Last week I accidentally discovered a disturbing online video that sarcastically demeans the sexual assault awareness training we use at the University of Montana. It features a very creepy man. In my experience, it’s rare to see and hear someone who is CLEARLY misogynistic. I may be going out on a limb here, but it appears that a very creepy misogynistic man made this video.
Despite his creep factor (did I mention he was creepy?), he makes a point in the video that I’ve heard before. It goes something like this: During sexual encounters it’s the woman’s responsibility to say “No” in a way that is clear and explicit and unequivocal. If this message isn’t delivered and received, then the sexual encounter can or should continue.
Now, I’m all for women speaking up. That’s a good thing. But for me, the problem of this message is the assumption that because males are built to want and need sex, they’re basically unconcerned with how their partner is feeling and in the absence of a clear and unequivocal message, should simply proceed toward intercourse.
This assumption—that men don’t care how their partner is feeling—seems wrong to me. In my limited experience (myself, my friends, my clients), I’d conclude this: Although most men want sex, they also want their partner to want sex. Maybe I’m going out on another limb, but I think most men prefer their sexual partner to clearly and unequivocally say “Yes!” about having sex.
What I’m getting at is this: In the absence of a clear and unequivocal “Yes!” maybe men (and women) who want to have intercourse also have an obligation to COMMUNICATE. This communication could involve a verbal check in (e.g., “Are you okay?”) or some other creative means of determining whether consent is happening.
I know this idea is probably unrealistic. Some media messages imply that communication during sex is a turn off. Other media messages suggest that men could suffer from blue balls or that they’re not able to turn off their sexual drive once aroused. These are counter-arguments to a communication solution. And if you throw a little alcohol or other drugs into the mix, the issue of clear consent becomes substantially less clear.
But I wonder if we might agree on one thing: Consent is a bigger turn-on than a verbal or nonverbal “maybe.”
And so to both my male readers, I’d love your answers to the following multiple-choice questions (and I’d love your feedback too, if you feel so inclined):
1. Which of the following do you find to be the biggest turn-on?
a. When my sexual partner says no.
b, When my sexual partner says nothing,
c. When my sexual partner says maybe,
d. When my sexual partner clearly and repeatedly says “Yes!”
2. Which sexual situation would you most prefer?
a. A woman who is drunk and only partially conscious says she wants to have sex with me.
b. A woman who is stoned out of her mind says she wants to have sex with me.
c. A woman who is clean and sober and wide awake says she wants to have sex with me.
Thanks for reading and you can let me know your thoughts via private email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by posting on this blog.