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



Few things I would add is she needs to see someone to talk about this professionally.

Rightfully so she is having a hard time coping and it will not get easier with time.

Her boyfriend should seek help for his alcohol abuse. Possibly she should as well but not with him.


@1: She got all she needs to know from Dan, no need to drain her bank account for a shrink. Also, way insufficient data to suggest alcoholism from one night. She didn't describe a pattern.


He completely understood that “No.” It might have taken him a bit longer than if he were sober, but he totally heard it loud and clear. Because his complaint was about being rejected.

She was not unclear. Because humans almost never just say no. And humans are pretty good at figuring out they’re being rejected.

The problem with “No means no” (which it totally does) is that people (especially man-people) are encouraged to act as if only “No” means no.

Yes, this could have been quicker if she’d explicitly said no. But this dude felt entitled to bitch and moan about it to the point where he pushed her for an apology for… the fact that she communicated a lack of interest in sex he felt entitled to.

Fuck that.


You make room for your partner’s no or their yes is under duress. You don’t punish people for having boundaries or demand an apology because they are exercising their right to bodily autonomy.


And that’s not even getting into the fact that freezing/dissociation is a hugely common response to unwanted sexual contact. If your brain thinks you are safer not outright confronting a person, it doesn’t matter if you know the words “I don’t want to have sex,” you will very likely not be capable in that moment of saying them.

This guy.


Should the lw try to keep things going with a guy she thought 'rude', 'pushy', 'gross[]' and who made her want to 'scream'? I would think the answer's 'no'. Just as she second-guessed herself over whether she was (in part) responsible for miscommunicating with him on their decisively bad night, and second-guessed herself over how big that night was in how their interactions developed, she seems to be at risk of second-guessing herself, overthinking, whether she wants to be with this guy or not. Unless there is something she hasn't told us in the letter, she would not seem to me to want to me with this guy.

Other guys are available.

It's true she could have rejected his drunken, pushy advances more clearly in words, but what she did (through her body language) was sufficient discouragement (or should have been sufficient discouragement). Sure, too--she could have said the next morning, e.g. 'well, you were drunk and too assertive; is it any wonder I said 'no'?'. But she probably didn't because she wasn't so invested in the relationship. It's not something endlessly to revisit if she doesn't actually find herself caring.

@2. raindrop. Absolutely correct remark about there being no need for a professional--on the face of it--here. (If HARSH is so socialised to defer she can't tell a man 'no', there might be; but that would be a big inference from this letter).


This is the sort of crappy communication breakdown and inability to read non-verbal cues that they both should have grown out of by now. Especially him. Once you’ve graduated college, you really should know better.


Dan acknowledges that women often deflect rather than reject for their own safety... and then recommends she reject rather than deflect.


@3 I disagree. He was definitely an asshole and pushed the boundary. But they were a couple that were having regular sex. If this were a first encounter, or even early in the relationship, an explicit "yes" would be required. Sometimes I initiate sex with my partner when she isn't in the mood, but we have discussed this many times and she has stated unless she says "no" she is good to go. If the couple is regularly having sex where he initiates and there isn't an explicit communication of consent for each encounter, there have to be words when the rules change.

I also think the relationship is over, move on. He has lost your respect.


@3 I think you bring up important points and help balance out the advice Dan gave. I really appreciate your comment.

And I esp appreciate what you brought up about freezing up! (We need more trauma-informed people in this world!!) That's why men need to get enthusiastic consent. Someone shutting down and not moving is not consent... (Unless they have previously and explicitly said otherwise.)


Nah, this is on him. LW said he was being pushy earlier. He would have felt rejected and deprived of sex he was, in his mind, entitled to, had she done all the wording and leaving stuff right along.

This isn't complicated or uncommon. He's a jerk, she's well shut of him, and if she wants to talk to someone about her issues with owning her own decisions, well, it probably wouldn't hurt.


Trust your gut. ..and Act on that Information.

It's a life lesson I continue to work on and learn.


Sadly, Dan is correct.


@7 I'd agree with that interpretation if, the next morning, he did not mention it or did not bitch about her rejection. Like there is a certain amount of unspoken, even expected, consent in a long term relationship (and nine months is a while) and he was impaired so it might have taken him a bit longer to understand the body language and he did eventually desist. Therefore it could've been an excusable faux pas (a miscommunication) if the next morning, he'd been like "hey I was pretty drunk last night and I tried to have sex with you but you seemed not into it so I went to sleep instead- is everything ok?" But the other details contradict this interpretation- 1) he was a pushy jerk before they got to bed and in the morning, 2) he remembered enough to know he tried to have sex but she wasn't into it yet his response is to get upset that he was rejected, not to check in with her about what happened.

Agreed that yes the relationship is over. While this woman definitely needs to practice advocating for herself verbally better, I totally get why she made up a lie rather than confront him about it. Anyone who responds by getting upset that they are denied one-way sloppy drunk sex rather than checking in to make sure they weren't gross is not going to be receptive for a conversation about why they were rejected. No good could come of that.


Also while I agree with Dan about using your words (might as well), I also understand how a situation like this escalates like this. You are already there, you don't have an easy way home, the evening is spoiled but you figure just better to sleep on it, then there he is trying to get laid, you wonder if just straight out saying "leave me alone" will escalate it into a real argument when just showing you are sleepy might encourage him to likewise roll over, then it gets weird because he's persistent and now you are in a situation where the feeling is just- I don't know how to describe it other than "gross".


@7 Also sorry if extrapolated more from your exchange than you meant- I totally agree regarding not needing verbal consent (or even necessarily a real show of horny enthusiasm) each time you have sex with a long established partner. I was just saying this situation seems not really relevant to that, but I see you were more responding to @3 than suggesting it was.


My advice to HARSH: DTMFA.
My advice to her boyfriend: DTMFA.


Sorry, I think this is all on LW. Affirmative consent is simply not the cultural expectation for regular sexual partners. 99% of partnered people initiate sex non-verbally. If LW is mad he didn’t pick up on her non-verbal rejection soon enough, she should have used her words. End of story.

LW’s partner being annoyed next morning about the rejection is irrelevant. It’s not entitlement to be annoyed by rejection, and partners are allowed to communicate their feelings. It would be entitlement if he had said that LW did not have the right to deny him sex, but that’s different from annoyance at rejection.

LW being pushy and rude at the party is only relevant if we want to extrapolate that his behavior in the bedroom must have been worse than LW described. But to me, that’s against the Geneva Convention on advice columns.


Wishing again for an edit feature. In last paragraph, first “LW” should obviously be “LW’s bf”.


I guess I would agree that expressing the annoyance was rude. This particular emotion probably should have been kept to himself, unless he had a real, ongoing sex issue he wanted to talk about.


It sounds to me like she didn't say no because she couldn't. She froze. It happens to every woman I know.

You have to break the freeze so you can get to your voice. Then you can communicate clearly. This is the best resource I know for breaking through the freeze:


Great answer, Dan.
LW, Your rejecting behaviour since that night is telling you something has broken between you. You experienced him as gross.. hard to come back from, and you haven’t.


Oh my goodness, it's letters like these that make me embarrassed to be female, because this is the sort of thing I would have done when younger. (Much, much younger, not late 30s!) HARSH, please re-read your letter:
"Anyway, he started kissing me and touching me and instead of just saying "no" I tried to show my lack of enthusiasm through body language." WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST SAY NO?

"I had an urge to tell him to leave me alone." WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL HIM TO LEAVE YOU ALONE?

"I kind of wanted to scream because he was grossing me out." WHY DIDN'T YOU SCREAM?

"I wanted to get up and leave but it was late and I didn't have my car with me." WHY DIDN'T YOU GO SLEEP ON THE COUCH?

"I basically lied and told him I didn't mean to reject him and I was just tired and wanted to sleep. I even apologized that I made him feel bad." WHY DID YOU LITERALLY TELL HIM WHAT HE DID WAS YOUR FAULT??

WHY OH WHY do women attempt to drop hints to men who aren't going to pick up on them because they are drunk, they are horny, they have a reasonable expectation based on past history that you'll be up for sex, instead of USING OUR WORDS? "I don't want to have sex tonight." Your ordeal would have been over in seconds. Not to blame the victim here, and thankfully he DID get the hint, but woman, if you are ever in this situation again, SAY NO! Trust me, grown men can take an occasional "no" when you don't want to have sex. Get some assertiveness training, or something. It sounds like you've gone off him too much to salvage this relationship, but going into your next one, PLEASE remember that you have the right to say no to sex! And say it verbally! He may feel rejected by a "no," but that's better than feeling confused AND rejected because you neither said yes nor no. You literally told him he did nothing wrong, then punished him for several more months. Sorry for being, er, harsh but this is why men complain women send mixed signals, why (some) men misunderstand lack of consent.

Soursop @18, thank you for the link, because you're correct, this has happened to all of us (which is why I'm cringing so much). We do have this underlying fear of what men could do to punish us combined with our socialisation to avoid conflict, and we've all smacked ourselves over shouldas. We should have said a clear no, WHY did we rely on hints?? I hope we can collectively learn better strategies for dealing with uncomfortable situations like this one.


Ka1i @3, re-reading the letter the only thing I'm faulting this guy for is:
"The next morning when we got up he was upset that I "rejected" him."
Dude, you have no right to be "upset" when you don't get sex. You are not entitled to it. I was focused on his eventually understanding the "no" that would have been far more obvious if she'd said it, but he did eventually figure out that she didn't want to have sex, and guess what, it's her right to not have sex, and you don't get to be "upset" about it. They both need to learn about boundaries and communication. Thank you for the other side.


I'm seeing more and more letters like this here and elsewhere and I always think damn, how did we feminists fail this woman so much? She's obviously woke enough to the message that she's questioning her man's actions and privilege (that's a good thing!). But not woke enough to have the tools to be self-empowered. That's a failure.

It seems there is a not insignificant number of straight women who can't break themselves out of the gender roles they've been trained to play, and they end up with a partner to match. But they're also aware that it's shitty and they are unhappy about it. Kinda heartbreaking.


EmmaLiz @12, this happened at the four-month mark. This is the stage in a relationship where you start not necessarily having sex every time you spend the night, that's how you know you're more than fuck buddies. In an established relationship, people should indeed know each other's body language well enough to quickly recognise a non-verbal no. But it sounds like this was the first time they had shared a bed and she hadn't been up for sex. So he could have been confused by the lack of response but absence of a no. That said, I also agree with Schmacky. This guy is in his 50s; no way is this the first time a woman has non-verbally communicated a "no" by declining to engage. The next morning, instead of being "upset at being rejected" he should have apologised for being too pushy and assured her it is okay to say no to sex.


I may be the outlier here but I feel like it's too easy to paint him as the villian based solely on her version of events. How long did it go on? A minute? Two? Ten? Was he upset that she "rejected" him, or that she was passive about it instead of using her words? I used to get upset with my partner for being passive-aggressive instead of stating what they wanted -- it wasn't the rejection that bothered me but their refusal to be up front. And based on her behavior since the incident in question it seems like that could be a large part of the problem.


LEF@23, yes. I read so many letters Dan receives and wonder why the disconnect is still so wide, with many. Then the success stories don’t write to Dan asking for advice.
This LW is passive aggressive, and this may have been an unconscious set up by her, to push him away.
He’s drunk. She stays the night. He assumes that like every other night she’s stayed so far they will have sex he’s drunk etc.
Four months in a man grosses you out, you move on.
Why continue the torture for both for several more months then ask Dan if it’s a big thing or not. Second guessing her feelings, which are telling her, it’s over. Move on. That’s how I read it.
Fear of male violence is more prevalent now than I remember, men killing their ex/ present partners more often. Though I don’t sense fear in this LW.
LW, your boundaries need to be strengthened, and that is best achieved thru time alone. This is all messy now, months after the event, why are you bothering?


@15. joeburner. I think it's more that he drunkenly thought he could power through her reluctance through persistence. She could have said 'no', but she was communicating 'no' non-verbally. Why do women not make their 'no' in circumstances like this verbally explicit? It's that they fear unpleasantness, ranging from (at one extreme) an embarrassing conversation that reveals unwelcome truths about the relationship to (at the other) physical violence. (In this case, the difficult conversation might have been along the lines of--'why are you always the one who has to invite? Am I something that has to be kept at arm's length until you have a craving for something you find beneath you? Or deplorable?'. Or something like that). She would not have wanted this conversation in that she knew they were mismatched in many ways, and she wasn't that into him. In her mind, I'd suppose, they were either going to find a way of getting on better or their relationship would run out of steam.

My sense would be that she's dwelling on the night more than she would otherwise because of being isolated during lockdown. It's harder to frame the clear thought--'he's not the one. Move on'.

Everything EmmaLiz says at @12 is completely on the money.


@20. Bi. He didn't 'have a reasonable expectation based on past history' that she'd be up for sex. First, the norm that had emerged in their relationship was for her to invite sex. She hadn't done that. Second, it doesn't sound as if they had had drunken sex before (or sex when he was drunk, certainly pushier, maybe more unbuttoned). When that happens the first time between a couple, the initiator has to be on the lookout for any sign of a reservation, for anything below enthusiastic consent. It can't be taken as read the other party will be up for it.

It may well have been evident to her that she didn't want sex because he'd been rude and pushy and was drunk. She may have imagined it was evident to him, too--at least when she (say) crossed her legs or half-turned her back.


L-dub... your soon to be former SO is an asshole and you are stupid. It's up to you to be less stupid in the future. Good luck!


Lava @25, my read is that she was only grossed out because he was drunk; she says sex is "normally something I would invite." She sees his drunken side four months in; what was different on this occasion? Why did he drink so much more than usual? No clue, but it was his state, not him, that turned her off.

Harriet @27, she says, "When we got in bed he started initiating sexual contact, something I would normally invite." She does not say that she typically would INITIATE, but that she would typically welcome his advances. So him initiating IS in fact the norm in their relationship, he initiates and she responds enthusiastically. I agree that the different variable here is that he was drunk. In that state he was not attractive to her, but also in that state he was less capable of determining consent. She trusted that he would pick up on her subtle hints, but his ability to do so was compromised by the booze. When he didn't get the hint, she shouldn't have lain there screaming internally but explicitly said, "Not tonight, honey, you're drunk and I don't want to have sex with you in this condition."


I'm not sure why all the talk about her safety. She made it clear she didn't want to have sex using non-verbal means and he eventually figured this out and they didn't have sex. I'm at a loss as to why someone is thinking that she would have been unsafe expressing this verbally in this particular situation. This seems like a pretty normal situation in which, in my experience, women have no problems saying they're tired, have a headache, or whatever their go-to "I don't want to have sex right now" line is.

Anyway, sounds like they had a bad night, it happens. Their reaction to this night is what really strikes me as a problem. His reaction was to get upset about not getting laid, which is never a good look but is kind of pathetic in a fifty something guy. Her reaction was to apologize to smooth things over and treat him poorly for six months until writing a letter to say how she felt. Yeah, time to end this, it's just going to get worse from here on out. I'm not going to say it's anyone's fault, both are flawed individuals, but then we all are. Their particular flaws just don't match up well.


Another reason people don’t say no (particularly women to men) that I don’t think is discussed much: if you say no and they don’t stop you can’t put it down to miscommunication. If someone is ignoring all reasonable cues it doesn’t create full confidence that they wouldn’t ignore a no too.

Yes, we have to use our words, and yes, most times they will be respected. But there are people that don’t stop at no. They are also the ones that don’t stop at demurring, at deflecting, at someone laying there frozen and scared.

When we find ourselves in that situation, I think on some level many would rather not say no and have it ignored, and be able to consider it a bad night rather than assault. A drunken fail seems easier to process. “This person is hurting me by accident, not on purpose.”

I’m not saying I’m labelling this letter incident assault, I just think this is an aspect of the reluctance to use no which should be considered more.


@31 Adalove, I agree completely. If you say No when someone is behaving threateningly and you’re ignored, now you have to face the fact that your lover is a rapist. However, as the LW has shown, hoping that things are true isn’t enough. She knew he was a bad person the moment he started dominating her physically, and hasn’t been able to bring herself to trust him since.

But another part of her wanted to keep the relationship. Why? It’s not worth the risk, which is what her gut has been trying to tell her all this time. ‘Empowering’ women to use their words might be important, but I think it’s more urgent for women to learn to listen to the voice telling them someone isn’t safe.


Nah, the problem here isn't that she didn't clearly say no. He understood the no just fine. The problem is that the next day he complained about the fact that she said no. I agree with Emma @12.

Tons of us have had situations where people were drunk and one person was up for it while the other just wanted to sleep it off. It happens. The thing is, in the morning, the appropriate response is "sorry I got a little handsy last night." That's all you gotta say. It makes clear that you've figured out what went wrong, and you've filed away for future reference. No big deal, we live and learn.

Here, LW's boyfriend has made clear that not only is he definitely going to push for sex again, when she's not into it, but if she says no he's going to whine about it the next day. How's she supposed to feel comfortable with him after that? Sex went from a mutually pleasurable activity to something she does to placate the manchild in order to ward off his sulks.

The thing is, you have to trust your partner. On a very primal level, you have to feel safe sleeping next to them. Considering that none of us are at our most eloquent when we're half-asleep, you need to know that the person will take a hint. He won't.

And again, here he got the hint just fine - he just made clear that if the hint implies 'no' that he's gonna whine about it. He made clear that she can't just sleep next to him without paying the 'sex toll' and once you feel like sex is just something you pay the other person in order to make them want to hang out with you... nah. It's over.

Subconsciously her brain just doesn't trust him any more, and she knows that if she tries to talk to him about it, he's just going to turn it around on her and be like "It hurts me that you think I hurt you - now you need to comfort me."

The whole thing done broke. She doesn't trust him to sleep next to her and she doesn't trust him to listen to her in good faith. It's done.


@29. Bi. After scalpeling the hairs on 'feelings' and 'emotions', we're set to do the same thing on 'invite' and 'initiate'. Let's say a woman takes off her panties in bed, throws them across the room and says, 'I never liked knickers anyway'. Is that an initiating or an invitation? Let's say she bares a part of her body her lover doesn't usually see during the day or when they're just going to sleep, or touches it against a man's body. Same question.

My impulse is to say these actions remain 'invitations' for the sake of leaving room for a partner to say e.g. to the first, 'yes, clothes are ovverrated. Much better to snuggle without them' and just cuddle--i.e. not to respond to her advances without necessarily rejecting her or failing to show affection.

You think the guy had always initiated sexual contact and she'd indicated yes (or no). I think it's possible their baseline was for her to give him the come-on.

However, the difference of view is probably academic, and we hold the same substantial view of her life-problem (she wasn't too 'harsh' and doesn't need to give this guy more of a chance).


There's a thing that often ends badly, and I don't want to come across as victim blaming when I say "this is a bad idea, don't do it".

And that thing is: getting into bed with people who you have no intention of having sex with, and also don't have the kind of relationship where you can easily and without fear say "no, I don't want sex" and have that respected.

Because, yes, it's up to the person initiating to get enthusiastic consent. And, yes, it's allowable to say "no, don't want to do this" at any point before or during sex and that should be respected. All those things, yes, of course. But also "of course" is that sometimes people behave badly. And it's way better to be clothed and awake when someone behaves badly then asleep and wearing a t shirt and underpants. A person who is not comfortable saying no, and not comfortable getting up and leaving if that no is not respected, is unwise to put herself into a situation where it's all going to be a lot more difficult.

This particular situation, he sounds like an asshole at best, not so much because of what went on that night, but because of the next morning. But she sounds like someone it would be impossible to have any kind of real relationship with, because you'd never know where you stand, always have to be guessing at what the body language and the hints mean.


"it's a statement. It's not a request
...for reasons you aren't obligated to get into"

This is excellent advice!


Nicely said, BiDanFan.

Who knows why she is reacting like this, but I think the woman needs some therapy.

As presented, the man did nothing wrong. Partnered people initiate sex without asking. It’s not even a bad system for the vast majority of us. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine, but you will have to communicate that.


I still insist that the guy’s annoyance the next morning is valid. Getting rejected for sex causes feelings, which can range from annoyance to loneliness to reduced self-esteem.... even in 50 year-olds. It’s true that expressing those feelings without blaming your partner is tricky, and probably not even worth attempting for a one-time thing like this. But it sure beats stewing about it silently for 6 months and then writing to Dan for advice on your way out the door.


I'm with BiDan here. I expect to take some flak for this because I've taken flak when variations on the question have come up all my life. I am a bad feminist, apparently.

Before reading the comments, I came here to say that HARSH isn't making too big a deal of this, that she has a serious problem with dropping hints and expecting others to read her mind. That's not just in bed. It's also later when she started treating him badly while still not explaining. Look at the following phrases from her letter:

I made the poor decision
instead of just saying "no"
tried to show my lack of enthusiasm
Basically, I just didn't reciprocate
I had an urge to tell him [but didn't]
I kind of wanted to scream [but didn't]
I wanted to get up to leave [but didn't]
I basically lied
I never directly addressed my feelings
I even apologized
I started treating him worse after the thing happened [without ever spelling out the connection between one thing and the other]

HARSH- Can you see that it is a very big deal that you don't talk, don't act, don't stand up for yourself? Can you see that it's a problem that you dither in such a vague way that no one could figure out what you're trying to communicate even if they weren't drunk? I not only don't want to sleep with you, I don't want to be in the same room with you. You're the sort who drives me crazy at work, and forget trying to be your friend. You're insufferable. Not only can I not figure out what you want in bed, I can't figure out if you want to get together with me for lunch on Tuesday. JUST SAY WHAT YOU MEAN! Instead you reply to my invitation for lunch with "my grandmother likes lasagne," and I'm supposed to figure out that that means you don't like the restaurant I chose.

Get some therapy.

I often think Dan doesn't understand women or women's issues well enough. This time I think he bent over backwards giving HARSH the benefit of the doubt and putting down the man. Granted the boyfriend shouldn't have gotten drunk, rude or pushy. I'm not big on drunk, rude, or pushy, but that's the worst thing I can say about him. It's not male entitlement and male denseness to think that if you generally have sex with a woman you've been dating and who's in your bed most nights, then sex is expected on this night as well.

He initiated sex which HARSH would normally invite. From his point of view, she was being a little more passive than usual, but people are sometimes a bit passive as a way of taking it easy. It's nice to let the other take the lead sometimes. Then she started being an asshole towards him, and he has no idea why.

I could go on longer, but I'll close with this. HARSH, you didn't have your car? Then get up, get dressed, and call a ride share. Or at least go into another room of the house to sleep on the couch. You're 3 inches away from crying for sympathy because you were raped. You weren't.


A funny cartoon:


I agree with @30. I also do not read anything in the letter that indicates that she was concerned for her safety. To me, it seemed a lot more like she was just trying to avoid a confrontation, keep things pleasant and that he was pushy & rude which implies that he would escalate the confrontation if she leaned into it. This is not the same thing as being concerned about safety. Loads of people prefer to avoid arguments or confrontations, to smooth over unpleasant nights/mornings with little white lies that will keep the peace- this is not the same thing as fear for safety.

Also @24 is correct that this is her version of events and his might be different, but since we only have the letter to go on, I don't see the point in saying she could be misrepresenting, especially as she freely (and in detail) wrote about her own flawed actions in this situation. So it doesn't sound to me like she's trying to paint a picture where he was a villain but rather that she's describing how they both acted and how she felt about it then and now.

Also agree with @31 and I have been in that situation myself more than once when I was young. Part of the reluctance of women to make a clear firm statement or action is that it is drawing a line - a clear firm line - and if the man crosses it, then there's nothing you can do without causing a massive scene which might go badly for everyone. It's like calling someone's bluff. It removes all wiggle room. Most of the time, it would end the situation, but if it does not, then it escalates it. Now I don't know if this is relevant to this particular woman's situation- they've been together for a while, the man does sound like a whiner given that he complained later that he didn't get laid, but he DID stop being handsy when he got no response and we can claim that a 30 year old woman who has been with a man for several months should have a better idea by then of how he would respond and also that she should have followed her gut etc etc. 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. It might end the situation- or it might escalate it. This woman, in this moment, behaved the way she did because it seemed the way that she could respond. She's not accusing the guy of being a rapist, just that he acted spoiled the next morning and that the situation made her feel gross. I don't see why so many people are trying to say there was some perfect way to act. The letter is about how to handle the aftermath of the situation.


I'm surprised no one has brought up Cat Person or Aziz Ansari yet.

LW and her bf both acted badly. Him, for being willing to pursue bad sex with a clearly unenthusiastic partner. Her, for not being willing to clearly communicate that she didn't want sex at that time in the way he was going about it. They both need to work on their issues in order to have healthy sexual relationships.

Important caveat here, supporting what others have said: she did not mention in her letter any fear for her safety or past trauma that would make her unusually unable to speak up, and her later actions show that she is generally unwilling or unable to take responsibility for being honest with her partner.


Also I agree with Fichu that people who are unclear and expect others to read their minds drive me nuts, especially if I must work with them, and there is no way I could have serious relationships (friendships or romantic) with people like that. I don't know think LW needs therapy- it seems not to do much for most people and I don't understand why we throw about "getting therapy" as if it's much an answer to anyone. People have different personality types and a very common one is the sort of person that really wants to smooth things over, keep the peace, remain pleasant. I'm clearly not a person like this, but if everyone were like me we'd probably all be fighting all the time. So I try to keep this in mind when I'm dealing with someone who I cant understand their intentions or desires because they won't plainly state them. It's very frustrating but my experience with people like this is that the more you try to snap them into being assertive by saying things like "can't you see..." etc, the more they withdraw into themselves. Therefore I agree that a more assertive person would handle a situation like this differently, but I don't really see the point in lingering on that.

Also it seems difficult to pin point when that assertiveness shouldve happened as we all have different ideas of what is / is not uncomfortable. Should the LW immediately leave the home of a partner who has had too much to drink and is being a little pushy? It seems reasonable to me that someone in that position might choose to sleep on it. Most couples have unpleasant evenings, even fights when one or the other behave badly (talking about situations without actual fear of safety - just normal couple fights) and this half year (or thereabouts) mark is when that starts to happen and you see how your personalities handle conflict. It turns out that she handles it one way, he handles it another, and they are not compatible. They learned that about each other at about the time that most new couples learn how they fight together.Neither of them did anything too terrible- they just both communicate in this or that way and it's not going to be sustainable. The relationship is over.

Anyway, what I'm saying is that despite my own preference for people who speak clearly and can advocate for themselves, I'm aware that not everyone behaves that way- and she is not blaming him for that. If LW will not or can not change her personality (most people can't), then she needs to understand this about herself (which she seems to be doing) and then act accordingly.

Honestly if you decide that a situation/relationship is not worth saving, then it makes sense to avoid an argument or a confrontation about it by telling a white lie and leaving. What difference does it make to you if you plan to never see the person again? This relationship is over. If she wants to white lie her way out of it, then thats fine. What I'm saying is that she seems to also be equivocating in her own mind- what does she think about this, what does she want. That's what's troubling here.

Yes he acted like a little brat the next morning, yes he was a pushy drunk- the actual handsiness was more faux pas than aggression. Regardless he finds her frustrating, she finds him gross, he is pushy, she is interested in keeping the peace, the relationship is over, and there's no point in people saying what either should've done to fix it as it would require them both to be different people to have done different things.

If she were writing on about what a victim she is or that he violated her or whatever, then I'd say it's worthwhile to lecture her on her own unclear messaging and also her need to see reality more clearly from outside of her head. But she's not. She's saying his behavior, his response to her body language, made her feel gross and she's asking how to handle those feelings, how to understand her actions in that context. It's good to be reflective like this.


@41 The difference between this situation and that one is that this is not a first time sexual encounter. Also this man did not persist. This is a miscommunication. Dude acted pushy (before) and whiney (afterwards) but it's still miscommunication.

Ansari might've rightfully understood his date and that woman might've needed to advocate better for herself, but it's an entirely different can of worms when you are in the house of a stranger on a first encounter. Like, every adult should know a situation like that requires a lot more checking in and reciprocation- you don't shove your fingers down someone's throat without knowing if they are into that first. What I remember most about the Ansari thing is just that it was so cringe, dude trying to playact stuff he sees in porn, guys don't do that unless the other person is into it. Reminds me of Kobe Bryant first denying and then admitting that he strangled that woman but saying he assumed she was into it because she didn't say "no please don't strangle me"- like who thinks you just strangle strangers on a first date without first checking in that this is what they want? Just a total disconnect between what's going on in your own mind and that of your partner.

That is absolutely not whats going on here and I don't see any similarities at all. This is just a guy who is horny when his well-established sexual partner in his bed isn't, and he's drunk enough to try to get her into it when a more sober or more considerate or more mature dude would've just rolled over sooner. The whole point here is that he DIDNT do what Ansari did (which itself was a grey area)- this guy didn't even step into the grey.

If I could interrogate why the LW found his actions gross (which seems irrelevant but fun for commenting) I'd ask if it's just gross to see him selfish for sex without concern for her desire. In my own experience, this is gross - I can't think of any other word for it. Sometimes because it feels like I'm irrelevant which is gross because I'm in my body. Other times it's because the dude seems like a little horny desperate immature brat which just isn't at all sexy. Like, go jack off dude, I don't need to see that. There's a difference between the two feelings- one makes me feel bad about myself, the other makes me think the dude is pathetic. In any case, there's no going back from that to sexiness again.


“This woman, in this moment, behaved the way she did because it seemed the way that she could respond. ...
. I don't see why so many people are trying to say there was some perfect way to act.“

If it seemed that way, she was wrong. There was in fact a perfect way to act... say something. Bf is not a mind reader.

If you cannot handle having conflicts with your partner, then you have no business being in a relationship with them. It’s certainly possible bf is a dickhead. Maybe he is verbally abusive. But that’s a major leap. Based on what is in the letter, it sounds like LW has no business being in a relationship with anyone.


guys don't do that unless the other person is into it

(I see this could be read two ways. I'm not claiming guys don't do this unless someone else is into it. I'm giving advice: Hey Guys: Don't do this unless...)


DTMFA. Yeah, sure, she could have handled the situation better (still could). But that doesn't change the fact that after this happened, he acted like a little baby:

"The next morning when we got up, he was upset that I "rejected" him."

Why is he upset that you didn't want to have sex with him? You didn't want to have sex. Maybe you had an upset stomach. Maybe you just weren't in the mood. Whatever. The point is, his whining about it suggests a ridiculous level of entitlement. This is not a matter of shitty drunken behavior, but shitty sober behavior.

The two are acting like a 1950s couple. He deserves sex whenever he wants. She doesn't want to hurt his feelings. What is their plan, that she stays at home all day watching soap operas and greats his hard working husband with a wonderful meal? Fuck.

She needs to get her shit together, and sticking with an asshole won't help. DTMFA.


@44 if you are worried your regular sexual partner will freak out when you tell them no... then why are they your regular sexual partner? If you can’t trust a man on this level, you should not be having sex with him. It’s not fair to either person.


Joe most people have personality types or immaturities that make them seemingly have no business being in a relationship with others. If only the healthiest and most mature communicators had relationships, there'd be very few in the world. The reality is that these are both flawed people who behaved in a flawed way in a very mundane situation in which no real lines were crossed and she has lingering gross feelings about it and she's wondering what to do.

So what, it's normal, their flaws aren't compatible. Learn from it what you can and move on.

Don't pretend that there are magic words that could've solved this problem for these people.

What do you do if you say something and it doesn't work, the man persists? Then what? Then we'd be here saying the woman was clearly in the right and the man was in the wrong, and we'd have clear villains and clear protagonists and it'd be a less interesting letter but none of us would have any nuance to face. For the LW though, the stakes would've been much higher.

Lots of people deal with confrontation by trying to passively de-escalate. This is a reality. It also works, as it did for the LW. I see nothing wrong with this so long as people who handle conflict this way do not also turn around and blame others for misunderstanding them and then claim there were violated. The LW did nothing of the sort. She responded nonverbally, the boyfriend was frustrated by this but he DID understand her. Therefore she has learned this is an effective communication strategy, reinforcing this habit.


@43, Hi, Emmaliz. I agree that Ansari, Cat Person, and LW have significant differences. Yeah, 100%, Ansari took it way too far and was way too pushy for a first date. The similarity I see is that they all involve:

1) A man who is being selfishly sexually aggressive and not picking up on the fact that his partner is really not having a good time, and
2) A woman who is not in danger but is grossed out by her male partner's sexual approach and will not clearly communicate what she wants nor physically remove herself from the situation.

Terrible socialization is in play for both men and women.

1 above is reinforced by the trope that it's sexy / expected for a man to take the sexual lead and overcome a woman's resistance.

2 above is reinforced by the norm that women should be "nice," non-confrontational, and not hurt others' feelings. Also the "cool girl" trope described in Gone Girl:

"Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl. Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl."


I don't agree with the idea that people are who they are, and they can never change. Absolutely people can change but they have to have internal motivation and put some effort into it. Dan was 100% right to advise the LW to work on being assertive (when it is safe to do so). She and the bf both need to get better about recognizing and practicing affirmative consent. Just because she hasn't done it yet doesn't mean she's an incapable lost cause.


Like I guess what's bothering me is those of you who are acting like her only concern would be being raped. In the first place, saying no doesn't prevent that. What saying no does is draw the line - now the ball is in the man's court and he can not pretend any longer that he just misunderstands his partner.

Now at this point we can say a woman should know if her partner will rape her or not, but all evidence of lived reality by thousands of people show that this is not true. And while this is an established sexual relationship, the six month mark is when people really start to learn about each other. Also we don't know if she's been with him drunk before.

But all that is in the realm of hypothetical because I agree with all above that the woman does not sound like she fears for her safety or that the man is violent- it does not seem she is worried he will rape her, and moreover, that is not what she wrote a letter asking about so it's weird to me that the comments have focused on reducing it to this. It's an interesting side conversation because it does explain how/why other people in other situations might not say a clear no when there are passive ways out of it, so interesting in itself but irrelevant to this situation.

But de-escalating confrontation through passive body language and white lies is an extremely common behavior and it's not used just to avoid actual violence, no matter how frustrating it might be to those of us who are more assertive. Why respond only with body language? Well in the first place, this woman was probably not consciously thinking about it all, things tend to happen faster and be more confusing when you are in a situation and people have habits, etc, however annoying we might find these things. But back to the point, if you say "no I'm not into it" to someone who you are pretty sure will stop when you say no (as is the case here) it puts you in the situation where there will be a response of some sort. He'll roll over with a huff and puff? He'll insult you? He'll get up all huffy and sleep on the couch? He'll tell you to sleep on the couch? He'll stomp off and jack off in the bathroom? He'll ask what you are doing there? He'll whine or beg? He'll say c'mon baby and try to get you hot?

Chances are, this woman had plenty of reason to believe that he's not going to just be super nice and polite and say that's OK no problem. She's ALREADY in this situation in which she's in his bed, he wants sex, she doesn't, and he KNOWS this because she's not responding at all. No one enjoys making out with a cold fish, and yet here he is, laying on top of her still body and kissing her, pestering her for sex. Why are we pretending there is a correct way to deal with this situation that shouldn't happen in the first place? That will naturally de-escalate and make things right? She used a strategy that is as good as any other- she did not respond at all so that he could see that his advances were unwelcome without raising the stakes or bruising his ego or causing a scene, and guess what? IT WORKED.

Now all we can do is back up and say, well how could she have avoided this situation in the first place? At what point do you go home? The first time you have an argument or an unpleasant evening with someone who you have been dating for months? The first time the person you are dating acts like a jerk? Then the letter would be about how he was a jerk and she reacted by going home instead of trying to sleep on it and deal with it in the morning when he was sober and did she overreact? Did she make a big deal out of nothing by going home the first time he was a pushy drunk?

She has learned something about herself and their incompatibility. If she doesnt want to be in a situation like that again, maybe she'll learn next time that she errs on the side of overreacting next time someone she's been dating for several months acts like a jerk and she goes home. Maybe not. Maybe they'll just realize they are incompatible and do not fight well and they'll just date other people.

Other people's lives are frustrating and fascinating.


@50 Well I think we have a fundamental difference here but unfortunately I wasted my time rambling on about the other aspects of this letter before seeing your response and now I gotta go. But in short I'd say that I disagree with your similarity #1 as I don't think this man was sexually aggressive in the first place, at least not as described by the LW.

I also always feel that Dan's (and others) comment that women are socialized to be accommodating is true for a lot of women/cultures, but an insufficient explanation. A lot of time, it's simply that passive aggression or accommodation is an effective strategy for both self-defense and control in the face of other power differentials. I grew up in part of a household in which one of the matriarchs made people feel constantly that they were walking on eggshells, and this seemed every bit as controlling and domineering to me as physical power, and so I'd say the socialization aspect- while absolutely true as well- isn't always about being nice as about just using what tools you have in your shed. I don't know that any of it is relevant to this LW though who is not claiming that she is a victim of anything nor that she is putting blame on anyone but simply trying to decide how to understand the situation's effect on her and how she should proceed. I agree with Hachacha that probably there were other signs of their basic incompatibility before this - it has less to do with the sexual encounter IMO than how these two handle conflict, his response in the morning, her white lies, etc.


My read on the "rejecting" bit is that he knew exactly what had gone down, and was being defensive and manipulative. He had got the "no" eventually, and stopped trying.

Dan wrote "he thought he was the wronged party is a classic example of male entitlement and male denseness", but I suspect he was simply blame shifting, and not actually that dense.


Hachacha @53: Who exactly "runs" the "feminist movement"?


@3 Agreed.

@20 Why Why Why Why Why? - Because she's obviously been trained to be very compliant and passive, like many people are. Because we live in a society that does that to people, especially women. It's no accident that many people are incapable of speaking out or saying no - they are actively trained to be that way.
She didn't do what she wasn't capable at the time. You can't get there from there. She clearly needs to be deprogrammed of all the passive garbage she learned, but raking her over the coals about it is just blaming the victim.

A lot of people are saying that she 'clearly didn't feel threatened' but I don't think that's clear at all. In fact, she obviously felt violated by what happened. It's very possible, even likely, that she felt some degree of intimidation because she described him as having been 'pushy and rude' earlier, and of course we know he was also 'really wasted'. A lot of men, particularly men who are 'pushy and rude', become more volatile with alcohol.

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? It can often take sexual assault victims years to come to terms with what happened to them and to be able to admit to themselves and others that they were assaulted.

We can have a big debate about whether it constitutes sexual assault or not, but ultimately only she can really know what that experience was. I personally think that he clearly knew what he was doing, knew she wasn't into it and continued. She clearly felt violated and harmed by the incident.

There are lots of complicated reasons why some people have a difficult time saying 'no', and that's why active, enthusiastic consent is so important. If someone has been trained to be passive and compliant, and especially if they've been groomed by an abuser, and especially if they feel some degree of threat or uncertainty about what the other person is capable of, and especially if they have a 'freeze' trauma response - they are incapable of saying no. We need to make sure that we don't proceed without a yes.

It is everyone's responsibility to get consent. REAL consent. And when it's obvious the other person isn't into it, we should take that as a resounding NO.

I feel like LW is writing to Dan for permission to feel what she feels - violated and hurt by his behaviour. It's as though she doesn't feel entitled to her autonomy. I really think she needs therapy, a lot of therapy. Something in her life - whether it was how she was raised, or whether she was abused or what - has trained her to not take hold of her own rights and voice as a human being and that's tragic and will only lead to more problems in the future. Including the potential for a more serious sexual violation.

And it should go without saying, but she definitely needs to DTMA.


@53 It worked? She has been holding a grudge against her boyfriend over this thing that happened 5 months ago that he has no idea was even a problem. That is horrible behavior.

No one is blaming her for not speaking up in the moment. Of course she can deal with that situation however she wants to. We are (or at least I am) blaming her being unfairly upset at her boyfriend.


No one behaved badly that night, and they are both allowed to have their feelings about it. She can feel gross and he can feel rejected.

The important thing is not to blame their partner for their own feelings, when, again, neither did anything wrong. He is not entitled to her sex, and she is not entitled to his clairvoyance.

It’s not clear that he blamed her for the rejection. Even if he did, it didn’t linger.

In her case, she did blame him, and, what is much worse, she carried this blame around silently for months afterward.


Hachacha @60: Oh, I see... and anyone who questions your conspiracy theory is a dipshit. I'm glad you cleared that up.


Mr H, @53; you seem to have come out of nowhere, or have you? Really with the feminist movement put downs. stfu with your ignorance.
Nobody runs the feminist movement, ok. That’s two strikes against you now as I see it. One, involving yourself in how women deal with unwanted pregnancy. As If What A Woman Does With Her Body Is Any Of Your F Business, and now this bull. You’re on the watch and see list now, not the best place to be when militant feminists roam these corridors.


joeburner2 @37: Bit of a catch-22 there, isn't it? She need to give a clearer (meaning, harsher) "no," but also he's totally entitled to whine at her and feel hurt over the "no"? So basically, other than having sex any time he wants and never saying no to anything in any way, there's no way for her to avoid being a horrible hurtful girlfriend? Fuck off.


LavaGirl @ 63: Actually I run the feminist movement. All of it. I won my title in a drunken Strip Parcheesi game with a lesbian goat farmer, who had in turn traded an imp in a bottle with a Norwegian fisherman for it, who I do believe won it as first prize in a swedish limerick contest with a mermaid.


@57 I think we agree that LW needs therapy, that for whatever reason she seems to lack the self-esteem to stand up for herself.

But you say we can’t know if it was sexual assault. I think we can say for sure that the facts presented here do not amount to sexual assault.

I think or hope we agree that the definition of sexual assault should not be based on how the woman feels about it afterwards, it should be based on actions.

So here, two regular sexual partners got in bed. One initiated sex (non-verbally) and the other rejected him non-verbally, by being unenthusiastic until he got the hint and stopped. If that is sexual assault, then 90% of people on earth are serial sexual assaulters.

I understand the virtue of affirmative consent for new partners, but for people with regular partners, sex just doesn’t work that way.


@64 huh? when did I say she couldn’t say no?


@64 do you really think a person is not entitled to feel hurt over sexual rejection? What exactly are the rules for what we are allowed to feel hurt about?


@64 being annoyed or hurt by something your partner does is not the same thing as blaming them for it. In the case of sexual rejection, it’s obviously not helpful to mention these feelings every time, but if it’s part of a pattern, then never mentioning them is also a good way to sabotage the relationship.

I grant you, it’s a fine line to walk.

Like... I totally respect you as a co-commenter, but sometimes, when you say things like in @64, it makes me feel like I want to stick a fork in my eye.


(@64 sorry, was trying to make a dumb joke in last comment)


@68, Sure, he can feel how he wants. However, if he wants to show he respects his girlfriend, he won't act angry or bitter when she turns him down. If this was some sexless relationship, this would be a different problem, but this isn't the case, it was a one off. I'm not even sure why he'd feel hurt in this case, his relationship just hit the point where they don't have sex every night they're together. It's a milestone of sorts.


@68: you can feel however you want. however when you make that your partner's problem and act like they've wronged you just because they weren't up for banging your drunk ass, you're being a jerk, and not someone anyone wants to have a relationship with. It is a virtual certainty in a relationship that sometimes one partner is gonna want to have sex when the other doesn't. If you're gonna get butthurt just because you got turned down once, your partner is gonna start feeling uncomfortable around you.


@ 69: Well I ain't stopping you. Go nuts with that fork.


@72 sure, I agree with all that. Depends on what he said, how he said it, etc.


@71 agree with that too


Joe- don't try to generalize. This isn't about someone rejecting you more generally. It's a specific circumstance. Is it normal to be hurt just because you don't get sex every single time you'd like it? I doubt that very seriously, but especially under these circumstances - in which any mature adult should reasonably expect rejection: when you are sloppy drunk and the other person isnt, and you've already had a disagreement. If you feel hurt under THOSE circumstances then they are still your feelings and you still have a right to them, but they indicate an inability to cope with basic realities of adult relationships and perhaps a deeper issue with having very thin skin or a sense of sexual entitlement.

And I do not see how she's holding a grudge (which would indicate blame) rather than just trying to figure out how to deal with her lingering feelings that he was gross. And her saying no when he got handsy wouldn't have prevented that as she'd already have felt that way about him. The only purpose saying no would've done would've been to end his handsiness sooner- but the trade off there was the possibility of some disagreement or escalation. The event that caused the feelings had already happened by that point.

Anyway, I don't understand why it's easier for you to identify with feeling the hurt of sexual rejection than it is with feeling gross that someone wants to fuck you despite you having no desire to do so. They are both unpleasant feelings- this couple found themselves in that situation due to a mixture of their (totally mundane) personalities and lack of communication- it's a case of basic incompatibility among normal flawed people. No one never acts like a jerk, no one goes through life handling all its circumstances skillfully.

Traffic Spiral, Thank you for your service!

@Strange Observer, sorry I was short earlier. As for the cool girl trope, I've heard people claim it is a problem inherent with the sex positivity movement- that it's really something that serves men and their fantasies but that women go along with it to be cool. I do think there's an issue in which women are expected to shut up and not complain, certainly their concerns are taken as being high maintenance or hysterical so sure, someone might try to compensate by stuffing down their own worries/preferences so as to seem more cool / easy going. In one of the other threads, there's an example of this as someone dealing with serious problems regarding menopause says she probably shouldn't complain too much as others have bigger problems- women not speaking up about their health or their sexual pleasure is a serious issue and so in that way I get what you mean (and Dan) about socialization. But I think there's an issue with men too that has a similar outcome for different reasons- they must have a stiff upper lip, must be more stoic in their emotions, don't be a pussy or desire intimacy with their friends, don't cry or show gentleness, etc. Gender roles are a prison. It's just that I think the understanding of this sort of socialization is a good first step, a necessary but insufficient bit of knowledge in order to get a grip on all this bullshit we are living in. It's Dan's go to in explaining why women like the one in this situation don't use their words, but I don't really see how using her words would've changed much about this situation. The point is that the dude did understand that she wasn't into sex with him in that moment. He knew that. And her motivations all the way along seem to be about taking the path of least resistance in order to not have a confrontation - seem more about that than trying to please him. If she were interested in trying to please him, she'd likely have put out. I just don't think that it's realistic to expect everyone to be assertive all the time, and it's easy to see how, in reverse, someone should've acted to prevent a certain outcome, but while you are going through it, there are many possible outcomes. If they'd just gone to sleep and then chatted in the morning about his pushiness while drunk, it would've seemed fine. Also her question was about feeling gross, which I don't think has much to do with issues of consent. I think it has a lot more to do with how it feels to know your partner doesn't really care if you are enjoying physical contact with them. That DOES feel gross regardless of how you end up in that situation or what you do to get out of it. And I do think this is gendered too, at least a bit. I've never really understood how people enjoy sex with sex workers (people have explained it to me but I personally can't wrap my brain around it) as my own sexuality requires mutual desire or else it just disappears. I can be fooled I'm sure, even fool myself, but I'd never be able to get down with someone who was just tolerating me. And this seems to not be as big a problem for men or else they wouldn't cajole like they do. I know socialization has something to do with this, but it's a simplistic explanation in my opinion- the socialization could be a response to this situation as easily as its cause.


Good one Traffic, @65. Do these clueless men not read these threads? Feminists abound here and we’ve locked horns over issues many a time. Yeah, we grow horns and tough tough hides.
I enjoy their stupidity in some perverse way, feeling sadness as well. We are going backwards, because the pushback is now getting real mean. This whole ‘Father of The Cluster of Cells’ routine, I tell ya, I wanna smash heads. I’ve carried babies I know the experience. I welcomed my babies, and have spent many decades of my life sometimes re thinking my decision. Bottom line is, it was my decision/s.
Patriarchal men like Mr H, think their lousy sperm is welcome. Don’t put it into others’ fertile bodies, that’s the key.


Not a whole lot to add, other than to reiterate that drunk people are not the best at picking up on subtle hints. Also most (not all) decent people don’t turn into a raving lunatics just because they’ve had too much to drink. A simple, “Bob, you’re drunk and I don’t want to fuck, knock it off” should suffice. If you have a partner who get’s their nose all out of joint because they didn’t get to play hide the salami one time, especially one who’s still whining about it the next day when they’re (supposedly) sober, seriously consider finding a new partner if no apology is forthcoming.


@77 “lingering feelings that he was gross” sounds indistinguishable from grudge to me.

You don’t understand how I can identify more with sexual rejection than with feeling gross that someone wants to fuck me when I don’t want them too?

Really? I simply don’t have any personal experience with the second one. I can empathize and imagine parallel kinds of experience, but no direct experience.

As for the rest, I think we are splitting hairs at this point. I was just trying to correct the idea that a man expressing feelings of sexual rejection is necessarily acting “entitled” or “butt hurt”. Usually, perhaps, always, no.


It's entitled and butthurt to express feeling upset about being rejected when you are sloppy drunk by your sober partner with whom you've already had a disagreement.

And yes, it feels very gross to know that someone wants to fuck your body even when you aren't enjoying it. It feels even grosser when that someone is a person you trust. IN this particular circumstance, this man stopped so apparently he likewise doesn't want to fuck someone who doesn't want to fuck him. Ordinarily I'd chalk it up to attempting to warm her up a bit longer than is appropriate because he's too drunk to quickly get the cues, except that the next day - sober- he's still butthurt that she didn't want to fuck him. So... that indicates that he cares more about getting laid when he wants than about sharing mutual pleasure which yes feels gross.


EmmaLiz, someone wanting to have sex with me when I don’t want to either makes me feel some combination of good (desirable/ego boost/glad that my partner’s libido is high), a little guilty that I am rejecting, and potentially a little annoyed if she knows I have to get up early or something. never gross. Male privilege I guess (not meant sarcastically). But that’s why it’s good to communicate.


EmmaLiz, that’s fine. I like to assume the best about people, but even I think there is like an 90% chance he was at least a bit of a dick, and a significant chance he was a real dick. Don’t have a problem with your points.


@joeburner2 - Given the type of responses I see you giving to things like this, I'm not particularly surprised that you think this guy's behaviour was normal and acceptable, and not at all non-consensual.


joeburner2 @81: Male privilege indeed. Also completely bereft of appreciation for and understanding of other people's POV. It can be fascinating, shocking, upsetting, and joyful to listen to other people's experience and allow yourself to believe them. It's actually one of the many, many benefits of (white cis hetero) male privilege to be able to do that.

KBW #83: Normal doesn't imply acceptable. His behaviour may have been "normal" for a drunk guy used to getting his rocks off; that doesn't make it acceptable.


@80 EmmaLiz, point of clarification -- given the way she's characterized virtually all of her communication with him, I don't think it's safe to assume that he actually knew that they'd already disagreed that night. She said he was drunker than she'd seen him before, and rude and pushy... certainly unappealing, yes. But I don't know why we would imagine she'd made it clear he was alienating her -- making any negative feeling clear doesn't seem to be a thing she does. And he wouldn't be the first drunk person to wake up the next morning secure in a completely inaccurate recollection of how other people perceived him.

Also, I hate to say it but if you never push back, never express a negative feeling or articulate a boundary, it gets easier and easier for other people to just project their own perceptions and desires onto you. They don't even have to be malicious to do it, just a little misattuned or not too perceptive. Sooner or later you end up with the sour disappointment that someone doesn't know you, or behaved in a way that was far from what you wanted, when you'd been systematically concealing yourself since the beginning. She can dump him -- and she should -- but I think the primary object of her resentment is closer to home and is going to need to be addressed before she gets involved with someone new..


Certainly possible, Alpha Panty, likely even given that she might have just silently taken his rude behavior and likewise possible that he thought everything was fine, being drunk, and thought it was totally fine to initiate sex and also that it took him a mo to realize she was nonresponsive at which point he did desist. That's why I've been saying all along that I don't think this is an issue of sexual aggression or non consent, more like a faux pas or a miscommunication between two flawed people. But the morning afterwards, nope. Even if he was murky in his recollection of events, he remembered he was DTF and she was not, and surely he remembered also that he was drunk and she was not. He's a fully grown man, not a teenager with his first bottle of Mad Dog. Even if he hadn't been drunk, it's assholish to get pissy that someone rejects your advances but given that he was wasted the night before, there's no excuse. Unless he's got some brain damage or has spent his life locked in an attic somewhere, any slightly self-aware non asshole would check in with how he behaved drunk the night before, how she felt, or at the least just not bring it up again- not pout about not getting laid. Which frankly is always a libido-killer, no faster way to stop looking sexy.

I do agree though that someone who is a push over often ends up with someone who pushes around. It doesn't have to be so- but at the very least yup she needs to be more self-aware too. Interesting point about the projection- I havent really considered that dynamic before. I have a casual friend that people tend to really like because she makes herself scarce and listens well- in the end, everyone just thinks she's so smart and supportive and in touch, but I watched her more carefully lately and it just seems that what she does is let other people talk, then she agrees with them, then she has some other place to be. I was thinking on her recently because I realized I don't really know what she thinks about anything, and if you ask for her opinion it's like she'll bounce the ball back at you again then sort of talk you through your own ideas as if she shares them. I always took this to be my fault, that I was taking up too much space in the conversation which is something I try really hard not to do in real life since it's my natural tendency and so I've been trying again and again to ask about her, listen to her, but she seems to always turn it around back at me or others around. hmmmm... you've given me something to think about, very insightful.

(Also I know your handle is with a b and not a p but it was so funny in my head that I had to do it. Hope you don't mind.)


@84 I was asked how it was possible that I don’t identify with LW feeling gross. Maybe I shouldn’t have answered, but the honest reason is that I personally have never felt gross in that situation. I never said I don’t believe that people feel that way. Obviously they do. I shared my story to illustrate that bf probably experiences the world differently than she does. If she doesn’t tell her bf how she feels, then how the hell is he supposed to know? He is not going to guess if he has never experienced it himself. And he can’t listen if she doesn’t talk.

The first rule for relationships is the Golden Rule. But sometimes, that’s not good enough. How I would want to be treated may not actually be how my partner would want to be treated. To do better requires communication— the kind with words.


@83 glad to hear I am consistent!


@15 if you think this is all on LW then you’re a gross proto rapist. Rejection via non verbal cues is still rejection; women are socialised you give soft rejections so as to not get murdered; freezing up is a common response to unwanted groping.


@87 - he’s supposed to know how she feels the way most humans extrapolate how other people feel. Facial expressions, moving away, non reciprocation. It’s not that difficult, and men don’t inherently find it more difficult. It’s been proven - the type of man who insists he just doesn’t understand non verbal cues understands them just fine when it comes to other situations - think his buddy saying he’s too tired for another beer. They pretend they don’t understand them when it comes to sex because if they had non rape sex it would cut into their quantity of sex.


joeburner2: congrats on being a sex pest? Like, I'm not sure what you're going for here.


@91 sorry if I wasn’t clear. Goodnight.


@37. joeburner. Rather than therapy, she needs to date a guy who, in the first instance, in the getting-to-know-you stages, doesn't get drunk while she remains sober. Second instance: doesn't get pushy while drunk (this could have been something like telling her to stay when she suggested she might call a cab). Third instance: doesn't clumsily obtrude his sexual attentions on her when the signs of her being willing aren't there. Fourth, doesn't persist, and fifth, isn't sore about it in the morning. The guy hasn't showed up well. She can do better.

And why would a guy get drunk by himself at that stage of a relationship for the first time? The most common reason is that it's who he is; he's showing his gf who he is. And she doesn't want to be with someone like that, to listen, say, to his drunken views on politics or his self-justifying story of his life. She's well out of this relationship.


Mike @30: "I'm not sure why all the talk about her safety." Because it is so common for women to say no, either verbally or non-verbally, and men to completely ignore that. Google rape statistics. Which is why situations like this are so scary women freeze up and react like HARSH did, by silently hoping he stops. Sure, THIS guy didn't rape her, but every man is Schrodinger's Rapist until he does or doesn't rape you. Google that too. Men simply don't understand how scary it can be for someone who is twice your size with much more muscle mass to make unwanted advances. The knowledge is always there that if he wanted to rape you, there would be bugger all you could do, so you'd better just pray he doesn't want to rape you. That's what HARSH was doing.

Ada @31: "If someone is ignoring all reasonable cues it doesn’t create full confidence that they wouldn’t ignore a no too." Yes, exactly.

Harriet @34, I'm sick of hair splitting with you. She said that he initiated sex and that this was usually something she would have invited. It's crystal clear to me that this fitted their pattern, the only difference being that this time she did not invite it, and sent those signals non-verbally. He may have interpreted her simply getting into bed with him as "giving him the come-on," which on this occasion it was not.

Agony @35, yes, following on from my last comment, if you don't want to have sex with someone it's best to signal that before you get into bed with them. Under no circumstances get into bed naked. Getting into bed is not a "yes," but the sad truth is some may interpret it that way. Ask for a T-shirt to sleep in and be prepared to use words to override assumptions. You could even say before getting into bed, "I just want to sleep tonight, no sex." And if they whine, ask for a blanket to go sleep on the couch.

EmmaLiz @40: "It's like calling someone's bluff. It removes all wiggle room. Most of the time, it would end the situation, but if it does not, then it escalates it." Yes. A hard no is like Russian roulette. It will probably be fine, but there's a chance it will lead directly to your being violently raped, and that small chance is enough to frighten many of us out of saying that hard no.

Strange @41, Cat Person was very much on my mind throughout this discussion.


@38. Fichu. I think you mistake the purpose of HARSH writing into Dan.

She isn't asking for sympathy for a near-assault experience. She is (a little) asking whether she is justified in allowing this incident to mean so much to her, to color her perception of her bf to the extent it changed how she's treated him in the five months or so afterwards. She's (even more, to my understanding) wondering whether she's been 'HARSH' in tacitly writing him off--implicitly thinking whether he may not after all be a viable long-term prospect.

The (apparent) answer to the last question is that she found him gross and pushy--and hasn't really recovered a more hopeful view of him as a respectably good partner.

The lw is someone who, to a marked degree, as you and everyone else note, is socialised to give guys the benefit of the doubt--to let things slide, to slide away from confrontation. I can understand why she did this the night of his pestering her for sex and the next morning. The answer for her is not to be less judgmental, less hard on men, more willing to cut a guy some slack and let him to get a little drunk, be a little importunate with her, misread a few sexual signals. The answer is for her to find better men. Or a better man. To be better--more educated; more sophisticated; more successful at work; better at projecting self-love and self-esteem--so that she finds herself more often in the company of better guys.

She's in her late 30s. What is her long game? Is it a LTR, marriage, cohabitation, family? What is her plan for that? HARSH, stop obsessing about this one wrong, low-grade guy and take yourself seriously enough to address your long-term plans. It will be much harder and you'll have to be genuinely much tougher on yourself.


@94. Bi. It isn't crystal-clear to me that 'invite' in her sentence means 'encourage' or 'greenlight':

"When we got in bed he started initiating sexual contact, something I would normally invite".

I think that 'invite' means one thing and 'encourage' would mean another. My read is that she habitually initiated sex up to this point in their relationship, in a less physically obtrusive or in-your-face way than a man e.g. a man lying across his gf's body with a hard-on reaching for a kiss.


@47. joeburner. It's not quite that he's her regular sex partner. They're still in the early stages of a relationship, feeling their way towards what works for them in terms of initiating and turning down, or deflecting, sex. In the situation of his wanting it and her not for the first time, or his wanting to fuck drunkenly for the first time, he should have trodden more sensitively.

@50. strange observer. She couldn't 100% have known she wasn't in danger. Her mistake was more not calling a taxi, rather than trying wordlessly to de-escalate as she did when he came on too assertively.

@66. Traffic. Ha!

@66. joeburner. Yes--I don't think this amounted to anything like sexual assault.


I shouldn’t have insisted on the possibility he wasn’t being a dick. Looking again, I see he wasn’t just disappointed next morning, but “upset”. He can have his feelings, but not to that level. I said there was a 90% chance he was a dick, but, you guys are right, it’s 100%.


@94 BI: Yeah, I'm aware there is violence against women. However, the letter writer didn't mention anything about it. She stayed because she didn't have her car and it was late, not because she was afraid to leave. She says she wanted to say something but didn't and didn't say why she went the non-verbal route. If it was because she thought her bf would be violent, this is a pretty major thing to have left out yet it's something more than a few people have added in. I'm just going by what she said. I also think Dan's advice that she needs to use her words is likely to be the right advice and not something that's inviting an early and violent death.

Also, every long term relationship deals with one party wanting sex when the other doesn't. This is pretty mundane and is navigated by every successful relationship, generally by the person who is being asked for sex (usually but not always the woman in a heterosexual relationship) saying they don't want sex that night and the other going to sleep and trying again another day, maybe after a half-hearted second try, maybe not. This is a formula that should sound familiar. Somehow they failed where so many others succeeded. My take is that this was not because they were uniquely affected by rape culture in ways the LW forgot to mention but because the sum of how both of them dealt with the situation. Of course, LW's full biography wasn't in the letter, so there may be something else in there, but to guess as to what that is seems more like people projecting their own beliefs on a situation than anything the LW might have been thinking.




It took me a while, far too long actually, to learn how to fend off a drunk person’s advances, even when the drunk person was someone I was in a relationship with. A few times when I was younger I would just let it happen, and try to shake it off as a bad night, but those feelings do linger. in my relationship, it took them being passed out on top of me twice to draw the line and say “ when I tell you you’re too drunk to fuck you need to knock it off”. The problem with being too drunk to fuck, is that you don’t know you’re too drunk to fuck, just like more alcohol seems like a great idea when you’ve already had too much. My partner however, being a pretty verbal person, and someone who cares about me and my pleasure, would try to talk me into it, not just grind on my frozen body and pretend not to notice my lack of reciprocation. Now many years later, when we want to go out we #FuckFirst, and eat and drink as we please. Anyway, a lot about her not using her words, when he could’ve easily called the question but he didn’t because he knew it would be a no. Nonverbal sex initiation Must allow for nonverbal sex rejection. Alcohol can throw a monkey wrench into the interaction of course, but it seems pretty clear that he didn’t ask because he knew damn well what the answer was


It sounds like HARSH mostly hurt herself by not paying enough attention to her feelings and expressing them as important. I hope that she starts to treat her feelings and body as the most important thing in the world, really pay attention to her desires and act on them, as well as care about other people.

It's unclear whether "upset" means angry, or confused and disappointed. The former is a bad sign and indicates a lack of respect for her consent. The latter might be a reasonable reaction to feeling used when a partner doesn't feel you are worth reciprocation in bed. In which case she could explain why his actions turned her off, but also express regret for letting things go on when she wasn't interested in reciprocating..

I'm not what he did that she felt was rude or pushy. I don't think that he made a mistake by trying to hit on her if that was normal for them. But if he said that he was angry that she wouldn't have sex with him, that is a clear huge mistake. That happened the morning after, not in bed.


@86 EmmaLiz, we absolutely agree that there's no way (in a newish relationship, after one night!) that his grousing was not an asshole move.

You said, "I do agree though that someone who is a push over often ends up with someone who pushes around."

That's certainly true! It can also be true, when someone develops a certain attachment to self-effacement as an identity, to cast a partner erroneously as a tyrant and respond appeasingly -- and that person won't necessarily notice until substantially down the road. I've watched it happen in the past from the sidelines, and it's more than a little eerie.

I want to stress that I am NOT asserting on the basis of what we know that this is the case of the LW. But the overwhelming majority of responders here agree that she desperately needs to examine her communication style and its underpinnings going forward, and I thought it was worth bringing up because it's a behavior that people don't always spot on their own without a sharp therapist. For a person who thinks of themselves as silenced by a series of bullies in the world, it is in particular worth a look.

And I think Alpha Panty is HILARIOUS. Wish I'd picked it!


GENERAL ADVICE that may happen to apply to this particular sitiation: read up on the psychological phenomenon the Illusion of Transparency (short version: your body language is much less clear and notable than you think it is, because when you imagine how other people are thinking about you, you do so with access to your own thoughts, which they do not actually know), and express things that you wish other people to know using clear words in a language you both speak instead of relying on them accurately intuiting your thoughts or straight up reading your mind, because humans aren't great at the first and can't do the second.

The guy DOES sound like kind of a jerk, given the pouting, but someone who isn't a jerk could wind up in exactly the same situation. Also worth noting that plenty of women (and probably men) are habitually or can be on occasion very passive when having sex even when enthusiastically enjoying it, so passivity is not a universally clear non-verbal sign (particularly for a partner who has previously had a disproportionate number of passive partners).