop when he pulled his hand out of my pants, even though he was letting me play with his hard dick. I've been told I was crazy for feeling bad that my partner didn't want to reciprocate. But I think that was just because my partner was abusive. If I initiated sex and then a guy became unresponsive, I would probably ask him if he wanted to stop since he didn't seem very into it.. I don't think it would feel so personally offensive like a bait and switch.. but I'd still wonder why the guy decided to be passive and confusing instead of more clearly let me know what went wrong and stop things..


“If you can't handle asserting yourself, you can't handle interacting with humans“

Oh FUCK OFF with the victim blaming. He got drunk and violated her consent. She froze up which is a common, physiological response. This isn’t a matter of being ‘assertive’. Well done for demonstrating the ways the sort of some men who use words like ‘zir’ and still contribute fabulously to that ole rape culture.


IMO based entirely on reading his posts over the years John's point of view is one in which he expects people to be rational and consistent in a way that they are not, and that he prefers clear language to express clear emotions. IMO he is not a proponent of rape culture nor of gender roles and it's unfair to characterize him as such.

THough it's also my preference that people communicate that way, I'm aware that it is not always the case. And the part about saying no quoted me. To which I say to John- you misunderstand. You have a number of strategies available up to drawing a hard line. You have none available afterwards. And while you might think in terms of statistics - sitting at a distance- this is irrelevant to an individual person in an individual moment especially once emotions are involved.

Removing ambiguity is not always a good thing if it makes the reality a binary: I am raped, I am not raped- with no wiggle room in between. Up to that moment, the ambiguity gives you opportunity after opportunity to end the situation through strategies that might de-escalate and avoid causing a scene. It really doesn't matter if this seems logical to you or not. And most people can learn if a person will respect their boundaries through more passive experiences- hmm, he doesn't seem to care if I'm enjoying this or not, hmm, he's upset that I rejected him.

I understand that people are not mind readers and I allow that this guy probably took a little too long to get the message because he was drunk not because he was a rapist- he did stop. But I don't understand why some posters here are acting as if it's mutually exclusive that she needs to be a better advocate for herself AND that men know that a stiff nonresponsive body is signaling a lack of interest in sex.

Also while this or that thing may be rude to this or that poster, there is not a universal standard. Plenty of people prefer rejection through excuses or passivity rather than through stated blunt responses. I know this very well as I'm normally considered as too assertive, too blunt. I've spent my life with people telling me I need to learn to change my words to be softer, beat more around the bushes, recognize ways to help others save face. Plenty of men do not handle rejection well- this is why women avoid direct confrontation or ego bruising statements- it gives them an OUT. You guys need to stop acting like there is some sweet spot in which you are blunt enough but not too much, etc.


LW- if you’re still here, you may want to thoughtfully analyze if you have a tendency to “martyr” yourself. It’s something I realized I used to frequently do- and I think it gives imperfect people the opportunity to really fuck up their relationship with you. This one is complicated for all the other reasons the commenters go on about- but here is my take. You don’t say no explicitly initially , because you want to see if his drunk rude ass gets the hint and stops. Then you start wondering- “would he do this? How bad of a guy is he? I’m clearly projecting that I’m not interested... would he keep this going all the way?” It’s a test basically, but a test that puts you in a bad spot. So he “passed” in the the didn’t rape you- but you still feel bad, partially because you know you could’ve said no and you didn’t, but also he he still kept it up too long- and it’s icky, right?

I had a tendency to martyr especially after disagreements or fights or whatever. Sometimes verbally, like- clearly give up on an argument and see if they let it stand when they know by your tone you’re unhappy.

The thing is this kid of testing/martyring hurts you both. ( if this is what it is). Imperfect people, like upper partner, rarely pass with flying colors- and as dan showed, verbal communication would have cleared up just how shitty this was or wasn’t a lot faster. It also doesn’t help you, cause I’m guessing part of the reason you’re acting different to him and feel so weird is you know you could’ve done it differently too- but now you feel differently about him.

So- anytime you test someone- especially if they are inebriated or something- you’re gonna come out less satisfied than if you just expressed yourself.

So dans advice still stands. Try really hard to use your words- in this and future relationships.


@114 EmmaLiz
"IMO he is not a proponent of rape culture nor of gender roles and it's unfair to characterize him as such."

I agree.

I hope John doesn't mind me repeating his mentions that IIRC he is on the spectrum. So it's extremely understandable why from his POV usage of communication that isn't both clear and verbal is an issue. (Apologies in advance, John, I probably failed to properly address the subtleties there, because I only know what I've heard of this.)

I think John is a good person with a good heart, and very smart. Sometimes I'm extremely impressed with his keen observations of human behavior(1).

But I think understandably (just as it isn't easy for an allistic person to imagine what it would be like to be on the spectrum) I suspect it isn't easy for John to imagine what it would be like to be allistic.

For example, things that might not be OK in a social situation with someone on the spectrum, might be perfectly OK(2) when everyone involved is allistic. (And doing those things that we can, aren't something we want to give up when there is no reason to.)

I don't forget about what, but I recall sometime last year John said something that /really/ outraged everyone. But I think we all understand him, and love him.

(1) Perhaps this is related to something a good friend who has Aspergers told me. I would have never guessed he did had he not told me, because there was no sign. Because, he explained, he had very carefully observed people and made a great effort over many years to learn to demonstrate all the social cues that come (what feels like) naturally to others. My heart goes out to him, his explanations of his experience of being sounds to me very difficult. He, BTW, has achieved considerable Internet-fame.

(2) Or might not be, I'm just saying non-verbal communication /can/ work (between allistic people), I'm not saying one can fail to be aware of when it doesn't.


Hello. I am LW. I sent this letter to Dan. I read all your comments and its really helping me gain perspective. I agree I should have gone home that night. And I should have been honest the next day instead of lying. I have more context to add to all of this. The next day, we had a long conversation about that night. As I mentioned in the letter, he was being rude throughout the night and binge drinking. We had met up with our friend at a concert and he kept wanting physical interaction-- nothing bad, just hugs and caressing. In those moments I also didn't reciprocate but I did not overtly reject. The more I didn't reciprocate, the more he would try. So the next day we talked for a long time about the ways we prefer to show and receive affection. I told him that soemtimes I just need my personal space. Sometimes I just want to be in my own bubble of personal space and I didn't overtly reject him because I didn't want to embarrass him. I thought that he would be wise enough to notice that while I wanted personal space, it wasn't a slight against him. So he binged drank and had a bad attitude and we took a Lyft to.his house. Usually I am assertive but I just kept failing on the assertiveness that night. I knew that if I told him how annoyed I really was before we even reached his house his attitude woouldve worsened. I know I should've gone home.
Anyway, we did talk a lot about respecting boundaries, speaking up in the moment, and I did tell him that if me meeting up with him and just trying to have a normal, good time during a night out with our friend was not good enough for him, that would be a problem for me in the future. He agreed that acting entitled to my physical attention while we were out that night was shitty. I did not further discuss with him his behavior after we went to bed. I tried very hard to forgive him and move on. We did have some good times after that but I did lose respect and trust for him. I was harsher toward him in the months that followed. I also felt like any serious conversation about any issues between us was placed on me as my responsibility. He admitted to being extremely conflict averse as well. I grew to resent the burden of facilitating serious conversation being put on me. There were several more instances where he felt rejected and acted out toward me. The one that stands out most is when agaim, we were out with friends and we weren't planning to have a sleepover that night. I told him I was going to be going home soon and he wanted to walk me to my car. It was winter and my plan was to run to my car and jump in. I told him exactly that and said thank you for the offer but I don't want you to have to go in the cold especially since you're not even leaving yet. He then stormed away from me and sat down with the body language of a child pouting. He refused to make eye contact with me and didnt say goodbye. He proceeded to call me a bunch of times while I was driving and then sent a message saying he felt rejected again. There were more instances, and I called him on it each time. He would apologize but then do something again, usually while drunk. (Oh, more context: we drank frequently together. ) So, I was calling him out a lot and he started to feel like I just was pushing him away. Then corona hit and he became quite distant and I haven't seen him since March .
I do not think I was assaulted. I do not think he is a bad person. I know I need to improve my communication. My core question was whether him doing the gross kissing stuff in the initial incident was a big deal or something mundane. I have a better idea now of the answer to that question.
I have had experiences before where people have gotten pushy with me for sex and I brushed it off as not a big deal. Only to later be told by friends that I was brushing off something major and I needed to take it more seriously. I do have much relationship baggage and this relationship I've described here was going extremely well until this happened and I didn't communicate very clearly or well with him about it because I was actually very let down and disappointed and disgusted quite frankly. This person claimed to deeply care for me but that night and subsequent behavior brought the relationship down. So there you have it, more context.


LW again here. Tiny bit more clarification. I didn't communicate clearly or well with him about it because I was hurt and let down but I didn't want to admit those feelings to myself. I wanted everything to be ok and I wanted this relationship to work. That was not an effective strategy.
Also, after I wrote him about this last week, he did admit to that night being unacceptable behavior on his part. He admitted to not remembering a whole lot of it. He said he felt horrible and apologized a few times. He said he better understands my behavior of calling him out now. He said this new information is helping him work through his own issues with communication around conflict.


YesNoMaybe - "I was actually very let down and disappointed and disgusted quite frankly."
It seems the big problem was the way he initiated affection, too frequently and not good enough. I think it's pretty mean to describe people as disgusting. I do think it's a pretty bad decision to keep dating someone you can describe as disgusting. I think people should stay together when they really enjoy and appreciate each other's affection, and not refer to each other as disgusting, because no one wants to be called disgusting just because of some bad chemistry.


There's never any reason to call someone disgusting, or any other disparaging adjective or name.

And if you are not attracted to someone or repulsed by them, there's no reason to be mean about it or prevail on them to change into what you want, just go separate ways with the normal "it's not you, it's me".


She did not describe him as disgusting, she said she felt disgusted by his behavior.

Thank you LW, it does provide more context and information and it sounds like you both learned something from this. I can identify very much with the resentment around having to be on guard for someone’s changing moods, especially around alcohol. While you two ultimately may not be compatible in the ways that you give and receive affection and attention, it is not normal for a grown person to pout and throw a fit in this way, it is not reasonable to expect you to constantly be on guard for that kind of behavior. It comes perilously close to the dreaded “walking on egg shells”


curious2, I have no idea if I am on the autism spectrum, but what you said about studying people’s behavior to learn how to not seem “weird” is something that I feel I can relate to. i’m still weird though, I just wish I had come to better terms with it earlier in life.

there is a common trope that women will often say no when they mean yes, I don’t know about anyone else but it has certainly never been the case for me, i’ve never been coy, I don’t really know how to, and so when I want to say yes I’m pretty easy about it. I have however, sadly, said yes when I desperately wanted to say no. or said nothing. It’s a problem, Not for me anymore, as I have grown up and faced some things and I’m in a solid relationship with a decent communicator, Who says more than I’d like sometimes but I never wonder what’s on his mind.

But there’s lots of uncomfortable memories, and I think this is one of those letters that stirs up peoples personal shit in a way that makes it hard to separate.


Zbot.. I've never described a lover as disgusting or treated my lovers as if they disgusted me.. I've never known a friend or family member to do this.. the only time I had personal experience with someone who described me as disgusting was in an abusive relationship, he called me the worst names you could imagine, threw things, threatened my property, never hit me though, just pushed me down once. I felt sick to my stomach about it of course, but I never said he was disgusting, or told people that he disgusted me. I was scared and confused, he alternated between abusing me with personal attacks like this, and telling me that I was the most important person in the world to him. Mental instability can be dangerous, but I think if you are calling someone disgusting, you are judging them as worthless more than you are stating that they are dangerous. It's abusive.


@118 YesNoMaybe, thanks for responding! I think the first few sentences of your second comment (118) make a great summation of the core problem that doomed that relationship. I'm glad you both are learning from the situation and moving forward separately.

@115 qapla: "I think it gives imperfect people the opportunity to really fuck up their relationship with you."
Really well said.


Philophile, I don’t see where she called him disgusting, or treated him as disgusting, but struggled to talk honestly with him about behavior that she found deeply disturbing. That feeling of being sick to your stomach when you were being abused could be described as a feeling of disgust and it would be a totally valid way to describe it to yourself or to anyone that you were confiding in or asking for advice from.

Rather than being disgusted by him personally, LW describes being very into this person, wanting it to work out, but found it difficult to communicate with him honestly about how his behavior was making her feel. Not because she thought he was disgusting, but because she liked him, because having this confrontation might lead to the end of the relationship, which it ultimately did.


also, I am sorry about the abuse you described, that sounds horrific and if mental illness played a part in it, additionally tragic


Zbot, "I don’t see where she called him disgusting, or treated him as disgusting, but struggled to talk honestly with him about behavior that she found deeply disturbing."
I've got to disagree, she used words like gross and disgusting quite frequently, and the behavior that she found deeply disturbing was that he would show her affection in a way she didn't like. You don't hang around and "call someone out" when you're not attracted to them, you let them go without blaming them, "it's not you, it's me". I wish he had written in, I'd say that she's just not that into her partner, and he needs to see through the mixed messages, but it seems like he has for the most part. His contribution seems to be staying with someone who frequently criticized how he expressed affection. Dan tried to generously assume that by "treating him worse" she meant she had toned down on her nice gestures, but she has now admitted to growing harsh and treating him harshly, I don't think her sign off is about harsh treatment towards herself, anymore.

"It got to a point that he was kind of laying partly on me and kissing me in this way that really kind of grossed me out.
I kind of wanted to scream because he was grossing me out.
I started treating him worse after the thing happened in December and I think I maybe should have left him after that night.
Sometimes I just want to be in my own bubble of personal space and I didn't overtly reject him because I didn't want to embarrass him.
I tried very hard to forgive him and move on.
I was harsher toward him in the months that followed.
I was calling him out a lot and he started to feel like I just was pushing him away. Then corona hit and he became quite distant and I haven't seen him since March .
My core question was whether him doing the gross kissing stuff in the initial incident was a big deal or something mundane.
I was actually very let down and disappointed and disgusted quite frankly."


Dan used to say that reciprocation was important. That women deserved to come as well as men. That women deserved oral sex as well as men. I think he went overboard, now he seems to be saying it's sort of ok if women stop reciprocating, the male partner was acting badly by hitting on her..


He wasn't acting badly by hitting on her. He was acting badly by refusing to acknowledge her non-verbal refusal, which was no less clear than his non-verbal initiation. Getting pawed at by a sloppy drunk person is gross. He was drunk enough to claim he didn't remember much, which is past too drunk to fuck. Some people's personality changes drastically when they drink.

Feeling like you have to stay silent and endure someone's actions because direct confrontation might make it worse is a disgusting feeling that lingers and fosters resentment. She describes previous sexual encounters as pleasurable and something she normally invited, but more frequently this type of behavior was showing from him. This isn't about punishing someone for expressing desire.


Or at least, it doesn't seem that way to me. Aside from his behavior when drunk, it sounds like he was aggressively pushy with PDA, which made her uncomfortable, and then faced with not only confronting him about something he will react badly to, but doing it public ("I didn't want to embarrass him") Her not reciprocating in those moments led to him doubling down, and then getting pissy. I'd hesitate to chalk these issues up solely to incompatible affection preferences. Feelings may explain actions, but they don't excuse them, and his communication was every bit as shitty as hers. It sounds like the LW is learning from this experience, I hope he is too.


Zbot, " He was acting badly by refusing to acknowledge her non-verbal refusal"
He did eventually get that she wasn't feeling affectionate and stopped trying, but Dan still said he acted badly that night.
I'm glad that you said that you didn't approve that I was abused, but you seem to be ignoring my description of my abuser's behavior:
"told that I was wrong to continue the sex my partner started, once he stopped reciprocating, I should have known that he wanted to stop when he pulled his hand out of my pants, even though he was letting me play with his hard dick. I've been told I was crazy for feeling bad that my partner didn't want to reciprocate. But I think that was just because my partner was abusive"

He also claimed I should have known he didn't like my affection, and that his passive lack of reciprocation was this "clear nonverbal rejection". It was abusive. It hurt me and there was no reason he couldn't have stopped things more clearly instead of letting uncomfortable sex continue until I had to end it because I was starting to feel unappreciated. I was extremely embarrassed that he blamed me for misreading his signals, I had no idea that playing with his hard cock was unwelcome, it made me sick that he let me instead of stopping me. I still have no idea why he walked over and started hitting on me that day, only to get angry that I liked it.

Hot and cold is a bloody waving red flag. At least they didn't reproduce or get married.

If you are not physically pushing someone away, the "nonverbal rejection" is not clear. Freezing up around a partner is not normal, it might be a traumatic response that it's important to address in therapy so you don't treat your partners like rapists (he had been raped and his rapist was caught). He was not apologetic about his behavior either, more fond of calling me out on the ways I wasn't the partner he wanted, and also shunned therapy, there was nothing more I could do.


The behavior you described is beyond manipulative, and I don’t “approve” of any abuse, yours or anyone else’s. I don’t always think that people exhibiting abusive behaviors are necessarily inherent abusers, that some people need help to see past their behavior patterns and how it’s affecting those around them. Hot and cold behavior is indeed a hallmark of abuse and manipulation, it is meant to make you feel confused and hurt. I’m sorry you had to endure that and I’m glad you’re not in that situation anymore. I think everyone in this comment thread, including myself, is coloring this with their own experiences, some letters are just like that.

I didn’t respond directly to your situation, because I don’t really see that it applies to the LW. She didn’t initiate sex and then shut him down nonverbally and berate him for not reading her signals. he initiated, nonverbally, while drunk, after acting rude earlier in the evening. She should’ve shut him down verbally, and wishes she had, but many people have found themselves in a situation, and I am one of them, where confronting a drunk person seems like way more trouble than it’s worth, and you just hope you can get through it to the next morning when they are themselves again. Both of them made mistakes, neither are necessarily bad people, but this is not an open and shut case of him being innocently clueless and her expecting mind reading, or her trying to mindfuck him with hot and cold behavior


Also, you said that you would’ve been understanding, had your partner simply let you know, even if he was the one who had initiated, that he did not want sex to continue, for whatever reason. I’m assuming that means you wouldn’t have gotten angry, or pouted, or demanded a lengthy explanation. Those kinds of reactions have happened to me, most often when I was younger, and they conditioned me to be very cautious around declining sex and to have sex that I didn’t want to avoid having an argument about it. Also, I find belligerent drunk men to be very triggering, and attempting to reason with them to be as fruitless as it is dangerous


Zbot, "I didn’t respond directly to your situation, because I don’t really see that it applies to the LW. "
My abuser agreed with LW and with you, that passively freezing up should be taken as a normal rejection. But it's not, it's an effect of trauma, and you shouldn't treat your partner like your rapist, you should try to learn better ways to communicate. I was sympathetic to his rape and traumatic responses although my traumatic responses are different. But my desire for affection and for reciprocation should have been honored too. I didn't deserve to be hurt in return, I wasn't his rapist or his therapist, and he wasn't interested in improving his behavior to take responsibility for his actions, he grew more abusive. All I wanted was for him to stop things if he wasn't into it or unwilling to reciprocate, I was verbally clear that I needed him to be willing to reciprocate to feel good about the sex.. the next month, I wanted to continue sex after he got off, but he blew me off, left, then said I was obsessed with orgasms and irrational when I said I felt rejected. If you let this abnormal behavior go unaddressed, it escalates.

I don't think my abuser was hurting me on purpose, it was more that he seemed deaf to my pain.


Someone who “freeze up” may have suffered previous trauma or have been sexually assaulted, abused, or raped in the past. It is not an uncommon reaction to previous sexual or emotional trauma and is often completely involuntary, sometimes inexplicable to the person experiencing it, and incredibly traumatic in itself to be reliving the same or a similar fear and even if the situation started off as consensual it should be treated as being the signal to step back and instead encourage the person to open up with kindness, empathy, or affection when the time is right rather than scaring them further with anger at the perceived rejection or blaming them for a lack of interaction.

Accusing someone of abuse if they freeze up in equal fear of anger at breaking off the sexual contact and of continuing the sexual contact could be considered abusive in itself. If their involuntary freezing offends you as a sexual partner then you are causing more harm to them than you may realize by blaming them.

The LW is write to say that this should be taken as a rejection and no sexual rejection should ever be taken as something which someone should be blamed for.


Regularly freezing up around a trusted partner and abusing them for trauma they didn't cause is not normal. Freezing up around a very drunk person you have been dating for four months, who was already acting shitty, and hoping they will pass out already so you don't have to confront them in that state is understandable. Wanting a partner that you desire and who reciprocates your desire is normal. Anger and pouting when your partner is not in the mood or when you are too inebriated for them to enjoy sex with you, especially the very first time you decline sex in an early relationship, is not normal.

I think I've said enough on this. It's an important topic, I'm glad the LW has been reading. I've read every comment, there are a lot of good perspectives to consider, and perhaps it may spare someone out there similar woes. That's the beauty of Dan Savage, wish I had been aware of this column as a teenager, or better yet, sex-ed included topics like communicating desire, consent, and boundaries.


I would disagree with a couple of aspects about normality.

sexual consent can be withdrawn at any time during sex without reason and it should be able to be done without suffering negative consequences, whether with a known partner or with a drunken new partner. No one whether they are drunk or not or known to you or not has a right to have sex or to continue to have sex. No one has a right to sexual satisfaction. Everyone has a right to not have sex if they choose not to without negative repurcssions. In the country I live in consent can legally be withdrawn at any time during sex. These are normal expectations.

People who have experienced sexual trauma can freeze up even years later without warning even with a trusted sexual partner. It can be totally involuntary. This is normal. It might not be normal for a person who has not suffered sexual trauma but it is the norm for someone who has, whether they have undergone therapy or not. It is something which we usually have had to learn to just accept will happen and hope to have a trustworthy partner who will back off and provide comfort instead of demanding sex to continue. To be blamed for it by a partner wheather they were or are drunk or intoxicated is not normal. To have a partner prioritize their sexual satisfaction over your health and well-being is not normal.

Intoxicated people often don’t pick up on nonverbal cues. That is normal and why intoxicated people are not a good combination with those who have previously suffered trauma. To be so intoxicated you can’t tell if your partner is suffering and has frozen up is not normal. A person who knows their limits and own intoxicatin should still be able to recognize that their partner has frozen up. That is a normal expectation.


Zbot, What happened to me was not regular abuse of freezing up and blaming me, it happened once, 14 months into a relationship of several years. I think he could control the freezing because he never did it again, but more because he was angry that I was confused at his passive reaction, and angry at my request that he stop things more clearly when he didn't want to reciprocate. For context, I had been at his place for a few days, I had been about take my own horniness in hand as we hadn't had sex for a day or two, when he walked in the bedroom and hit on me and then froze up. My thought was that I wished he had not hit on me and left me confused and then scared of his anger, and just let me take care of myself in peace if he wasn't open to messing around much. It took several sessions of couples therapy after that before he consistently showed respect for my request that he stop sex if he was unwilling to reciprocate, although for over a year he had seemed to want to reciprocate and care that I was satisfied by sex too. And still the next month he was deaf to how his rejection affected me, again.

Although my experience happened 14 months in, I think it would also be confusing at 4 months in. If the person freezes inexplicably but wants to communicate better and honors the feelings of their partner, that sounds reasonable, but I'm not sure that was the case with HARSH. If they freeze because their partner is a true danger and will use force after hearing "no", then it's better to break up IMO, but those aren't the cases we are speaking of. While anger may be a bad reaction to rejection, sadness at being rejected by a lover is pretty normal. And confusion is normal when the rejection is passive rather than actively pushing someone away or saying no, passivity can also indicate wanting to change things up or simple tiredness. Or in the most offensive case that a lover is not worth any more effort. Pouting is maybe different from sadness, although my sadness was called pouting by my abusive partner. I guess pouting means nagging for sex? I didn't nag for sex but I did insist on better communication with sex, so I had the chance to decline sex that I would not enjoy. Although it's always ok to say no to sex, when you don't show respect for your partner's satisfaction, they might not want to stick around. If you start to end sex after you get yours, before your partner feels it was good for them, too, that is probably going to produce negative consequences to your sex life. Blaming has nothing to do with it, more that people like it when their feelings are granted equal respect.


Zbot, you've done me a great favor by discussing this with me compassionately. I'm obviously not done dealing with what happened but I'm trying to calm down about it all. Thanks for your help.

And I have a lot of compassion for people who have been sexually assaulted, and I've been sexually assaulted and have struggled to learn to treat myself and other people well in the wake. It's hard when a partner grows cold or angry instead of leaving. I try not to make that mistake, myself. And to try to recognize when someone is just not into me. It's hard with mixed messages, especially if their words are more affectionate than their actions, to trust that their perhaps understandably mean actions are more important than their words. It doesn't feel good to be treated with revulsion, especially by someone who is also telling you they love you. It's hard to have a stable healthy relationship when one of the partners feels resentment or coldness or disgust, even if they have great reason for the latent traumatic feelings. Traumatic effects should be dealt with in therapy if they are causing relationship problems.


Philophile, thank you as well. I am also working through things that this letter brought up, specifically with pushing past my tendency to minimize my feelings when faced with a defensive response to me communicating that someone's action has hurt/is hurting me. Frequently ruminating on whether or not something is a big deal, mincing and parsing words to avoid provoking an angry response, and rationalizing behavior that should be unacceptable, I can relate. Oh and the drinking. Hard to effectively communicate that some bad shit went down when the other persons memories are fuzzy/absent. Easy for them to blow off, and make you feel like you're making a big deal out of nothing.


Zbot, I wish you the self confidence to respect your own pain even when others are deaf to it, the bravery to calmly and straightforwardly represent yourself even when others disagree, and to be centered in what you want enough to confidently pursue your desires while trying not to cause others undue pain. Namaste