On Good Consent, Part One

Personally, I use “good consent” rather than “enthusiastic consent.” Enthusiastic consent is a problematic term. Lots of people consent to sex without enthusiasm for the sex itself: sex workers, people who enjoy pleasing their partners even when they don’t desire sex, even people who are trying to conceive a child and have sex when one partner is ovulating. Similarly, there are lots of enthusiastic people who still don’t have good consent: if you’re a high school teacher and your fourteen-year-old student enthusiastically consents to sex with you, you still shouldn’t have sex with them. Good consent is a way vaguer phrase, but it’s also more all-encompassing.

All parts of good consent are for everyone. We’re socialized into this fucking awful pursuer-pursued dynamic, where dudes are supposed to push as far as they can, and women are supposed to respect themselves by being the gatekeepers to their genitalia. (I think that sentence needs a lot of scare quotes, so here are some you can sprinkle throughout as you please: “””””””””””””””””””””””””””) This dynamic is bullshit. Everyone has to work on getting in touch with their own desires. Everyone has to make sure their partner is consenting.

Getting In Touch With Your Own Desires

The first step to making sure that you don’t do anything you don’t want in bed is to know what you want! You’d think that would be really easy, because you’d just be like “hey, does this turn me on?” and then you’d have your answer. Maybe it works that way in Liberated Sex-Pozzie Utopia Land, but unfortunately in the real world it’s more complicated.

We have this entire culture that’s telling people that there’s One Right Thing To Want. Dudes, for instance, are supposed to have a high sex drive, to like porn, to enjoy casual sex, to be attracted to thin young feminine large-breasted women, to want anal sex and public sex and rough sex, to not want pegging and ageplay and vanilla missionary with the lights out. If you’re asexual you’re broken; if you like drag you’re a pervert and probably a pedophile; if you’re a male submissive you’re pathetic and unmasculine; if you’re queer you’re destroying America. I don’t understand why people do this: what possible gain could there be from reducing the vibrant rainbow of human sexuality to two colors (the dude color and the girl color)? Those two colors look much nicer as part of the whole spectrum.

Holly Pervocracy has an awesome guide about learning what you want, but I think the most important question to ask yourself is how you feel about it. Does the idea of a particular sex-type thing make you happy, or nervous-excited like you’re riding to the top of a roller coaster, or at peace, or curious? Conversely, does it make you feel sad, or self-hating, or used, or degraded?

People don’t necessarily know what they want. That’s okay. Sometimes you don’t know! Even about things as fundamental as sexual orientation, it’s okay to identify as questioning. I think a lot of people feel pressure to be like “I’m a pansexual monogamous dom with a foot fetish!” when the actual answer is “I dunno. I think I might like feet.” You always have a right to be uncertain, to try things, to do something once and decide you hate it and never do it again, to go through phases, to change your mind.

Communicating With Your Partner

I think the biggest keyword about good consent is negotiation.

A lot of people think of negotiation as the bit where you sit down with checklists in a very formal way and are like “so, how do you feel about flogging?” But negotiation is a lot of different things! It can be snuggling and talking about all the sexy things you’d like to do together in the future. It can be whispering about how much you crave your partner’s hands down your pants as you It can be saying “a little to the left” when your partner is almost there, or it can be saying “ohmigodYES” when they do it right. It can be a casual discussion about the obvious hotness of tentacle dildos. It can be saying “what the fuck were you thinking?” when your partner thinks it’s a good idea to, without asking, bite your clit (this happened).

And, no, negotiation is not just for kinky people. Even with vanilla sex, your partners may be tremendously diverse– some might like having their nipples played with, some might not; some might like one technique in oral, some might like another; some might enjoy watching you masturbate, some might not. There is no way you can know unless you talk about it.

However you are negotiating, it is important to have a nonjudgmental attitude. If your partner really likes having sex on a trampoline while dressed as a clown, you do not have to have sex on a trampoline while dressed as a clown. You do, however, have to recognize that you’ve been privileged enough to learn your partner’s sexuality and that you respect and honor them telling you this. Also, you should refrain from calling their sexual turnons weird or gross or sick or slutty, because that is a really good way to keep them from ever telling you anything that turns them on ever again. (The same thing goes the other way, too: unlike Tiny Ozy, you should not call someone uncool or prudish because they really don’t have any kinks. Not having kinks is just as valid as having kinks.)

Some people think negotiation is not sexy! I do not quite understand those people. I am not sure what’s not sexy about “I really want to suck your cock,” or about an extensive discussion of all the things that turn your partner on. Personally, I think it’s because people are scared to talk about their sexuality– hell, I am. You’re making yourself vulnerable to someone else, you’re afraid that they’re going to reject you… negotiation is fucking scary. But it’s necessary.

A final note: in discussions of consent, we always hear about the Mythical Straight Ladies Who Want Men To Push Through Their Boundaries. Those ladies can do exactly what everyone else who’s into noncon play does: negotiate ahead of time and set up a safeword and boundaries first.

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145 Responses to On Good Consent, Part One

  1. Orphan says:

    I’m a negotiator, and a communicator, but the insistence that relationships which are explored by probes into the dark are automatically wrong seems itself rather wrongheaded to me; it implies some people must be unhappy in relationships, going on the assumption that there are some people for whom open communication is a dealbreaker, for whom the thrill of the relationship is derived from open-ended and unguided exploration and discoveries into and of their partner’s nature. There does need to be some groundwork laid, but I think the assumption that it must be a highway is off, and offputting to those of a different mind.

  2. dungone says:

    Okay, my first question is this: what is Good Consent really about? A lot of people treat Enthusiastic Consent as if it’s the polar opposite of rape in a black and white world. What about Good Consent? Is there room for sex that is not rape, not sexual assault, that does not fit into Good Consent either? If so, then what kind of sex is that and where does it fit in?

    You know, invariably I’m going to mention Mens Rea. So just to come up with the most ridiculously implausible example, let’s say there exists a foreign country where “fuck me” means stop and “yes” is a cry for help, and most other things mean the opposite of what they should, but everything else is otherwise a mirror copy of America. Okay just bear with me for a moment… let’s say that I knock my head walking over a bridge and fall onto a passing ship that’s heading for that country and when I wake up from my months-long coma I realize I’m in the care of a beautiful girl who is wearing sexy lingerie in her private apartment. And the first thing she says to me when I attempt to get out of bed is “fuck me!” Let’s say I think about it for a second or two and decide to have sex with her, thinking the entire time that she is the most enthusiastic sex partner I have ever had in my entire life. So now what?

    Do you throw that kind of guy in jail? Do you make up special further rules that are so accurate that you could extract a consent decree out of a sea cucumber if you truly wanted to, or what? What I’m really asking here, I guess, is if there is room in this discourse for any kind of sex that is unwanted, but at the same time we wouldn’t necessarily want to say that the guy is 100% pure evil because of it. And I guess the underlying question that I have about that is, is sex even such a big deal that we should have to orchestrate our rituals with the same level of care archaeologists used to excavate machu picchu?

  3. Schala says:

    I don’t understand why people do this: what possible gain could there be from reducing the vibrant rainbow of human sexuality to two colors (the dude color and the girl color)? Those two colors look much nicer as part of the whole spectrum.

    Like fatalism: Having your story/role all traced up for you, so you don’t have to choose, to think, to manage. You just have to do what you learned is appropriate, and voila. You lived a full life…

    But seriously, some people, maybe tons of people, the majority of people? Are attracted to this idea of not having to choose, of being the hero/the damsel/the boss by birthright rather than hard work or choice.

  4. Timid Atheist says:

    “A final note: in discussions of consent, we always hear about the Mythical Straight Ladies Who Want Men To Push Through Their Boundaries. Those ladies can do exactly what everyone else who’s into noncon play does: negotiate ahead of time and set up a safeword and boundaries first.”

    This. Please. Thank you.

    For the longest time I enjoyed reading stories where women would say no or be hesitant and men would ignore that and do what they “obviously both want.” It wasn’t until much later that I realized through real life interaction that it’s impossible to know anything for sure unless you communicate up front. Fantasies are great, but reality usually brings them to a screeching halt when you expect other people to read your mind.

    It also never occurred to me, until I read that part I quoted, how to work around this fantasy. I’m seriously loving how the kink community works and the more I learn the more I like the idea of applying it to my more vanilla life.

  5. Timid Atheist says:

    ” Let’s say I think about it for a second or two and decide to have sex with her, thinking the entire time that she is the most enthusiastic sex partner I have ever had in my entire life. So now what?”

    Is she also doing the opposite of hitting you or trying to push you away? I guess the opposite of that would be hugging and kissing and going along with the sex in the most eager way possible? I ask because I would think that physical responses would be something you’d pay attention to with a partner as well. What if she’s just laying there, not moving, would you still sleep with her?

    I think Ozzy is talking about the fact that many times women and men feel pressured to have sex and will do so but with reservations or will do it in order to get it over with, but their consent is hardly “good” in the way that she means.

    Your example is pretty outlandish and unlikely. Examples should at least be based in reality, don’t you think? This isn’t men are from Mars, women are from Venus. We’re all from earth and we all should learn to communicate honestly from a young age. Sadly that’s just an ideal, but still, it would help.

    Obviously this is just my opinion.

  6. GudEnuf says:

    What’s the feminist verdict on drunk sex? Is it rape?

  7. ozymandias42 says:

    Dungone: Well, you shouldn’t be in prison, because you didn’t have a mens rea, but she was raped and deserves the support and resources given to a rape survivor. Why is that difficult?

    GudEnuf: Like there’s a feminist verdict on anything except maybe “women should be able to vote.” Personally, the issue never comes up for me: I’m straightedge and the vast majority of my partners are either non-drinkers or light drinkers. So ask Noah. 🙂

  8. dungone says:

    Okay, my second comment concerns negotiation. I thought that was actually an awesome way to start off a discussion about consent – that it is actually a negotiation. I’m actually surprised it receives such a prominent place in Ozy’s Good Consent idea because it’s kind of the polar opposite of most of the other things I have heard from feminists regarding consent.

    For example, going back to last year’s internet-wide flame war called Elevatorgate, the overall consensus of the feminist community was to throw Shrodinger’s Rapist in front of men and sort of tell them that they should learn to read women’s minds as the first step in gaining the consent to ask a question that might possibly lead to asking a question later about whether or not she would consent to something more than tea. Or as another thing that seems to happen a lot, I hear about this subjective thing about how no means no and if you badger a girl by asking more than once about anything then you are a sexual abuser who forced her to have sex under duress. This sort of thing has been getting applied more and more to university codes of conduct and it seems like a very vague and poorly defined concept. Don’t get me wrong, I think that negotiation is crucial. But some other rhetoric in the gender-sphere seems to sort of stack all the braining chips on the women’s side of the table.

  9. dungone says:

    Dungone: Well, you shouldn’t be in prison, because you didn’t have a mens rea, but she was raped and deserves the support and resources given to a rape survivor. Why is that difficult?

    Because rape is a crime, by definition. It’s like murder. Murder is to homicide as Rape is to unwanted sex. So saying that my example involved a rape but that shouldn’t go to jail (meaning: I didn’t actually rape her) is like saying that she was murdered but her murderer is innocent of murder and it’as all kind of… well, wacky, in the “words mean things” sense. For homicide, there is a LONG list of distinctions that mean very different things: http://poptop.hypermart.net/homchart.html So if there was a lesser terms such as criminally negligent unwanted sex, or even a non-punishable term such as accidental unwanted sex, then I would be cool with that.

  10. dungone says:

    Like there’s a feminist verdict on anything except maybe “women should be able to vote.”

    I thought that was a Suffragist verdict……

  11. f. says:

    @dungone:

    What I’m really asking here, I guess, is if there is room in this discourse for any kind of sex that is unwanted, but at the same time we wouldn’t necessarily want to say that the guy is 100% pure evil because of it.

    That guy wouldn’t be 100% evil. But most rapists aren’t 100% evil – they’ve committed a horrible crime, that’s all.

    I am not even going to go into your Bizarro World style hypothetical, I mean aren’t these issues complicated enough to hash out in the real, actual world?

  12. f. says:

    Also, I get why this:

    the overall consensus of the feminist community was to throw Shrodinger’s Rapist in front of men and sort of tell them that they should learn to read women’s minds as the first step in gaining the consent to ask a question that might possibly lead to asking a question later about whether or not she would consent to something more than tea. Or as another thing that seems to happen a lot, I hear about this subjective thing about how no means no and if you badger a girl by asking more than once about anything then you are a sexual abuser who forced her to have sex under duress.

    is written in such a gendered way, but seriously. These issues shouldn’t be gendered. Everyone should approach one another with respect and care. Everyone should be careful about pressuring their partner too much. Didn’t we just have a post with stats indicating that tons of young men regret having sex for the first time, and didn’t feel ready? How many of them were pressured into sex in a way that was, if not sexual assault, at least unpleasant and unkind? This isn’t a men vs. women thing, it’s a human beings thing, if you ask me.

  13. Orphan says:

    Dungone –

    Your situation is a little out there; try an involuntary intoxication rape defense situation for something which addresses the issues of mens rea without stretching your audience’s credulity.

    Society already recognizes involuntary intoxication defenses, however, so I’m uncertain you’ll get very far with that.

  14. dungone says:

    @Orphan, f, my scenario was “out there” for a very good reason. We can all discuss it without anyone getting emotionally involved because something just like that happened to them or they already had a preconceived notion about it. Sometimes, those ridiculous examples help us leave our personal biases behind and actually figure something out in an objective way. I suggest you think about my purposefully implausible idea.

  15. Jared says:

    Dungone, you make an intersting point

    Person A: No, I don’t do oral
    Person B: Well I don’t do oral for people who don’t do oral
    Person A: ….You got any mouth wash for after?

    What we have here is unenthusiastic consent, a “No” (so a violation of some codes of conduct YMMV), negotiation and good consent.

    GudEnuf: In my experience it varies from feminist to femninist based loosely on their own experience with drinking (former or curent hard drinkers a lot are more likely to have a higher standard of incapacitation, ones with less experience are more likely to have a lower cut off point. The highest standard I’ve seen tolerated by a feminist is “If they can walk and talk” the lowest is “over the limit to drive” (well, I have seen “anything at all” but I’m pretty sure I was being trolled).

  16. Jim says:

    “I’m seriously loving how the kink community works and the more I learn the more I like the idea of applying it to my more vanilla life.”

    In all areas. The longer I live the more I see how non-vanilla almost everything is. It all gets stranger and stranger the longer I look at it. And that’s great! I hope life never gets too familiar. And so many of the mechanisms the kink community has evolved work well in a society where you just can’t take it for granted that everyone is working off the same subtext.

  17. Jared says:

    Dungone, the above reply was to your 5 38 comment, this blog moves too darn fast

  18. f. says:

    @dungone, things don’t get more “objective” the farther they get from reality. They just get sillier, in my experience.

  19. dungone says:

    @f, I merely wish to talk about the issues without triggering anyone. Therefore I need an example that is unlikely to have happened to anyone. I don’t understand why you have a problem with this because ultimately I’m just trying to be nice.

  20. dungone says:

    @Orphan, Speaking of intoxication, the idea of whether a person can make a valid decision while intoxicated is mired in its own set of problems that don’t even have anything to do with sex. As just one example, last year they passed an ordinance in one affluent New York neighborhood that forbid pet shops from selling animals to drunk people. So I would rather talk about something like my example than to have to deal with everyone’s varied perceptions of what level of drunk is too drunk. My example is is extremely far fetched but 100% unambiguous. In fact I made it even more far fetched just for the sake of it being unambiguous.

  21. The_L says:

    @GudEnuf: Drunk sex? Depends. If you are pretty sure she would have said “yes” to you sober, then it’s not rape. If you are pretty sure she would have said “no” to you sober, then it’s rape, psychologically if not legally. If you aren’t sure, it may be a good idea to wait until she sobers up a little before you ask.

    @dungone: For the millionth time, man, rape isn’t just something that happens to women, and therefore mutual consent is good for everyone. It’s not giving women an unfair advantage, it’s helping to prevent both men and women from having sex that they don’t want.

  22. dungone says:

    @The_L, I’m really not sure what you’re talking about… was it something I said? Would you kindly point it out? Or are you just riffing off of someone else’s reaction to something that I didn’t really say in the first place?

    These issues shouldn’t be gendered. Everyone should approach one another with respect and care. Everyone should be careful about pressuring their partner too much.

    @f, yet they are. Shrodinger’s Rapist, the revised FBI rape definition, codes of conduct, etc., serve as products of a pretty one-sided discourse. Are you accusing me of perpetuating this notion or are you just saying that I should pretend that it doesn’t exist?

    As an example, let’s take Jared’s example and apply some of the things I’ve heard about code of conduct policies in our schools along with something I heard from a blogger who thought that men who refused to have period sex are misogynistic bastards and see how that could potentially play out:

    Person A: No, I don’t do oral. Hold on while I go change my tampon…
    Person B: But…
    Person A: No means no, you badgering loser! Now go down on me before I report you to the student council!

    This isn’t really to say that a conversation like this has ever taken place, but when it comes to the idea of “negotiating” sex, men find themselves in lose-lose situations on a very regular basis. And you’re right, we have to be careful in how we approach each other. But before you set the ground rules for who is responsible for what, you really have to consider the way things really work out when our gender roles shove us into a place where, as Ozy put it, “dudes are supposed to push as far as they can, and women are supposed to respect themselves by being the gatekeepers to their genitalia.”

    You know why this has been an issue for me? I’ve been in situation where a girl might say something at 3PM like, “honey, if you buy me that dress… I’ll do anything you want later…” But when later comes around and I ask if she wants for sex, she’ll turn around and say, “I hate the way you use my body for sex… it makes me feel so dirty… now can you please stop badgering for sex and go to sleep?” Now, this exchange really did take place. And I know a ton of guys who have had very similar exchanges. So I think it’s all well and good to talk about negotiating as a sort of clean little thing where each person writes down their lists of likes and dislikes and then they hop in bed and romp around, but in reality we all know that it’s a much more gritty, sometimes ugly process, even with the people we truly love the most.

  23. Jim says:

    “I’ve been in situation where a girl might say something at 3PM like, “honey, if you buy me that dress… I’ll do anything you want later…” But when later comes around and I ask if she wants for sex, she’ll turn around and say, “I hate the way you use my body for sex… it makes me feel so dirty… now can you please stop badgering for sex and go to sleep?” Now, this exchange really did take place.”

    This is where I am supposed to berate you, dungone, for being a john.

  24. f. says:

    @dungone, yes I think you are perpetuating the notion. Not only is it relentlessly heteronormative to post like sex is the Guys vs. Girls Championship Game of the Year, but your hypotheticals continue to be ridiculous (“based on something I heard from a blogger”? please.) Plus, do you have ANY comment at all on the fact that almost as many young men as young women, regret the first time they had sex? Does that suggest to you that anything at all beyond the framework of “men fuck like this, women fuck like this” might be occuring here? Just saying.

    I don’t know what to tell you about the dress -> sex situation because if someone negotiated sexually with me in such patent bad faith as that woman did with you, I’d put my pants on and leave within 10 seconds flat.

    In short this whole thing reminds me of this Louis C.K. routine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4hNaFkbZYU If people aren’t willing to be open with their needs, how is anyone supposed to meet those needs? How is the more active or pushy partner supposed to feel sure that they are safe to continue whatever they’re doing (and by the way, this is not a situation that’s foreign to me personally)? I get it that in the present framework, men are often expected to be mind readers, but how is that supposed to change? Promotion of open negotiation. That is asking everyone to take more responsibility for their own actions, their communication skills and their own pleasure. Just like I was saying yesterday about condoms.

  25. dungone says:

    @f, let me cut you off right there… here’s the link to what Ozy had to say about that blogger: https://noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/the-right-to-say-no/ I kind of thought that people would have remembered what I was talking about. As far as perpetuating that notion, I just don’t see how. This must be a misreading of what I wrote, I guarantee it 100%.

    do you have ANY comment at all on the fact that almost as many young men as young women, regret the first time they had sex?

    I’m starting to see where you are reading into things a little bit. As a matter of fact I never said anything that would dismiss the idea that many men regret having had sex at one point or another, nor women. So there’s really nothing more to say about those young men and women.

    What I will say is that the idea of Good Consent is really great, it’s a wonderfully Utopic idea that I wish everyone got behind, but it totally contradicts a lot of other things that feminists say about consent and you can’t really promote it without calling out those other ideas. So, if those issues can’t be ironed out, then I really can’t support the theory. I understand that this is just Part One and there will be more, but even looking at what Ozy wrote in this op ed, I really couldn’t make heads or tails of it until Ozy clearly stated her stance on Mens Rea.

    As far as the traditional gender roles, I didn’t say anything that Ozy hadn’t said. So I’m not perpetuating anything. I merely said that they’re even more problematic than Ozy thinks, which is the opposite of perpetuating them IMO. Ozy said:

    This dynamic is bullshit. Everyone has to work on getting in touch with their own desires. Everyone has to make sure their partner is consenting.

    And I thought this was inadequate. Let’s just look at the two ways in which Ozy would correct the dynamic. The statement “make sure their partner is consenting” is a very strong, direct command that leaves absolutely no room for exceptions. Good! But now the other statement: “Everyone has to work on getting in touch with their own desires.” What? Huh? That’s it? Well there just isn’t any “Oomph” there, is there? So to the woman hides within her passive gender role, she has to get in “touch” with her “desires”? Well isn’t that… passive? Look, if Ozy isn’t willing to tackle female (and male!) passivity then just admit it. But her other demands really won’t be very fair, because they’ll continue to fall squarely on the shoulders of men. So it’s not me who is perpetuating these dynamics. I’m saying deal with them.

  26. f. says:

    So to the woman hides within her passive gender role, she has to get in “touch” with her “desires”? Well isn’t that… passive?

    Ummm… no? My entire point is that people can’t expect their partners to be mind readers, give up responsibility for their pleasure or safety, etc. I don’t know where you are reading permission to be passive into my posts but it is the exact opposite of what I’m trying to communicate. “Getting in touch with your feelings” and then actually expressing them to another person takes work, as you are possibly aware. I mean, what did you think when a woman asked you to buy her a dress and directly told you the purchase was part of a fun sex game, then went back on the sexy part of the game? How’d you convey that to her? Whatever you did, I trust it wasn’t a fucking walk in the park to negotiate that disingenuous, killjoy attitude on her part.

    I very much endorse this specific Jaclyn Friedman post, though I’m not a big reader of hers and don’t know much about the rest of her work: http://jezebel.com/5857078/the-trouble-with-it-just-happened

    It can be really tempting to leave these decisions up to other people. When you let someone else lead, you’re not required to put yourself out there as much. If rejection feels scary to you, that can be awfully appealing. You can also avoid rejecting other people by going with their flow, at least in the short term. (Though trust that I speak from experience when I tell you that not telling someone you’re not that into them when you’re not that into them only leads to bad things for both of you down the road.)

    But here’s the thing: You can’t have sexual relationships without messy, awkward, emotionally risky interactions. You just can’t. You can deal with the messy, awkward, emotionally risky stuff up front and honestly and increase your chances of having fulfilling mutual interactions, or you can wait and hope it doesn’t blow up in your face. But you can’t engage on such an intimate level with another human being without it sometimes being weird. The sooner you make peace with that and stop imagining this stuff is easy for everyone but you (because it’s not: It’s messy, risky, and emotionally awkward for everyone), the sooner you’ll stop letting things “just happen” and take control of your sexual and romantic life.

    Look, it seems like you have a bit more invested in this than me, so I am bowing out of the discussion here. I think we have very different life experiences and priorities in terms of sexuality, and we’re talking past one another.

  27. f. says:

    Plus, I simply do not understand why it’s irrelevant that men ALSO feel pressured to agree to sex under less than good-consent conditions. In certain situations, they might experience more pressure than women to passively accept sexual acts they are unsure of wanting. I’m straight up asking here, what about teh menz? Is this only unimportant because it doesn’t fit into the stereotypical gender narratives you’re interrogating, or what?

  28. noahbrand says:

    dungone, I’m curious. You’re really into hypotheticals–can you construct a hypothetical situation that you, personally, could not reduce down to Women as a unit being mean to Men as a unit? I mean, you’re the guy who managed to distill the entire history of human warfare down to the White Feather Campaign, multiple times. Clearly, your powers are prodigious. Here you’re taking an explicitly gender-neutral set of guidelines for all human beings, and explaining how it, too, is about Women being mean to Men. That takes some doing. So what could you concoct that would overcome even your hell-bent monomania? What is a hypothetical scenario, no matter how far-fetched, in which you have something worthwhile to add to a conversation?

  29. f. says:

    The thing is, too, if you actually watch the Louis C.K. video it is all about a man in a lose/lose sexual situation caused by a woman’s passivity, inability to articulate her desires, and total failure to think through the potentially horrifying consequences of the way she’s haplessly trying to realize her fantasies.

    I remain blissfully ignorant as to how I am letting my own gender off the hook, but perhaps I’m just Blinded By Female Privilege!

  30. f. says:

    Ugh, seriously, I need to get back to my Adobe Illustrating. bye y’all.

  31. Lilivati says:

    It’s not in the dialogue of the comments, but I had to talk about this:

    “The same thing goes the other way, too: unlike Tiny Ozy, you should not call someone uncool or prudish because they really don’t have any kinks. Not having kinks is just as valid as having kinks.”

    I really, really appreciated this, so thank you. A lot of times I feel very alienated by some aspects of the feminist community because in some spaces it’s strongly implied that if you really do just like plain “boring” vanilla sex, you’re not a real feminist (or a real progressive), or that you just haven’t “discovered” yourself yet, are still blinded by the kyriarchy’s prudishness, or so on. I don’t care if other people have kinky sex or with who or how many people they have it. While I am all for people doing consensually whatever they want with other people or themselves, I know myself well enough to know a lot of things are simply not for me. It also doesn’t mean I’m not sex-positive. It just means I know what I like, as my own individual self. And I’m really kind of tired of being called names or pitied for it, or worse assumptions made that I must not be satisfied with my sex life. (I once had a very long conversation with a friend in which he refused to believe that I really didn’t enjoy even getting my hair pulled during sex. It was incomprehensible to him that instead of being a turn-on it could just fricking hurt.)

    I also agree fully that communication/negotiation are vital, not only to consent but to enjoyable sex. 🙂

  32. ewok says:

    I’m just glad this enthusiastic consent thing is getting smashed. I had my one and only ex at one point trying to stop me from crying in a corner about how I couldn’t tell if I was a rapist or not due to the new “rules of consent” because during our first time I “wouldn’t act like a boy!” and she claimed she felt like a rapist taking the lead on the whole experience (this claim was repeated when I attempted to ask her for consent every step of the way the following escapade). I never asked her verbally again and we worked out what seemed like a beautiful little “rhythm” but after a staunchly feminist friend of mine gave me a 10 min lecture on “yes means yes” and ended her statements with “if you proceeded without inquiry and just guessed the whole time your a rapist” I was pretty much destroyed.

    This whole “men aren’t allowed to debate against women what is or isn’t fair when it comes to gender egalitarianism, they can only support” thing that goes on within feminism is a seriously undocumented and hurtful problem. <_<

  33. dungone says:

    I don’t know where you are reading permission to be passive into my posts but it is the exact opposite of what I’m trying to communicate.

    @f, I was quoting Ozy in order to explain to you why I added this focus on gender roles.

    “Getting in touch with your feelings” and then actually expressing them to another person takes work, as you are possibly aware.

    The post only said “Getting in touch with your feelings” in a very loosey-goosey way and skipped the part about “expressing them to another person” completely. I agree with you that it takes hard work and we should all be very patient, but let’s not allow it to get to the point where we have a double standard, either. I would love it if something was said point blank, such as, “Everyone has to learn how to pursue others and to initiate if they desire sexual activity.” I’m sorry but telling them to get in touch with their feelings just doesn’t have that same moxy. You want something that really matches the stern command given to active people.

  34. dungone says:

    You’re really into hypotheticals–can you construct a hypothetical situation that you, personally, could not reduce down to Women as a unit being mean to Men as a unit?

    What do you mean?

    I mean, you’re the guy who managed to distill the entire history of human warfare down to the White Feather Campaign, multiple times.

    That’s neither true, actually it’s an incredibly ad-hominem attack. Nor does it explain what you mean.

    Here you’re taking an explicitly gender-neutral set of guidelines for all human beings, and explaining how it, too, is about Women being mean to Men.

    Look, using a bunch of weasel words such as, for example, “pursuer” and “pursued” doesn’t make something gender neutral. It’s like personally leading a white elephant into a room and then begging people to pretend it’s not there.

    So what could you concoct that would overcome even your hell-bent monomania?

    That’s clever because you said monomania… I don’t know what else to say.

    What is a hypothetical scenario, no matter how far-fetched, in which you have something worthwhile to add to a conversation?

    I would happily put this to a vote.

  35. dungone says:

    @Noah, about the history of warfare thing, I just want you to know for posterity that you just really said something to a Marine Corps war veteran that you shouldn’t have said. I’m pretty sure you’re a West Point grad, a veritable military scholar, hell you’re probably a descendant of Sun Tzu. So if you want to talk about the history of warfare in good faith, by all means bring it on. But if you just want to tell me that I don’t know shit about it, then I will be more than happy to say fuck you all to this entire blog.

  36. Jo says:

    dungone:

    “The post only said “Getting in touch with your feelings” in a very loosey-goosey way and skipped the part about “expressing them to another person” completely.”

    To me it was extremely clear from the context that the part about getting in touch with your desires was directly linked to using that awareness of your desires as a basis for negotiating/communicating with your partner(s).

    To me “desires” in itself is a much more active word than “feelings”, and also different in meaning from it.

  37. Hugh Ristik says:

    On “good consent”: This phrasing isn’t perfect, but it’s better than “enthusiastic consent.” I think what “enthusiastic consent” is trying to communicate is that some types of consent are healthy, and types of consent are unhealthy (e.g. consenting to something you don’t really want or enjoy).

    The problem with “enthusiastic” is that it only describes a narrow subset of the types of consent that are “good.” There are types of consent that are healthy that aren’t described as “enthusiastic.” When this critique was raised to Jaclyn Friedman, her solution was to say that those examples really do evidence enthusiasm: for instance, perhaps an asexual person having sex is still enthusiastic, not about the sex itself, but about pleasing their partner.

    Yet I find that approach contorted. It makes the use of the word “enthusiastic” more idiosyncratic and obscure, while I think that consent activists want their concepts to be accessible. At least with “good consent,” it’s obviously vague and requires elaboration, while “enthusiastic consent” is vague, but pretends to be specific.

  38. dungone says:

    @Jo, we’re on the same page with that. Yes, I get it. Being able to clearly express your desires during the negotiation phase is the due diligence of a passive person (formerly known as the “woman”). I’m sorry but that’s just not good enough.

    It’s incredibly ironic to me that when we discuss passive men, specifically the Nice Guy(TM) phenomenon, one of the first things you will ever hear about what is wrong with the Nice Guy(TM) is that he’s just too passive. It’s painfully clear, at least to me, that if we give advice to certain people that they should stop being passive and learn how to do a better job of initiating and then we tell certain other people that they only need to “get in touch with their desires” when negotiating with the active person who initiated, which of those people is a man and which is a woman.

    So in light of every conversation we have had on this blog about Nice Guys(TM), it’s clear that the feminists here are not yet ready to give up some of the female privileges in dating. Even if, mind you, even if there is a very good chance that it would diffuse the whole entire pursuer/pursued dichotomy that leads to so much of the bad blood about consent and rape.

  39. Hugh says:

    “When this critique was raised to Jaclyn Friedman, her solution was to say that those examples really do evidence enthusiasm: for instance, perhaps an asexual person having sex is still enthusiastic, not about the sex itself, but about pleasing their partner.”

    Kind of a silly argument though. I’m sure a person who ‘consents’ to sex because they are afraid of violence is enthusiastic about remaining physically healthy.

  40. Lamech says:

    @Noah: “Here you’re taking an explicitly gender-neutral set of guidelines for all human beings, and explaining how it, too, is about Women being mean to Men.”
    About this, you really not know how this is possible? Well not your strawmany version, but how to take gender neutral guidelines and use them to discriminate? I can give you a step by step process.
    1) Make a set of guidelines, its easier to oppress the targeted group if large numbers of people violate it, but not needed. Say drug laws.
    2) Enforce significantly more harshly against one group. Say blacks.
    Yes, this DOES happen a lot. In addition to the drug law example consider Illinois’s law against recording people without their consent; common high-schooler activity. Common activity with security cameras. So on and so forth. Police only enforce it against people who annoy cops. Take a number of schools sexual harassment guidelines. One particularly silly one banned “kissing sounds”, which the one thing that MUST make a kissing sound is kissing. Obviously enforced selectively. Or in my state statutory rape is having sex with anyone under 18. No exceptions for people under 18. Again this is selectively enforced. (More harshly against males if it needs to be said.) Domestic Violence; yet again we see that it is enforced far more harshly against men.

    I’m surprised that you didn’t at know about the first, and last example at the very least. So yes, if you get a set of guidelines that is neutral, it can very well end up being used as a tool of discrimination.

    @dugone: I swear I’ve said this a couple times. I don’t see anything in Ozy’s post that is talking about a legal guideline. Also note that moral requirements=!legal requirements. To illustrate this very clearly, if you join a neo-nazi movement, your probably an asshole for doing that. However it would be a really, really, bad law to ban neo-nazi movements. So saying that Ozy is wrong because this would make a terrible legal guideline, totally missing the point.

  41. Hugh Ristik says:

    @dungone,

    On men’s rea: There is a distinction in legal literature between an “act” and a “crime.” Consequently, it is possible to speak of a survivor experiencing an “act of rape” (from their perspective) while the other person is not a rapist: because they didn’t have mens rea, no crime of rape has occurred.

    But in general, we are in a linguistic mess, because the word “rape” doesn’t have a singular definition: it can refer to either “nonconsensual sex” (act of rape) or “nonconsensual sex with mens rea” (crime of rape).

    The definition of rape matters a lot for survivors, and can be useful for dealing with a traumatic experience.

    The definition of rape also matters a lot to initiators, of any gender (though of course, mostly men). Rape is considered a crime, for which people can be imprisoned. Even if not convicted, they can lose their reputations.

    I understand why a broad definition of rape which doesn’t take into account the state of mind of the initiator could be useful to some survivors. Yet by saying that “rape,” has occurred, then it will imply that the initiator is a “rapist,” who can be prosecuted for a felony and potentially imprisoned. If we don’t think the initiator deserves to be imprisoned, then they have experienced unjust violence by state agents, and perhaps even sexual assault in prison, making them a survivor, too.

    So there are two relevant questions about definitions of rape and sexual assault:

    1. What definitions reflects the experience of violation of survivors, and our views about how sexual ethics should be conducted?
    2. Does committing rape or sexual assault according to this definition deserve potential prosecution of the initiator and perhaps imprisonment for a crime?

    Unfortunately, there are some cases where these questions yield different answers.

    For example, we might decide that slapping someone’s butt without verbal consent should be considered sexual assault. In some future society, anyone who did it should be prosecutable for sexual assault (because if they did it knowing that it was sexual assault, then they would have mens rea). But what about in the current society? I would have a lot of trouble saying that anyone giving an unasked butt slap should be prosecutable for sexual assault. In the present culture, lots of people wouldn’t know that this behavior is considered sexual assault, so they wouldn’t be deliberately committing sexual assault whenever they slapped people’s butts without asking (no mens rea).

    The same logic applies for sex without consent forms, touching someone’s arm, sex according to the Antioch code, or sex with purely nonverbal communication. Those could all be violations of some utopian ethical code that perhaps should be accepted in the future… but should people be really be prosecutable and punishable for those behaviors in the present, given that there isn’t a cultural consensus on those subjects?

    As a survivor of some serious boundary violations, I really wish there were more categories that reflected either presence or lack of mens rea, so I could describe my experiences without being forced to think of friends and lovers as criminals who could be locked up. Realizing that they were misguided, not malicious, makes the situation less traumatic. (And note that this is just my feelings about particular scenarios that I was in.)

  42. Darque says:

    You know, I have to take Noah’s side here. I think at a certain point, we become so caught up in our own narratives of victimization (and paranoia of things that we’ve been stung by in the past) that our view of the world becomes seriously distorted.

    I started out with this post wanting to poke holes in it, but then I couldn’t actually poke any holes in it, and then I realized that I actually rather liked it. Sex is very fun when done right – and I’m all for people who want to open up the conversation on how to make it better.

    Good job. These posts would be better if people didn’t always take them as a cue to bash on stuff, and instead decided to play ideas back and forth. Maybe Ozy phrased this as good consent to open up a conversation on what “good consent” means, rather than to say “my consent good, your consent bad”.

    Personally I think communication tends to make sex better (because you get to know your partner better) , and because I’ve always been a fan of talking dirty.

    Anyway, let’s be more positive people. Let’s make it a resolution for the new year (I know, a few days late on that. Humor me.)

  43. Hugh Ristik says:

    @Lamech,

    @dugone: I swear I’ve said this a couple times. I don’t see anything in Ozy’s post that is talking about a legal guideline. Also note that moral requirements=!legal requirements.

    Unfortunately, we are again running into the conflict between the therapeutic, philosophical, and legal notions about sexual violence and consent.

    Sadly, thanks to the lack of categories to discuss sexual misconduct with and without mens rea, the unqualified language about rape and sexual assault does have legal ramifications. Laws are changing.

    Furthermore, utopian philosophies about consent have a lot of influence in college sexual misconduct codes. That’s not legal, but it’s quasi-legal. For example, on some campuses, intoxication is automatically defined as sexual assault. This would logically include just one drink. Many people don’t agree with this philosophy, but in the philosophy of the power policymakers, it is, and their philosophy became reality.

    You are correct that Ozy isn’t talking about legal requirements. What I think dungone is responding to is feminists elsewhere sometimes talking as if sex without enthusiastic consent should be considered sexual assault or rape (he says “A lot of people treat Enthusiastic Consent as if it’s the polar opposite of rape in a black and white world”). I’m not sure how many feminists would explicitly agree with this view, so perhaps we needn’t worry.

    Personally, I would just like to see more discussion of initiators can fuck up without always making them into horrible people, and how receptive partners can do more work to communicate both boundaries and enthusiasm. For instance, I’ve seen lots of people saying how initiators should look for consent when initiating, but I’ve never seen guides for how receptive partners can learn to communicate their enthusiasm in ways that are understandable to initiators without mind-reading.

  44. noahbrand says:

    So if you want to talk about the history of warfare in good faith, by all means bring it on. But if you just want to tell me that I don’t know shit about it, then I will be more than happy to say fuck you all to this entire blog.

    Well, look through your own comments, dungone. The only aspect of the history of war that you have ever shown any interest in discussing is how it’s a form of oppression practiced on men by women. People have repeatedly attempted to point out to you that this is utterly absurd on the face of it, but you don’t care. You say “Yes yes sure, all the military decisions were made by men, but weren’t they really making them FOR women?” This looks like you’re just throwing out all the data that doesn’t fit the women-oppress-men narrative that you want to be true. So… frankly, it seems to me like you’re the one who doesn’t care about what you know or don’t know. My opinion doesn’t really enter into it.

  45. AB says:

    @f.:

    The thing is, too, if you actually watch the Louis C.K. video it is all about a man in a lose/lose sexual situation caused by a woman’s passivity, inability to articulate her desires, and total failure to think through the potentially horrifying consequences of the way she’s haplessly trying to realize her fantasies.

    I remain blissfully ignorant as to how I am letting my own gender off the hook, but perhaps I’m just Blinded By Female Privilege!

    I love that video. All too often, women are told they shouldn’t demand their signals of unwillingness to be respected, or alternatively, that they need to learn to express unwillingness in specific ways in order for them to be respected, all because of the existence of women who intentionally signal unwillingness while wanting men to ignore it.

    That video was the first time I’ve seen the actions of those women attacked as directly, and it’s the first time I’ve seen a man go “I don’t want anything to do with anything that crazy!” instead of “OK, some women will say no when they mean yes, and act as if they don’t want sex even though they do. Now how do I incorporate that into my dating strategy in a way which ensures me as much sex possible?”. It’s not supposed to be incorporated or taken into account because it’s completely unreasonable, not to mention unethical.

  46. Flyingkal says:

    OP:

    Some people think negotiation is not sexy! I do not quite understand those people. I am not sure what’s not sexy about “I really want to suck your cock,” or about an extensive discussion of all the things that turn your partner on.

    Negotiation in itself is not not-sexy.
    Trying to negotiate, when your partner is not in touch with h** desires, your partner is judgemental, or you don’t seem to bring anything to the table that your partner actually want to take part of, is.

  47. dungone says:

    @Noah, are you trying to justify the personal attack with reason and logic? You’re failing miserably. I’m still pissed about it.

    Maybe I shouldn’t be this pissed at a pretty lame personal attack, so at the very least I would like you to look into the Existential Quantifier versus the Universal Quantifier. You have screwed the pooch when it comes to mixing up one versus the other in your attack on me.

  48. dungone says:

    @Hugh Ristik (re: mens rea), the problem with rape is that rape is, very specifically, a crime. Some legal definitions of rape require more or less Mens Rea than others… but at the end of the day rape simply does not actually exist outside of that which matches the criminal definition of the term, just like murder. If it’s being used for therapeutic purposes as an “act” that doesn’t require proof, then those therapists better check themselves. They might be making things worse by telling someone who was not raped that they were in fact raped. And possibly committing slander.

  49. Flyingkal says:

    @f: Sorry to address you if you have bowed out of the discussion, but I figure you just meant for a temporary leave, ok?

    Plus, I simply do not understand why it’s irrelevant that men ALSO feel pressured to agree to sex under less than good-consent conditions. In certain situations, they might experience more pressure than women to passively accept sexual acts they are unsure of wanting. I’m straight up asking here, what about teh menz? Is this only unimportant because it doesn’t fit into the stereotypical gender narratives you’re interrogating, or what?

    Maybe I misunderstand your question, but my take on it is this (and I’m trying to keep it gender-neutral).
    If you are the one with the higher libido in a relationship, the one to be turned down by your partner 9 times out of 10. Then what do you do when the one occurance happens that your partner express an interest in having sex? Not “later”, not “when we get home” or “tomorrow”, not “if you do this for me” and not “when this TV show’s over”, but right here, right now?
    And, even if you rellay had other plans, your favorite show was on, or you were feeling icky or just plain tired, you just go ahead and have sex anyway, cause you just don’t want to pass up this one opportunity, does it still count as good consent?

    The thing is, too, if you actually watch the Louis C.K. video it is all about a man in a lose/lose sexual situation caused by a woman’s passivity, inability to articulate her desires, and total failure to think through the potentially horrifying consequences of the way she’s haplessly trying to realize her fantasies.

    I remain blissfully ignorant as to how I am letting my own gender off the hook, but perhaps I’m just Blinded By Female Privilege!

    The thing is, three ;-), if you are interacting with a person like the woman in the video, who repeateadly stops you or trying to change the subject, and finally just up and leave you dry. How do you differentiate a person trying to realize her fantasies, but with a paralyzing inability to articulate her desires, from a person who’s just not that into it (anymore) and just doesn’t care if there’ll be any sex whatsoever or not?

    (Well “Ask her, Stupid!” is the obvious answer. But what if her actions continues to totally contradict what she says?)

  50. sirgabe says:

    Flyingkal:
    If you can’t negotiate with someone, no matter how hot zie is, I would suggest looking for another partner. I know it’s something people hear a lot, but that’s for a reason. If sex is important to you and/or your partner(s), then the way I see it is that it’s a case of work it out or get out, when you’re dealing with either physical incompatibility or personal issues you just can’t work around.

  51. Flyingkal says:

    Sirgabe:
    It was an attempt to answer the question as to why some people might regard negotiations as not sexy, nothing else.

    Further, not being invited or allowed to even sit down at the negotiating table is also not sexy.

  52. dungone says:

    To illustrate this very clearly, if you join a neo-nazi movement, your probably an asshole for doing that. However it would be a really, really, bad law to ban neo-nazi movements. So saying that Ozy is wrong because this would make a terrible legal guideline, totally missing the point.

    This muddies the waters quite a bit actually. Is there a category of rape that makes you an asshole but would be a terrible law to make that kind of rape illegal? My answer is: absolutely not.

    Besides, that wasn’t my question. My question was, to paraphrase myself, “Do you think that there is a situation where Good Consent has not been established, but you are nevertheless not an asshole and definitely not a rapist?” This is exactly what I asked of Ozy (still unanswered by anyone!)

    Okay, so I’m going to go ahead and pull the rabbit out of the hat now. Remember my “ridiculous” example that f and Orphan said was completely unrealistic? Well something like it actually happened! A little while ago there was a story about a 15 Downs Syndrome student was suspended from middle school for sexual assault and referred to juvenile prosecutors because he tried to hug a bus aid: http://www.ksdk.com/news/article/291554/3/Aleczander-Fujimoto-suspended-from-Central-Middle-School-for-sexual-harassment

    Reading through some of the comments on different sites, I saw some people saying this is awful, how could they do that, and some parents of Downs Syndrome students in that school districts saying wait a minute, this school has always been so good to my child, what gives? Well, I’ll tell you what gave… this is exactly the sort of thing that happens when you implement a sexual misconduct policy and utterly fail to take into account Mens Rea: you will send a Downs Syndrome kid to juvie because he tried to give a bus aide a hug! Feminists over at Jezebel, incidentally, were totally confused by this: http://jezebel.com/5869272/boy-with-downs-syndrome-suspended-for-alleged-sexual-harassment Some of the comments there basically say (I’m paraphrasing), “yeah sure he has Downs Syndrome… but she was sexually assaulted! Don’t forget that!” For example, one comment says, “I think that if I were that aide, and a presumably large boy (have you seen 14-year-olds these days?) laid ON TOP of me, I’d be pretty freaked out too. She was pinned down under him. “

    So my question was very important. Do people have the understanding that “Good Consent” is more about having enjoyable sex with others, or is it more of a guide about “how to not be an asshole” or even worse, “how to not be a rapist.” In either case, it doesn’t really touch on Mens Rea, so I really want to know what people think would happen if we applied Good Consent as a standard to what happened with that Downs Syndrome student (or in my purposefully unrealistic example). Let’s say we don’t use it as a legal or even an extralegal guideline… is it still good enough to use even as a standard for assholery in all situations? Yes or no?

    So here’s the deal. Like I said before, in other place the “Enthusiastic Consent” standard has already been baked into code of conduct policies and people often (just about always) discuss it not from the standpoint of “how to have enjoyable sex” but from the standpoint of “how to prevent rape”.

    So what of Good Consent, then? What is it actually about? And how does it fit in with existing policies whether they be legal or extralegal (such as school sexual misconduct codes)? It’s really not very hard to come up with examples of where you could have Good Consent and still be considered a sexual violator by existing code of conduct policies. It’s also really not hard to come up with examples where you could be innocent of any wrongdoing or assholery but still get skewered by a Good Consent standard that lacks Mens Rea.

  53. noahbrand says:

    @dungone: Well, no. I’m pretty explicitly attacking the arguments you invariably make in your largely-interchangeable comments. The fact that you choose to define this as a personal attack… well, that DOES say something about you personally, something that’s very much in keeping with the single note of affronted grievance that defines all your comments. Again, though, I’m not the one making that case. You are. I’m sorry that my pointing out what you’re doing feels like an attack, but again, it’s not like I’m making you do these things. If you interpret an accurate assessment of your actions as a vicious attack, that may say something about your actions, and it may say something about your interpretation, but it says little to nothing about the assessment. I’m sorry you don’t like the mirror, and I understand you resent my holding it up, but its contents are not my fault.

  54. dungone says:

    Well, no. I’m pretty explicitly attacking the arguments you invariably make in your largely-interchangeable comments. The fact that you choose to define this as a personal attack… well, that DOES say something about you personally, something that’s very much in keeping with the single note of affronted grievance that defines all your comments.

    Fascinating. So I have to explain what an ad hominem attack is to a site mod now? Okay. Let’s say you burped, Noah. If I say “Noah, you just burped! Ew!” then that is just a response to something I did. However, if I say, “Noah, all you ever do is burp!!! Don’t you ever do anything else???” when it is demonstrably false that all I ever do is burp then you cross the line into ad hominem attacks. Furthermore, picking on a war veteran about his supposed lack of knowledge, interest, and more importantly contributions about warfare, specifically, is pushing ALL the wrong personal buttons. So GO BACK AND READ about all the things I have ever said about warfare. Go, honestly, go gather up ALL MY COMMENTS on this blog about about warfare and my experiences with warfare and quote them right here for everyone to read and see for themselves that my only contributions are as you say they are. I give you a 100% money back guarantee that everyone will be able to see that the things you said about me were things that you pretty much pulled out your ass. They’re 100% not true.

  55. f. says:

    @AB: Right – I really appreciate the way Louis C.K. breaks down how unacceptable that type of behavior is, and the double bind it placed him in. There are admittedly a lot of feminists who are wishy-washy about how much that type of passivity and lack of communication really sucks for women’s sex partners, but we shouldn’t be.

    @dungone:

    . Being able to clearly express your desires during the negotiation phase is the due diligence of a passive person (formerly known as the “woman”).

    uh, enlighten me, when is the “negotiation phase” of a relationship or a sex act over? Personally, I’d say “when the two people involved have agreed it would be better to delete each other’s telephone numbers and never see each other again”.

    Negotiation is a constant process imo. The onus falls on both partners, not to let things stagnate, not to fall out of the habit of communication, not to accept a status quo which they find ever more dissatisfying.

    @Flyingkal:

    If you are the one with the higher libido in a relationship, the one to be turned down by your partner 9 times out of 10. Then what do you do when the one occurance happens that your partner express an interest in having sex?

    Argh, yeah… Yeah. I’m pretty familiar with a similar dilemma, it goes like this: What if my partner and I are only in the same city for 2 weekends a month? Is it “good consent” when we talk ourselves into initiating sex or responding to the other’s advances just because this is one of few opportunities we have for sex?

    I’m honestly not sure and I think the answer may be different for each individual; the answer each couple finds will probably be a fairly unique one. This is one of the reasons libido mismatched couples and long distance couples have got to be pretty excellent at communication. It’s an unsatisfying answer I know, because wouldn’t it be nice to say, “This is where good consent objectively begins / ends, YOU MUST SLEEP WITH ME / NOT SLEEP WITH ME”. But there isn’t an objective answer, especially within an established relationship, imo.

    How do you differentiate a person trying to realize her fantasies, but with a paralyzing inability to articulate her desires, from a person who’s just not that into it (anymore) and just doesn’t care if there’ll be any sex whatsoever or not?

    (Well “Ask her, Stupid!” is the obvious answer. But what if her actions continues to totally contradict what she says?)

    I concur with sirgabe here. You can’t differentiate between the two scenarios if your partner won’t talk to you about it. I fully understand that that type of interaction probably is taking place in a context of sexual scarcity, otherwise why would anyone put up with that ridiculous behavior? Still, if even the question “Are you into this? How far do you want to go?” doesn’t get a clear answer, I would have to say – I’d be outta there. And that scenario isn’t anything I’d EVER advise another person to put up with, either. It’s a major red flag for so, so many things.

    Now if there are people out there who find that that’s the only kind of sex they can get, y’all have my sincere sympathies – but there is just no way, at least in my mind, to have a positive sexual relationship with someone who is so deeply passive, unresponsive and uncommunicative.

  56. dungone says:

    @f, my comment has been in mod because of the links. You’ll have to check back for it, sorry…

  57. Would anyone be interested in discussing how to think clearly about age of consent and/or situations which make consent impossible?

    I don’t have a personal sexual motivation in this– my sex drive seems to be very much on the low side– but I’ve never seen anything that looked like an evidence-based analysis of age of consent. It’s all yuck factor.

    As for situation of consent, I’ve seen claims of happy marriages between professors and (ex?) students just brushed off.

  58. f. says:

    oh and @Flyingkal: your last comment is actually a great script to use when dealing with a partner who is like “you have to read my miiiiiiind lol” –

    “It’s a big turnoff for me if I can’t tell whether you are into this or not. Not being able to talk about sex is not sexy for me. Can we work on that?”

    There are actually sexy ways to say this, too, if the moment calls for it. I’m trying to remember what I said the first time I gave my partner oral and there was like… no verbal feedback forthcoming. Whatever I said it must’ve been effective because he got right into it and he’s been anything but silent since then!

  59. dungone says:

    There are admittedly a lot of feminists who are wishy-washy about how much that type of passivity and lack of communication really sucks for women’s sex partners, but we shouldn’t be.

    Agreed. Actually, the Luis C.K. routine is not unique… I have been through that and had the same reaction and so had a lot of other guys… It’s one of those things where guys have already talked about it among themselves and women seem to have totally misunderstood us on it. The ordering of events is kind of important here. This aspect of consent is related to the way feminists attack Nice Guys(TM) and tell them that the only reason they never get laid is because it’s their own damn fault due to their Nice Guy(TM) passivity, etc. etc. Then the guys who are being attacked go, “well what about this… should I have been more ‘rapey’ in that scenario?” and all the women go “Ick ick ick rapist Nice Guys(TM)!”

    I don’t think women really appreaciate how common the Luis C.K. predicament really is. Just about every guy I ever drank a beer with had gone through something along those lines. Luckily for most men, they found someone else. But for some men, that was as close as they ever got to being with a woman, to the best of their knowledge. Of all the situations they found had themselves in, those are the ones that made it abundantly clear that the sex was just within reach but they failed to perform masculinity to a sufficient degree. It’s really important that women keep this in mind when talking to, say, a passive virgin man. It’s not that they’re really intending to say that women love to be raped and therefore, to hell with consent, and besides they would love to rape someone anyway. It’s not that. It’s that it’s as close as they ever got to a woman in a long, long time and no, they didn’t do it. So therefore, they’re confused and angry and they blame women for putting them in that double bind.

  60. f. says:

    Also re: mens rea…

    This shit is horribly complicated, but I always just try to think of it like this. It’s possible in so many situations to hurt someone without meaning to. Like, if you step on someone’s foot, it’s usually not because you are vindictively stomping on their toes, but you still hurt that person. You may not know it and it’s not exactly “your fault” but the hurt is still real.

    I’m not entirely sure whether “rape” is a term that should be used exclusively in a legal context, but there has to be some kind of way to talk about inadvertant types of violation, as well as respect the very real trauma those types of violation can cause.

    Personally I’ve never found the demonization of rapists to be useful anyway. All it does is prop up the assumption that “rapist” is a very specific, very scary, rather obvious type of evil person – often the profile of “rapist” is connected with gender and/or racial stereotypes too. It makes it really hard for some victims to understand that they were actually raped if their rapist wasn’t the Evil Rapist Archetype, and it probably also makes it easy for rapists to deny that they actually committed rape… after all, they know very well that they aren’t 100% evil, right?

    I don’t know about the way forward in terms of that discourse, but I’m throwing this out there in hopes that others have some good ideas.

  61. f. says:

    @dungone, now you have me wondering whether that qualifies as a “Nice Girl (TM)” scenario. It seems to be bad and unfair in just the ways that “Nice Guys(TM)” are acting unfairly…

    – someone becomes part of your life and hangs around in an ambiguous way, refusing to make their intentions clear

    – there is a certain “bait and switch” aspect to the situation (either someone thinks a man is her best friend but he’s actually crushing on her, or a man thinks a woman is sexually interested in him but is unable to get a clear yes or no)

    – someone is trying to avoid risk, rejection or appearing to invest too much by being “nice” and hoping that “it just happens”

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand the thought patterns that would make someone act so passively. But that doesn’t make it OK to treat other people that way – it really abuses their right to make choices for themselves.

    Also, I hear ya on the commonness of this situation. The guys who get treated that way and walk away from it are running into a truly classic dilemma. All too often there’s no praise or reward forthcoming for doing the right thing and making the healthy choice.

  62. theLaplaceDemon says:

    Re: Mythical Straight Ladies Who Want Men To Push Through Their Boundaries & the Potential Sexiness of Negotiation

    Though I was never one of these ladies exactly, Tiny 18 Year Old Laplace Demon, who had only a couple sexual partners and not a very sophisticated understanding of the dynamics of sex, kind of bought into this mindset.

    When I first started undergrad, the school was in the middle of a big “GET CONSENT” campaign. I was discussing this with a friend, who expressed that she thought it was soooo sexy if her partner asked “do I have consent?” before doing sexual things with her. Tiny 18 Year Old LPD thought this was ridiculous. I was a Strong Sexual Being, and when I imagined this Negotiation and Consent business that the school was pushing, I saw it as demeaning and paternalistic. I think my response to my friend at the time was something along the lines of “If someone said that to me, I would probably just laugh.”

    Now, despite the fact that I was a Strong Sexual Being(tm), had a sexual partner asked what I wanted I would have just shrugged and said I didn’t know. All in all, I was a very passive partner (though generally enthusiastic) and my partners had to do a lot of guessing.

    Now, fast forward to several years and a lot of small but extremely not okay boundary violations later: I get it. I get how fucked up this “don’t talk about what you want, negotiation is unsexy” framework is. And I get that it’s important for all people of all genders to make sure their partner is consenting. I also realize that “I really want to suck your cock” and “can I tell you about something that really turns me on/that I’d like to do to you/a fantasy I had that I might want to try” are all totally valid (and sexy!) forms of negotiation.

    And I get how hard it must be to try to have any, let alone sexy, negotiation with a passive partner who won’t open up about what they want. So I want to speak here as someone who used to be that frustrating passive partner, but isn’t anymore: It’s a long slow road, but you can encourage them to open up and help create a space that is safe for them to start that process. And if they are unwilling to do that along with you, I want to chime in with the people saying find a new partner – ’cause that is sure as hell not a safe place for you, the initiator, to be.

  63. dungone says:

    Would anyone be interested in discussing how to think clearly about age of consent and/or situations which make consent impossible? …. As for situation of consent, I’ve seen claims of happy marriages between professors and (ex?) students just brushed off.

    Those relationships are wrong because fraternization between students and professors is wrong. It’s not because of consent, at least not primarily. Some people just don’t understand the importance of impartiality in an academic setting, I guess. But the same issues of fraternization exist elsewhere. It’s considered wrong to fraternize with interns – you’re supposed to be a) teaching them and b) possibly offering them a job. Would you like it if the intern next to you got the job because she fucked the boss and you didn’t? Same thing applies in the military where fraternization is actually considered a criminal matter. Would you like it if someone ordered you on a dangerous mission because the person in the trench next to you was giving out blowjobs to the general? So in general I think there are a lot of situations where sexual relationships are wrong but that aren’t really about the ability of two people to willingly consent.

  64. Flyingkal says:

    @f, regarding the longdistance and mismatched libido thing.

    I was a bit into my 30’s when I met my current partner, through some mutual friends. She wasn’t my first, but you could count the previous ones on one hand, without using the thumb 😉
    After a year of long-distance 2-3 times a month relation, we decided to go for it. I quit my job (most of) my old friends, and moved across the country (which in my case was “only” 300 km, but anyway…)
    I don’t know what happened, but the sexlife I had thought was great went straight down the drain.
    Either she got into a mode of thinking that “Now i can have it whenever I want, I don’t have to actually engage in it anymore” or she was never really that into it…
    Who knows? All I know is there’s been alot of bait-and-switch over the years, I think there’s been more of that than actual communication.

    And a more straight-on episode regarding the dilemma and double-bind of non-communicative partners.
    I had one of my earlier partner-to-be actually walk out on me with a mocking smile on the face when I asked “Does this feel good?”
    Instead of a “a little to the left, ohmigodYES!” I got “Aren’t you supposed to know that…?”!
    Failing to perform masculinity, security and self-confidence, BIG time, oh yes.

  65. noahbrand says:

    So GO BACK AND READ about all the things I have ever said about warfare. Go, honestly, go gather up ALL MY COMMENTS on this blog about about warfare and my experiences with warfare and quote them right here for everyone to read and see for themselves that my only contributions are as you say they are.

    Oh, dungone. I feel bad for you. I actually did go through all 195 of your comments on this blog, and… yeah, I’m sorry, your 100% guess is wildly, wildly wrong. Obviously, most of them don’t touch on war or conflict; mostly you just argue against getting consent for sex, complain about gold-diggers, and fret about “paternity fraud”, so… pretty basic Spearhead-type stuff, if you’re into that kind of thing.

    Nine of your comments touch on warfare, conflict, and the military in any notable way, and lest you imagine I am unfair to you, I have linked them below.

    Women make men be violent: https://noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/hot-chics-with-douchebags-straight-men-shooting-in-foot/#comment-8217

    Suicide among veterans: https://noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/depression-part-four-male-pattern-depression/#comment-11538

    Poverty among veterans is worse because of women: https://noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/depression-part-one-unemployment-men-and-suicide/#comment-9761

    Male competition, such as in the military, is problematic and the fault of hypergamous women: https://noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/hot-chics-with-douchebags-straight-men-shooting-in-foot/#comment-8890

    When a guy started a fight with you, it was by portraying you as attacking a woman, therefore women are responsible for male anxiety and violence: https://noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/schrodingers-rapist-yes-we-have-to-talk-about-this-again/#comment-16995

    Same story about the fight, but now you specify that the bartender was a woman who was unfair to you: https://noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/kurt-vonnegut-vs-my-mom-girls-are-dumb/#comment-22588

    White Feather Campaign, women are JUST SO MEAN: https://noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/brain-injuries-undetected-in-americas-military/#comment-25261

    Yes yes, wars are started and won almost exclusively by men, but what’s important is how it’s women’s fault: https://noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/brain-injuries-undetected-in-americas-military/#comment-25306

    Iraq war over, that’s an odd feeling for you: https://noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/iraq-war-ended/#comment-23577

    So, nine comments, two of which contain no misogynist interpretations, the other seven of which desperately strain every concept of conflict until it can be connected to how women ruin everything. I’m not sure what you think 100% wrong means, but I can’t massage this data any higher than about 20% wrong at best. Plus, of course, another 184 comments, almost entirely about how women oppress men.

    I know, it sucks when empirical fact isn’t on your side in an argument. I’ve been there, dude. Maybe you need to go think for a while about why there’s such a very large gulf between what you think you’re saying, and what you’re actually saying. Your self-image and observable reality seem to have a pretty serious conflict going on. I am sorry if this takes away your idea of yourself as the good guy. Maybe demanding a hard look at the actual data wasn’t the right move, from your perspective.

  66. f. says:

    … not to backseat mod, but is it possible to take the great dungone / noah smackdown of 2012 to email or something? Not gonna lie, dungone’s comments yesterday were making me angry too, but the feuding seems possibly a bit over the top, here.

  67. f. says:

    @Flyingkal, oh dear. That sounds tough. My current relationship is the other way around – we met in the same town, lived just a few minutes away from each other, and then I up and moved away. We’re working things out but frankly, my libido initially PLUMMETED due to the change. I was just so used to being able to be around him and enjoy his presence without feeling the pressure to hurry up and bang because soon enough he’ll be gone. There was some kind of vicious cycle going on there, the more I thought “we’re not having enough sex on our visits” the less I wanted to initiate something. He of course, thought I wasn’t attracted to him any more.

    I’m not sure what factors are at play but I personally found this kind of useful, especially point 2 of the answer: http://captainawkward.com/2011/11/14/question-134-how-do-my-husband-and-i-end-this-sexican-standoff/

    I hope you two can find a way forward together. Big changes can really do a number on a couple’s established sexual habits.

  68. f. says:

    oh and re: the woman who thought you should know without asking… Uh… I guess sometimes we just have to be happy that certain people at least have the good grace to remove themselves from our lives, before we have to dump them instead. That story reminded me of a guy who invited me over to his place for a late night glass of wine, laid on the charm really thick, started making out with me and then “jokingly” told me what a slut I was when I asked him if we should move it to the bedroom. What. A. Charmer.

  69. dungone says:

    f said,

    uh, enlighten me, when is the “negotiation phase” of a relationship or a sex act over? Personally, I’d say “when the two people involved have agreed it would be better to delete each other’s telephone numbers and never see each other again”

    That’s kind of humorous that you took what I said to mean to be about when it’s over, when I was actually thinking of what happens before it even begins. Passive people. Passive people are not negotiating until someone starts to negotiating with them. This is wrong. Part of “getting in touch with your desires” is that you, as a passive individual, should learn how to actively seek out those desires and initiate the process of negotiating with them. Therefore, it’s all well and good to merely tell passive people to be better negotiators. But it’s even more important to tell them to be better initiators. My ideal: everyone would only have to be the initiator about 50% of the time and the other 50% of the time, the other person would initiate.

    theLaplaceDemon said,

    So I want to speak here as someone who used to be that frustrating passive partner, but isn’t anymore: It’s a long slow road, but you can encourage them to open up and help create a space that is safe for them to start that process. And if they are unwilling to do that along with you, I want to chime in with the people saying find a new partner – ’cause that is sure as hell not a safe place for you, the initiator, to be.

    Agreed, really. Well said.

    But I would think that there should be more of a sense of urgency to this, don’t you think? My response to you would be similar to what I said to Ozy – it seems like in general we are unwilling to push passive people to be a lot more active in changing their behavior. Encouraging them to open up, helping create a safe space for them to start the process, leaving them if they are unwilling, etc… that puts all the onus on the active person to work with the passive person to fix all the passive person’s problems, doesn’t it? I would be a little more blunt about it… like “Hey, you, passive non-initiating, non-negotiating person: stop that! Now! Before something horribly bad happens to you! It’s for your own good!” I’m just saying… it seems like a very passive response that allows passive people to remain passive. And of course we’re talking about women here. Strictly women. Because compare this to the discussions that feminists have about passive men in the Nice Guys(TM) threads…

  70. PsyConomics says:

    I don’t know if I end up in circles with odd distributions of people, or if I do something unconsciously to attract them, but the three girls I have been (to greatly varying degrees) intimate with have all had some form of a (mild to moderate) fetish for “assertive guys.”

    I use a model of consent that is pretty much exactly the same as the one built in this article. Lots of questions, lots of discussion, etc. And yet… Despite it happening so “frequently” in the past, I am always a little taken aback when I have a girl say “just be aggressive.” Or “don’t ask, just do, I’ll stop you if it is too much.”

    In one case this was even an oddly two-way street. The girl that is right now my “sort-of-kind-of-maybe-‘one-day’-my-perhaps-girlfriend” was actually taken aback by the level of communication that I use. The conversation went something like:

    Her: “I’m just used to men taking, so, feel free to be assertive and take! I like it.”
    Me: “But I like to make sure that you want it.”
    Her: “I went home with you/talk to you so much/call you handsome, it seems implied that I want it.”
    Me: “Err… Well, I just like to be sure you want it in the moment.”
    Her: “Pssh.”

    Gah… I may need good communication, I just guess my partners and I are not always on that same page : – (.

  71. Vicky says:

    To the person who brought up age of consent: I don’t know of any studies or evidence on the issue, but here are my thoughts. The problem (morally, if not legally) is one of authority, not simply age. As soon as a person reaches sexual maturity, they can have sex if they choose to. But who can they have sex with? That raises a thornier issue, because in our culture legal adulthood does not coincide with sexual maturity. Ideally a sexual relationship happens between people who are equals. Because each person has an equal footing in negotiations, there is less chance of coercion, intentional or unintentional. A legal adult having sex with a legal, but not biological, child is distasteful for the same reason that boss/employee and teacher/student relationships are distasteful and unethical.

  72. dungone says:

    @Noah, you’re woefully wrong, still. For starters, it’s still ad hominem and it’s still pissing me off. Imagine if I were a female rape survivor talking about something that I perceived as frequently misunderstood by people who have never been raped on a site devoted to women’s issues. And what if you said to me then, “Gee dungonette, it seems like ALL YOU TALK ABOUT is rape!!! Every! And every time you talk about rape it’s about how men rape women! Do you ever talk about anything else????”. Well I’m not that. But your attack on me is just as… well, “problematic”. I’m a male war veteran, discussing things about my experience in war on a site that devotes itself to men’s issues and the way they are often misunderstood. And you are one of the site mods there. And you’re attacking me for it. And actually now you’ve crossed the line into lying about the things I have said by taking them completely out of context.

  73. pocketjacks says:

    @ozymandias,

    “GudEnuf: Like there’s a feminist verdict on anything except maybe “women should be able to vote.” Personally, the issue never comes up for me: I’m straightedge and the vast majority of my partners are either non-drinkers or light drinkers. So ask Noah.”

    Ozy, that’s a cop-out answer. There may not be near-unanimous consensus on most positions but one side usually has the gravity of the activist base behind it. Both in terms of the quantity of supporters, and in the “quality”; which side has insider backing, and which side’s supporters are more likely to be of the sort who get their movement credentials questioned from time to time. When one side has the benefit of both, I think that’s something approaching a “verdict”. Or take the blog hosts of the top five most frequented feminist sites. Do 80%+ of them take one side on the issue? That, in my mind, would definitely count as a verdict.

    I’m uninterested in debating drunk sex. I think both sides have their points. On a more talkative day, I might be pulled into this topic which isn’t my wheelhouse, but right now it’s a more general point about the type of defense you’re using which I see come up a lot. It goes beyond both this issue in particular, and feminism/gender issues.

    @HughRistik,

    “I understand why a broad definition of rape which doesn’t take into account the state of mind of the initiator could be useful to some survivors. Yet by saying that “rape,” has occurred, then it will imply that the initiator is a “rapist,” who can be prosecuted for a felony and potentially imprisoned. If we don’t think the initiator deserves to be imprisoned, then they have experienced unjust violence by state agents, and perhaps even sexual assault in prison, making them a survivor, too.”

    I think it’s both possible and necessary to talk about rape, defined under the “expansive” subjective means used by survivors, as separate from rape the legal crime, and still call it “rape”. The problem comes when the two are conflated.

    What we have near is two mismatched privileges. One is that of a group who weren’t brought up and don’t have as much reason to fear sexual coercion, and the other is that of a group who don’t have as much reason to fear police abuse and the legal system.

    I think there’s a time and a place to discuss the two different definitions of rape. A discussion that began with a survivor’s account should not be derailed by a post talking about mens rea and Innocence Project statistics. To me, that’s colossally insensitive and demonstrative of the privilege of someone who had to deal with the issue. Of course, then there are those people who treat talking about due process and mens rea as “distractions” on this issue, at all times. That’s some hefty white woman privilege, right there. Not everyone gets treated with kid gloves by the justice system, and 15% of Americans actually go through at least some stage of the penal system in their lives; it’s not something that happens “over there” somewhere, it’s right here, at least for most demographic groups.

    @f,

    “These issues shouldn’t be gendered. Everyone should approach one another with respect and care. Everyone should be careful about pressuring their partner too much.”

    Written in this way, this is gendered. All the onus and potential moral blame are on the one doing the initiating, when you put it that way. The passive partner has moral responsibilities too, especially in the context of long term relationships and marriage.

    Note: I wrote that above paragraph, left the tab open while I did other stuff, refreshed the discussion on another tab, and see that you’ve actually talked about some of these responsibilities. So my point to you is rendered a bit moot, but I’m still going to leave it up there because I think there are a lot of well-meaning gender progressives who’d say something like that, consider it a big “reaching out” moment, are genuinely confused when we don’t all flock in agreement in a kumbaya moment, and in a huff deduce that all of us must really be motivated by . It’s not that, there’s just a blind spot you’re missing.

  74. noahbrand says:

    I’m a male war veteran, discussing things about my experience in war on a site that devotes itself to men’s issues and the way they are often misunderstood.

    Again, though, we just proved that isn’t true. You haven’t discussed your experiences in war at all, not one time. I don’t know why you’d claim otherwise when we’re looking RIGHT AT the data. That’s perfectly fine; I know a lot of vets who prefer not to talk about their time overseas, and I respect that. You prefer to discuss how women oppress men. It’s just about the only thing you want to discuss, as seen by the actual test you personally requested. I’m not the one making the case against you, here, dungone. You are. I’m also not the one lying about what you said. Again, you are.

    Maybe you need to move beyond the idea that you’re arguing with me, and start asking why you’re arguing so hard with yourself.

  75. f. says:

    That’s kind of humorous that you took what I said to mean to be about when it’s over, when I was actually thinking of what happens before it even begins.

    Ohhh, I see. I was thinking of an established relationship for some reason. I think it’s because I personally have a really tough time pinpointing when two people start to be interested in each other! Personally I tend to initiate things by offering low-pressure invitations (like, “want to go out for a beer, I might be meeting up with some friends later, you can invite some friends too if you want”) to guys who I think are interesting. This is… possibly too subtle to count as an actual initiation. I don’t know, judge for yourself!

    Encouraging them to open up, helping create a safe space for them to start the process, leaving them if they are unwilling, etc… that puts all the onus on the active person to work with the passive person to fix all the passive person’s problems, doesn’t it?

    Hm, I think you have a point here, but it’s interesting that you’re explicitly leaving out the “Nice Guy (TM)” discussions. Is it possible to understand why over-passivity is a thing, empathize with people who have trouble being open about their desires, but at the same time, realize that passive tendencies aren’t an excuse for egregious things like that Louis C.K. anecdote? I’ve always thought that many feminist discussions of Nice Guys are lacking in empathy. It probably isn’t constructive to discuss all passive types of people with that same lack of empathy.

  76. AB says:

    @Flyingkal:

    If you are the one with the higher libido in a relationship, the one to be turned down by your partner 9 times out of 10. Then what do you do when the one occurance happens that your partner express an interest in having sex? Not “later”, not “when we get home” or “tomorrow”, not “if you do this for me” and not “when this TV show’s over”, but right here, right now?
    And, even if you rellay had other plans, your favorite show was on, or you were feeling icky or just plain tired, you just go ahead and have sex anyway, cause you just don’t want to pass up this one opportunity, does it still count as good consent?

    I’d say it’s similar to a prostitute, of any gender, who usually enjoy their work but still sometimes have to set themselves up to have sex, and make themselves enthusiastic about it, because they can’t always automatically be in the exact same mood as their clients. If we count the decision to enter into prostitution as good consent, I think the same should hold true for other people who sometimes engage in sex based more on what’s convenient than what they felt like doing the moment sex was proposed to them.

    But perhaps, just as we distinguish between rape as a crime, and rape as a technically legal but still hurtful action, perhaps we should distinguish between convenient but consensual sex, and “I want to fuck right now”-sex. I know from personal experience that making yourself engage in sexual activities even though you don’t really feel like it can end up making you less enthusiastic in the long run, but on the other hand, there are people who have rediscovered their enthusiasm for sex by just starting to do it, and then ending up feeling like they want it later.

    The thing is, three 😉 , if you are interacting with a person like the woman in the video, who repeateadly stops you or trying to change the subject, and finally just up and leave you dry. How do you differentiate a person trying to realize her fantasies, but with a paralyzing inability to articulate her desires, from a person who’s just not that into it (anymore) and just doesn’t care if there’ll be any sex whatsoever or not?

    (Well “Ask her, Stupid!” is the obvious answer. But what if her actions continues to totally contradict what she says?)

    I have to echo sirgabe and f. here. Someone who refuses to articulate a desire, especially if they (like the woman in the video) already knows full well what they want, shouldn’t expect or demand to have it met. If they give consent, but are otherwise fairly passive, I think it’s OK to proceed, though checking up on them once a while is probably a good idea.

    I’m pretty passive myself sometimes, and I have specifically explained to my boyfriend that he shouldn’t be discouraged if I’m completely quiet while he’s going down on me, because it usually means I’m in a place of both extreme concentration and extreme pleasure. But if someone tries to stop you, and wont tell you it’s because they want you to ignore it, I think the only acceptable reaction is to not play along. I realise that’s a hard thing to do if you see it as your only chance of getting sex, but I can’t find any other solution.

    On the bright(er) side, a lot of dating advice for both sexes is about getting the object of one’s affection to be the one to do the chasing, and in my experience, a lot of the women who have trouble being assertive (or just refuse to because they want their partners to read their minds) also like dominating men who stand up to them and make demands, so there probably is a way of combining this, using your refusal to play their game to your advantage. Probably not with every woman, but most likely with some of them.

  77. dungone says:

    @Noah, you actually LINKED TO, without quoting at all, a comment where I said this:

    Jim and I were not discussing the fact that men start wars and do bad things to other men, which is a well established fact. We were discussing the rather pervasive notion that women never have anything to do with it.

    (emphasis for effect).

    And instead of quoting what I said, as I had asked you to, you said this about it:

    wars are started and won almost exclusively by men, but what’s important is how it’s women’s fault:

    I guess what you were really hoping is that people just take your word for it and don’t bother to go read what I actually said?

    Do you actually understand that a response to someone who says that something “never” happens is not the same as saying that something “always” happens? The opposite of “never” is not “always.” So here is the crux of the matter. If I am constantly responding to really problematic, nay, triggery (I’m a war veteran) notions that women are never responsible for war, try not to pile onto the trigger and press even harder by shoving words into my mouth.

  78. Flyingkal says:

    @f:

    oh and re: the woman who thought you should know without asking… Uh… I guess sometimes we just have to be happy that certain people at least have the good grace to remove themselves from our lives, before we have to dump them instead. That story reminded me of a guy who invited me over to his place for a late night glass of wine, laid on the charm really thick, started making out with me and then “jokingly” told me what a slut I was when I asked him if we should move it to the bedroom. What. A. Charmer.

    Yeah. We just need to figure out a way to go back in time 20 years (for me) to tell our former selves that…

    Coming to an already insecure non-attractive late-bloomer, you can probably see what it did to my view on the communication vs. assertive issue.

  79. noahbrand says:

    We were discussing the rather pervasive notion that women never have anything to do with it.

    You were discussing a “pervasive notion” that nobody had even suggested until you brought it up. In other words, you were twisting the entire discussion in order to find a way to complain about women. Which is, in fact, the point. You can claim to be triggered, but nobody but you introduced the trigger. There’s just no way to make your record here defensible, dude. I’m sorry. For your own peace of mind, just stop digging.

  80. dungone says:

    @Noah, after this I’m done discussing this. We were discussing something that nobody else had noticed. Difference! Just because you yourself did not see the problem doesn’t mean that other people are wrong if they noticed that there is a problem. Now, I’m really done being angry about this.

  81. pocketjacks says:

    @f.,

    I think some people would quibble about the inclusion of friends, but IMO that counts. Saying that you’re going out with your friends later that night and to invite him along if he wants is setting an actual time and place, which I consider the crux.

    What I don’t consider actual initiating is asking someone out to do something “sometime”, and then waiting for them to come up with the logistics.

  82. Flyingkal says:

    @AB:

    I’d say it’s similar to a prostitute, of any gender, who usually enjoy their work but still sometimes have to set themselves up to have sex, and make themselves enthusiastic about it /…/

    /…/ perhaps we should distinguish between convenient but consensual sex, and “I want to fuck right now”-sex.

    Thanks, I guess you’re right.
    It’s a tough internal debate, though. I feel like I’m letting myself down even more every time. I feel like I should do what you write in your last paragraph, stand up to her and make demands. But I’m just not assertive enough, and the times I’ve tried it have been spactacular failures.

    That’s also my problem with the “finding someone else” part. If I can’t be assertive towards her in that department, how can I expect to be it towards anyone else

    I know from personal experience that making yourself engage in sexual activities even though you don’t really feel like it can end up making you less enthusiastic in the long run, but on the other hand, there are people who have rediscovered their enthusiasm for sex by just starting to do it, and then ending up feeling like they want it later.

    She always says afterwards that it was really good, and we should do it more often (which is probably reason why I stayed as long as I have).
    There’s never any hints or communications about how this “more often” is supposed to happen thou’.

    I’m pretty passive myself sometimes, and I have specifically explained to my boyfriend that he shouldn’t be discouraged if I’m completely quiet while he’s going down on me, because it usually means I’m in a place of both extreme concentration and extreme pleasure.

    If I got a specific explanation like that, I wouldn’t mind nearly as much 🙂

  83. Kaija24 says:

    noah hit the nail on the head here, as did f. I just try to blur out the repetitive comments that set up gotcha hypotheticals, derail into “women fuck up everything, especially fucking”, and retreat into link-frothing.

    I like the Louis CK routine for many of the same reasons other people have mentioned. It calls out stupid behavior on the part of some women (i.e., expectations of mindreading) and bluntly says that no one should put up with this…if the person you are heading into potential sexy times with can’t/won’t/isn’t going to participate in any sort of negotiation and checking in on boundaries beforehand, then that person needs to be left to his/her own devices until they can figure out how to communicate–even awkwardly or poorly…it’s the effort and goodfaith attempt that really matters AND provides a foundation to build on)–about their desires. It’s not rocket science, it’s just sort of uncomfortable at first. 🙂

  84. dungone says:

    Okay, so this just won’t end will it? I guess that some people here are the ones in the Emperor’s New Clothes fable who would be standing in the crowd yelling, “Shut up! Nobody else said anything! Why’d you have to bring that up??? Every time! That little kid I swear he’s a trouble maker!!”

    Ah, but there I go using another hypothetical. Guess I’m all done in boys, you proved how awful I am. Especially with those nasty hypotheticals.

    Do you know what’s interesting? It’s when you’re so obsessed about a one-size-fits-all take down of everybody you disagree with that you actually research outdated 1800th century medical theories like monomania to throw at your opponents. I thought that it was clever to coin Moby Dickery. But monomania… I mean that takes some real devotion. You know… like someone who is obsessed with something.

  85. dungone says:

    but it’s interesting that you’re explicitly leaving out the “Nice Guy (TM)” discussions.

    @f, Wait, I am? I thought I was bringing them in… what do you mean? My take on most of the Nice Guy(TM) discussions is that passivity isn’t seen as an excuse for men and it’s usually used to shame them, even by people who should know better than to throw bricks at a glass house.

    To tell you the truth, I think these are two situations and each one is getting the wrong remedy. The vast majority of women are passive. The solution is to suggest that they start being active in hopes that some, but not necessarily all will learn how to initiate. The vast majority of men are not passive – and those who are considered passive are still more active than what would be considered active if they were a woman. The solution there, I think, is to stop shaming them and learn to acknowledge that they’re actually part of the solution, not the problem. Match those guys up with slightly more active women who can recognize when they need to take initiative and the dating scene will suddenly become much more cooperative.

  86. AB says:

    @Vicky:

    To the person who brought up age of consent: I don’t know of any studies or evidence on the issue, but here are my thoughts. The problem (morally, if not legally) is one of authority, not simply age. As soon as a person reaches sexual maturity, they can have sex if they choose to. But who can they have sex with? That raises a thornier issue, because in our culture legal adulthood does not coincide with sexual maturity. Ideally a sexual relationship happens between people who are equals. Because each person has an equal footing in negotiations, there is less chance of coercion, intentional or unintentional. A legal adult having sex with a legal, but not biological, child is distasteful for the same reason that boss/employee and teacher/student relationships are distasteful and unethical.

    Since I’ve often seen Americans refer to the younger age of sexual consent in European countries, I think it’s relevant to notice that this is not the same as treating people aged 14-17 like those above 18. There are often specific laws in place to protects minors who’re above the age of consent. For instance, in Denmark, the laws (loosely translated) are:

    1: Whoever has intercourse with a child below the age of 15, is punished with prison up to 8 years.

    2: Whoever has intercourse with a person below the age of 18, who is the guilty party’s adoptive child, stepchild or foster child, or who is entrusted the guilty party for teaching or upbringing, is punished with prison up to 4 years.

    3: The same punishment is considered for one who, under severe abuse of a superiority due to age and experience, seduces a person below 18.

    It is also illegal to purchase sexual services or create/consume/distribute erotic material containing people below 18. Other countries have different laws, like setting a limit to the age difference allowed in relationships between majors and minors. So merely talking about how other countries set the age of consent to 14-16 is somewhat misleading, because a lot of those countries don’t treat that age of consent of 14-16 the way Americans treat their age of consent of 18. Not saying you did it, it’s just something I noticed and wanted to bring up now that the topic of age is being discussed.

  87. Schala says:

    Canada’s age of consent is generally 16, except for anal sex, where it’s 18 (except where this measure is declared unconstitutional). Sex between a minor and a not-minor needs to have more than 5 years difference (or some other factor like teacher/student) to be statutory rape. 19 + 15 is legal. So is 18 + 14. So no vindictive parents who don’t approve of a relationship and want the boyfriend in jail with a few months difference in age.

    “Section 159 of the Criminal Code criminalizes every act of anal intercourse, but provides exceptions for a husband and wife, and any two persons over the age of 18. These exceptions do not apply if a third adult is present, or if the anal intercourse takes place anywhere but in private.[9] However, courts in Ontario,[10] Quebec,[11] and Alberta[12] have independently declared s. 159 to be unconstitutional as violations of the equality provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

  88. f. says:

    @dungone, so long as we are talking about guys who simply have a more passive style, sure!

    If however, men are doing things like expecting partners to read their minds etc, they do need to rethink and change that behavior.

  89. Druk says:

    @AB, age of consent for the USA is based on state (not counting sexual images which are legislated nation-wide), so we have 50 different standards much like what you’re talking about for the different countries of Europe.

  90. dungone says:

    @f,

    If however, men are doing things like expecting partners to read their minds etc, they do need to rethink and change that behavior.

    I see. But how big of a problem is that, really? I have always felt that the problem for passive men has been that passive women expect them to read their minds, etc.

    Let’s use you as an example (sorry):

    Personally I tend to initiate things by offering low-pressure invitations (like, “want to go out for a beer, I might be meeting up with some friends later, you can invite some friends too if you want”) to guys who I think are interesting.

    See that? If a Nice Guy did asked a girl out that way and it turned out later that he really wanted to date her, she would get mad at him for being a “false” friend and for expecting her to read his mind. I’m not saying that your approach is bad at all… but Nice Guys shouldn’t be shamed for taking the same approach, either. You are initiating something, just nothing sexual, even though you really want something sexual.

  91. RocketFrog says:

    I think the usual male corollary to women expecting men to read their minds (at least in Western culture) is not men expecting women to read their minds, but rather men wrongly believing that they have successfully performed mind-reading.

    A cultural expectation of mind-reading is really a stupid norm. Humans are generally incredibly poor at it, in my experience. In fact; most humans are so poor at it that the Dunning-Kruger effect readily applies: People are not only incredibly inept at mind-reading, they are so inept that they consistently overestimate their ability to do so. Non-verbal communication (including “unspoken assumed shared context”) is an incredibly ambiguous form of communication, which practically encourages misunderstandings and misinterpretation. Why rely on a communication form that has an incredibly low signal-to-noise ratio and no well-defined meaning function, when actual language is available?

    The norm of assuming that humans have Betazoid-like telepathic and empathic powers causes anguish all around. Some people (apparently usually men) repeatedly become frustrated when others expect them to possess telepathic abilities, other people (apparently usually women) repeatedly have their boundaries violated because others believe themselves to possess telepathic abilities. Others become completely excluded because they are so inept at mind-reading that they eventually stop trying. It is a mess, really. It only benefits those who learn to successfully game the system (eg. seduction artists), and causes pain and suffering to people who really deserved better.

  92. f. says:

    @dungone, actually my mode is so open-ended because at that point, the “something” could turn out to be sexual, friendly, or nothing at all. I usually need at least one low-pressure situation before I can be like, “OK, I’m gonna make a move”.

    That’s why it’s tough to say, this or that moment is the opening of some kind of negotiation.

    If I were letting it drag out over months, I’d agree with you though!

  93. f. says:

    Also, it’s worth saying – the couple of times when I started a relationship by inviting a guy along for a night out, these men certainly seemed to know what I meant.

  94. dungone says:

    @f,
    “Also, it’s worth saying – the couple of times when I started a relationship by inviting a guy along for a night out, these men certainly seemed to know what I meant.”

    Exactly!! Because those men, even though you put them into a “passive” role, were still socialized to be initiators. They “got your drift” so to speak. Which is something completely different when passive men try to take your approach with women. Well let me put it another way – in my experience women have been very much hit or miss, but mostly miss, in those situations. I have had many more false positives than false negatives, i.e., women I was just trying to be friends with who accused me of hitting on them happen very often compared to women I am trying to date correctly guessing that I’m interested until the moment before I’m getting into their pants (and even after, some still don’t believe that I want them).

  95. f. says:

    @dungone, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that I should never make assumptions about whether advances are friend-advances or advance-advances. It’s really hard to tell! If I want to know that badly I just ask 😉

  96. dungone says:

    @RocketFrog, your last comment is depressingly accurate.

    Non-verbal communication (including “unspoken assumed shared context”) is an incredibly ambiguous form of communication, which practically encourages misunderstandings and misinterpretation.

    I think that women may very well be much better at non-verbal communication, but for some reason some women also consider it like one of the pillars of femininity. It really bothers me when I see a guy approach a woman with carefully practiced body language and lots of leading questions designed to intimate a common shared experience, basically cold-reading his way into her pants, and it actually works. But this is the sort of thing that I see celebrated by people who say they have a “good vibe” or “bad vibe” that they make important relationship decisions on.

    One time I was rejected by a girl who told me, “look, on paper you are like the perfect man… everything is right… but in person we just don’t “mesh” very well.” Well, yeah, it’s especially difficult to “mesh” with someone when you happen to be an immigrant who doesn’t always pick up on his adoptive culture’s nuances. I’m not saying I’m not guilty of this – I have found it really difficult to date Asian girls precisely because of this sort of non-verbal mismatch. But that’s when I make myself work harder to get to know them – a lot of them have way more in common with me than white American girls do, on paper – for example engineering degrees. So it’s really worth looking beyond the way someone communicates non-verbally. Well worth it.

  97. Jo says:

    noahbrand:

    I think dungone is somewhat monomanic, yes. That, and being so angry, maybe cramps his style, if that should matter. I think he is sometimes out of line, but in this he is very much not alone. But I think he in most cases has a very valid point. Women (on average or at least large groups of them) are an active part of the problem. In their behaviors, in their attitudes, in their roles. They are actively playing their destructive role in the game. It is as reasonable to say that women ought to change, as to say that men ought to change. Womens behaviors, attitudes and roles are very much a mens issue. I read what you linked above, an I did not find very much misogyny. Mostly I found hatred for the patterns we all are schooled into. And a view that I think has some merit: being schooled into a bad pattern does not relive you of your responsibility to try to change that pattern. In yourself.

  98. Vicky says:

    AB – Just to clarify: When I said this: “As soon as a person reaches sexual maturity, they can have sex if they choose to,” I was speaking biologically and morally rather than legally. I believe that it would be ethical for any person who is sexually mature, but under 18 to have sex with someone in their own age group.

    I thought the person who asked about age of consent was asking about the rationale behind age of consent laws. I can’t remember who said it or which comment it was (and I’m too lazy to go back and read every comment). I remember the question as being something like ” Is there anything evidence based about age of consent laws or is it just generalized ickiness?” I was giving my opinion on the ethics of age of consent laws. Sorry to be unclear.

  99. Hugh Ristik says:

    @f.

    I really appreciate the way Louis C.K. breaks down how unacceptable that type of behavior is, and the double bind it placed him in. There are admittedly a lot of feminists who are wishy-washy about how much that type of passivity and lack of communication really sucks for women’s sex partners, but we shouldn’t be.

    This. Thanks. The reason I talk about women with a preference for lack of communication is not in order to justify men pushing them to sex with no communication, but to highlight their toxic expectations. No need to give them a cookie, but some sympathy would be nice.

    I think feminists are often wishy-washy about how much it sucks to encounter those preferences because they don’t really believe that any women do this (Ozy calls these women “mythical”). Yet while they are probably a minority, they are not a myth. Furthermore, some feminists are extremely focused on male initiators in their discussion about consent, and are not attuned to how some women propagate the very sort of anti-consent attitudes that feminism is trying to fight.

    I fully understand that that type of interaction probably is taking place in a context of sexual scarcity, otherwise why would anyone put up with that ridiculous behavior?

    Yup. Since men are less selective than women, lots of men are in a state of sexual scarcity, which makes it extra frustrating for them to do the smart thing.

    @dungone

    It’s that it’s as close as they ever got to a woman in a long, long time and no, they didn’t do it. So therefore, they’re confused and angry and they blame women for putting them in that double bind.

    Yup. And keep in mind, that in some cultures (like, any culture more traditional than white middle-class educated liberal people), women like this are probably a lot more common. So a virgin or inexperienced guy could run into multiple such women in a row.

  100. “Someone who refuses to articulate a desire, especially if they (like the woman in the video) already knows full well what they want, shouldn’t expect or demand to have it met.!”

    How does this fit with men who push women to accept favors, and then expect sex in exchange without making the deal explicit?

  101. dungone says:

    @JO, thanks (at least I guess?). If there was any misogyny at all in any of my comments, though, then I would be pretty upset with myself. I don’t think there was any. Was there? At any rate, if you look at the “headlines” that Noah gave to my comments, most of them are 100% misleading. Some seem like he completely made them up..

    For example, one headline claims that I say women make men violent. Not true, because that comment says that hypergamy makes men violent. I was arguing that hypergamy should be a women’s issue in so far as it exists because it creates a toxic environment for everyone, not just men. Noah took that to mean that I think women make men violent

    In another comment, he conflated two completely separate points, one relating to “poverty among veterans” and another about the fact that women have to learn more about being supportive to their husbands when they out-earn them because there exists a toxic script of man-loses-job-woman-divorces-him. Noah read this and thought, “Poverty among veterans is worse because of women”

    You can go down the line and it’s the same the whole way through. At any rate, the links that Noah did provide prove beyond any doubt that his earliest attack on me was a lie – he accused me of reducing the entire history of warfare down to the White Feather Campaign. I told him this was an unfair personal attack but apparently he’s going to stand by it.

  102. humbition says:

    I am not on the same page with the people who demonize nonverbal communication. As someone who has studied the matter and done a lot of thinking about it, I think that we should not be worrying so much about the verbal/ nonverbal axis. I think we should be worrying about the ambiguous/ unambiguous axis.

    Anyone who has engaged in dance knows that there can be clear, and unclear, nonverbal communication (just as there can be clear, and unclear, verbal communication). Further, nonverbal communication accompanies verbal communication, even in writing, and much more so in person. And, all communication depends on shared context. There is no context-free communication.

    If people are saying, for example, that kissing back constitutes some form of ambiguous, untrustworthy communication — then I’m not sure I want to live in their New World.

    Interestingly consent theorists often propose that people should learn to be more sensitive to nonverbal “no”‘s — indications of nonenthusiasm such as “lying back and thinking of England,” which should prompt the other party to stop (as indeed they should!). But there is this undertow of not really allowing people to be trusting of nonverbal “yesses.” At some point, though, people have to trust these — and I think this has to be part of what “enthusiasm” is about, no? At some point one stops talking-about and starts doing…

    But of course I also believe that people should check in as often as they want, without being penalized by the other person. People ought to be allowed to find communication ambiguous when they find it, they shouldn’t be forced to guess when they find something to be unclear. And these active-passive sex roles have to go, or become role play rather than mandatory…

    The game-playing of saying you “ought” to be able to read someone’s nonverbals is a cruel, often gendered, imposition — which often accompanies semi-deliberate fuzzing of those very nonverbals by the person playing the game. But sometimes nonverbal communication is clear (and sometimes verbal communication, isn’t). If nonverbal communication were inherently fuzzy and unreliable, we as humans would not still have it. (And really not only dance, but all music and art are essentially nonverbal communication!) I think it gets a bum rap, it’s falsely accused because of its role in social scripts we no longer want. Once we straighten out these scripts, I don’t think we will be blaming the nonverbals as such so much.

  103. humbition says:

    Re the kissing back example — just to make it clear to people, this also depends on context. I started to develop scenarios in which people might get the wrong idea — clearly, there could be cases where people can pretend to kiss back, and if someone is starting a kiss in a coercive manner, then the “recipient” of the pseudo-kiss might have an incentive to pretend. So, it is clear how people develop rules about saying nonverbal communication in and of itself doesn’t signify.

    But such people create systems of epicycles, by trying to develop rules without context, in the fashion of legalisms. Whereas, in the human world (as opposed to certain legalistic ones), it is context itself which is everything. Which determines how to interpret any communication. Nonverbal or verbal. In context, kissing back can indeed signify, what kissing back signifies.

  104. Rae says:

    Humbition, that is a really good point. I also think a big part of the problem is that people get stroppy about the idea of asking (or being asked) for clarification when things aren’t clear. (Because, as you say, both men and women have this idea that men “ought” to read the women’s cues on the first try. And then men “ought” to do the ultimate deciding, because god forbid the woman should be in charge!) I think this is where a lot of the defensiveness comes from when women assert their boundaries: men have these stupid ideas (which women are complicit in enforcing) that if a woman is displeased with you, it must mean that you are an evil rapist or else not a real man. So instead of trying to fix what might originally have been a minor blip, men will exacerbate the problem by defending their real manhood while trying to prove that they are not evil rapists.

    This is a big part of why shame-based reasoning about sex sucks for everyone.

  105. AB says:

    @Nancy Lebovitz:

    “Someone who refuses to articulate a desire, especially if they (like the woman in the video) already knows full well what they want, shouldn’t expect or demand to have it met.”

    How does this fit with men who push women to accept favors, and then expect sex in exchange without making the deal explicit?

    The same. If there isn’t an agreement that someone will have sex with you if you, say, pay for dinner, you shouldn’t expect them to. And even if there is an explicit deal, people still have the right to refuse sex (it’s just not a nice thing to do, and can be exploitative if you plan to do it deliberately). This is why I think it’s a good idea for people who believe heavily in the transactional model of sex to make sure they choose partners who feel likewise, or alternatively, try to set up a system where they pay for sex afterwards, not in advance.

    Sometimes people can be reluctant to openly communicate their desires, and sometimes they might get a negative reaction if they do. That’s a tough situation to be in, and I think we should all do our best to change it. But it doesn’t mean the people to whom they don’t communicate their desires are responsible for guessing them.

    If you pretend to be reluctant in order to make someone chase you more, you shouldn’t be offended when they decide to leave you alone instead. And if you start hanging out with someone in a casual manner because you’re attracted, don’t expect them to guess that you’re really hitting on them (they might, just don’t expect it). It goes for all sexes.

  106. Hugh Ristik says:

    Well said, humbition. And in case anyone is wondering who actually believes that nonverbal communication over consent is invalid, see the word of this nationally popular consent educator:

    “Consent” is the key word to understanding all the issues behind sexual assault. For a person to have “consent” to do anything in life, that person must have permission. To get permission or consent to take action, what must you do? You must ask! The legal words “without consent” forces the accused assailant to prove that he/she had consent before taking action against and/or with the survivor.

    Of course, this is wrong on many levels. It’s possible for someone to give you permission without you asking, for instance (e.g. “you can kiss me, if you want to”).

    In his view, asking must be verbal. He encourages us to imagine this conversation in a court case:

    Prosecutor: “Did you ask her if you could kiss her before you kissed her?”

    Assailant: “No. No one asks. That is just stupid.”

    Prosecutor: Well, then how did you know she wanted it?”

    Assailant: “I could tell through her body language, the way she looked at me, etc…”

    Prosecutor: “Oh, so you can read her mind. Without talking, you knew exactly what she wanted. Maybe you could read a few minds in the courtroom’s audience today. Would you be willing to do that for us?”

    Assailant: “No. I never said I could read minds”

    Prosecutor: “So how did you get consent?”

    And it’s gendered, of course. Planting a strange chivalrous-feminist superego in men’s heads.

    In his world, people inching their faces together, turning their heads to opposite sides, with parted lips and eyes half-closed are just being “ambiguous.” Yet I think many people would find such body language perfectly clear, and exemplifying “good consent.”

    This sort of rhetoric is typical of the consent education I received in high school and college. Perhaps it will help people see why, for some of us, it’s hard to separate consent definitions from criminality. It’s because my earliest education about consent was about authority figures speaking to women as potential victims and men as potential perpetrators, threatening me with prison or social stigmas unless I followed their idiosyncratic notions of consent and sexual violence which were completely divorced from either current law, and from how people actually negotiate consent successfully in the real world.

  107. AB says:

    @Flyingkal:

    Thanks, I guess you’re right.
    It’s a tough internal debate, though. I feel like I’m letting myself down even more every time. I feel like I should do what you write in your last paragraph, stand up to her and make demands. But I’m just not assertive enough, and the times I’ve tried it have been spactacular failures.

    That’s tough. I have to say, I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with having convenient sex. Sometimes I watch a TV show even if I feel like going something else, because it’s a good show and I don’t want to miss it. Sometimes I want food from a specific place, but decide against it because I don’t want to go all the way, and other times, I buy the food just because I was in the neighbourhood. It’s a pretty normal way of doing it. That being said, it sucks if you never feel like you get any “I to fuck right now”-sex. Have you ever turned your girlfriend down for sex? Simply told her that you’re not in the mood, and that she should try again later. Or that she could try to get you in the mood? And if you have, what happened?

    It also sounds like you and your girlfriend maybe don’t have compatible libidos. My boyfriend and I don’t either, but we stay together because it’s what we both want, and we try to work it out. I know what it feels like to only be in the mood once in a while, and sometimes having my boyfriend care for me can feel like I’d be letting him down if I don’t get aroused by it, which just turns me off. On the other hand, he once stopped trying to engage with me sexually, and in the end, I started to take the initiative more just because I wanted it. Then again, sometimes it works well if he takes the lead and I just follow. It’s a really hard balance to find.

    She always says afterwards that it was really good, and we should do it more often (which is probably reason why I stayed as long as I have).
    There’s never any hints or communications about how this “more often” is supposed to happen thou’.

    Have you tried asking her?

  108. renniejoy says:

    Passive and passive-aggressive are two different things.

    The Nice Guys (TM) that get complained about are passive-aggressive; the Nice Guys that are defended are passive.

  109. dungone says:

    @Humbition, Hugh Ristik… hmmmm… very good points. Very good points.

    I see that there are numerous forms of non-verbal communication and that some are perfectly clear and unambiguous while others are incredibly problematic. But, I think the vast majority of the controversy about nonverbal communication is when it’s a lot more subtle. I mean, I could take sign languages mimes and throw count them in as nonverbal communication, but I really don’t think of them that way because part of what they do is express what they’re doing consciously. So do dancers, composers, etc. And I agree that kissing someone involves some blatantly obvious body language, but again that’s more of a conscious thing… the required movements for a kiss seem to fit in somewhere between waving hello and grabbing a breast when it comes to “body language.” I mean yes, in other words these are perfectly unambiguous, or in other words, conscious, signs. It’s when you get to the things that people express unconsciously that things get really “iffy”.

  110. humbition says:

    Hmm. To my mind, the most common form of nonverbal communication is unconscious to unconscious. This, I think works quite well. It helps us understand at a background level something of the emotional or intent dispositions of people around us. But of course, any action we take on that basis, is conscious or at least accountable, which brings us to,

    nonverbal communication which is conscious to conscious, which can also be pretty good, or (given the ability of the conscious mind to lie) atrocious. However the worst of all is,

    the conscious mind trying to read someone else’s unconscious communications like some kind of semaphore or rebus puzzle. Don’t buy a rule book, or if you do, only use it to unblock or de-overthink some already existing intuitive understanding, which you would have confidence about (if you happened to be the kind of guy who could have confidence about anything).

    If you are sincerely unclear at a deep level what is going on, throw away the book and ask. And above all, don’t treat unconscious nonverbals as if they were conscious intended communications, or you will be just like the guy who wrote that damn email, that I am too lazy this minute to link to (HughRistik did on another thread).

  111. dungone says:

    How does this fit with men who push women to accept favors, and then expect sex in exchange without making the deal explicit?

    Nancy, there are many gray areas in this. I think that if we only talk about situations where men literally push women to accept those favors against their will, it won’t give us any real insight into the matter.

    As Jim said to me earlier, “This is where I am supposed to berate you, dungone, for being a john.” I’m sure he was mostly joking, of course. But the fact of the matter is that women expect those favors as a matter of course. Have you ever heard of engagement rings? It would be pretty simple if giving gifts had nothing to do with courtship, but unfortunately in our culture it goes hand in hand.

    Sometimes women promise sex but then refuse, whether for a big favor or just for a song and a dance. Over and over and over. And sometimes men give unwanted gifts and expect sex. Over and over and over. Both situations are wrong.

  112. tovyasagain says:

    @f
    “Also, it’s worth saying – the couple of times when I started a relationship by inviting a guy along for a night out, these men certainly seemed to know what I meant.”

    Because you’re not talking about passive men. If a guy did the same thing, there’s a good chance the woman in question will still be waiting for the guy to “really” make a move.

    With regards to the initial post… ” Mythical Straight Ladies Who Want Men To Push Through Their Boundaries”. I’m pretty sure they aren’t mythical – indeed, I think a few women in this thread have admitted they at one point had similar opinions. And furthermore, I think it’s important to draw the distinction between women who “want men to push *through* their boundaries” and women who “want men to push *until* they hit a boundary”. The former, the ones who will say “no” but want you to proceed anyways, may be comparatively rare – but women who find it a turn off if a guy has to ask instead of “knowing” are less rare, especially if you’re looking at consent not just in terms of sex, but general physical or sexual contact. I think good consent faces a bit of an uphill battle in the context of a society that typically shames passive guys and pedestalizes assertiveness and forwardness – “It’s sexy if he asks first” is an incomplete message if it doesn’t come packaged with “It’s okay if he hesitates to make a move/doesn’t make a move” and “It’s sexy if you ask first yourself”. In other words, breaking the connection between “asking for consent” and “being passive” isn’t as complete an approach as breaking the connection between being passive and being masculine. I imagine in a lot of cases, guys who are hesitant to seek explicit consent/initiate discussion aren’t afraid of it being a turn off – they’re afraid of not being *masculine*, and of that being a turn off.

  113. AB says:

    @Druk:

    @AB, age of consent for the USA is based on state (not counting sexual images which are legislated nation-wide), so we have 50 different standards much like what you’re talking about for the different countries of Europe.

    I know, but the Americans I’ve heard talk about it often operate with 18 as the age of consent and contrasts it to the lower ages in ‘Europe’.

    @Vicky:

    I thought the person who asked about age of consent was asking about the rationale behind age of consent laws. I can’t remember who said it or which comment it was (and I’m too lazy to go back and read every comment).

    Oh, I wasn’t referring that much to the specific post in question, I just brought it up because it’s something I don’t often see taken into account when ages of consent are discussed on American message boards. Sorry for the confusion.

    @humbition:

    The game-playing of saying you “ought” to be able to read someone’s nonverbals is a cruel, often gendered, imposition — which often accompanies semi-deliberate fuzzing of those very nonverbals by the person playing the game.

    I know you didn’t specify which gender, but I just wanted to add that being unsure of the meaning behind another person’s nonverbals when you’re being approached comes with its own set of problems, which, if you’re female, can be amplified by the stereotype that women should be better at reading signals than men.

    @renniejoy, I like your distinction 🙂

  114. humbition says:

    AB:

    Ozy’s Law, in action!

  115. f. says:

    @dungone:

    Sometimes women promise sex but then refuse, whether for a big favor or just for a song and a dance. Over and over and over. And sometimes men give unwanted gifts and expect sex. Over and over and over. Both situations are wrong.

    This is why I kinda don’t do dinner dates and stuff like that in the early courtship phases very often. Or if I do, I make sure to plan and pay for the next date myself, so the quid pro quo is I get dinner, you get dinner and not I get dinner, you get… ummm… something other than dinner. Personally I am REALLY uncomfortable with unspoken assumptions about who owes whom a favor or present for sex, and vice versa. I’d probably describe that as my #1 turnoff actually. I like to have sex because I like to have sex, not because I want delicious food and wine or something.

    Others have mentioned this too, but for people who do like this type of transactional model, or have partners who do, my suggestion would be to negotiate it like a kinky sex game. If it’s taking place more at the level of play, my experience is that that can take the edge off some of the thornier questions about situations where one partner is essentially giving a certain amount of consent in advance. It’s odd, but as sqeamish as I get about “really” transactional sex, it can be pretty fun to pretend to be a sugar baby once in a while as long as everyone’s, you know, just pretending.

  116. renniejoy says:

    Thank you, AB! 🙂

  117. RocketFrog says:

    dungone:

    Sign language is definitely verbal communication. Sign languages have well-defined words and a well-defined grammar, they just happen to be spoken with a system of symbolic gestures rather than a system of symbolic vocal sounds (I speak some Danish sign language myself, having grown up around many deaf people). Sign language has its own nonverbal cues, a sign language speaker can make a sign slowly and softly, or be fast and furious about it.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I am clinically diagnosed with a significantly impaired ability to process nonverbal communication. A lot of it I simply do not perceive, and the rest is incredibly confusing to me, precisely because there are no well-defined meanings. This means that people like me are going to be fucked (or, I suppose, the exact opposite 😉 ), no matter how much the “dating scripts” are culturally revised with new, better expectations of mind-reading ability. Should I ever decide to try to date again, getting sexual consent verbally and unambiguously – as ridiculed as that is by some posters in this thread (or alternately being entirely passive and waiting for my hypothetical partner to do something) – is literally the only way I can know that I would not be about to commit a gross violation of another human being.

    This has almost certainly biased my views on the subject.

  118. dungone says:

    @f, but I think you’re getting a little carried away. Okay, there are some guys who will expect sex if they buy you a natty ice at a hole in the wall bar. But they’re rare or on the verge of alcohol poisoning. For the most part the standard “dating script” does not promise sex. Dinner, movies, walks in the park, 2-6 times, and you’re off the hook if you don’t like it. It’s pretty formal, it’s pretty well understood. I’m not saying it’s cool that men have to initiate and pay for it all, but that’s not part of the problem regarding expectations of sex. It’s the other stuff that gets really icky. Part of what makes dating really hard for guys to comprehend is informal dating. You know, in some places dates are so formal that the woman usually comes along with an older male escort to oversee the date? But at least everyone involved knows what the whole idea is…

    It’s when you (you the woman, not you, f) forgo the dinner-date thing and go informal, that’s where the real problems start. All of a sudden this non-scripted favor gets performed, or you decide that you’d never want to sleep with him but he seems like such a nice friend so you want to keep him. After all, god only knows it’s hard to make friends and date at the same time, especially when you have a line of guys stretching around the block waiting to date you… so who would blame you? Oh and, throw in on top of it that you’re actually kind of prude (not you, f, just in general). It makes things really emasculating. So you might have this policy that says “my default answer is no… so this was never about sex.” You may think that you’re protecting yourself and the sex will just go away if you ignore it, but what your’e really doing is refusing to negotiate… basically being passive.

  119. f. says:

    @dungone, what we have here is a definite cultural difference. Where I live, informal dating = sex, or at least makeout sessions or something, is already happening. If it’s not then it’s not “dating”. My beef with transactional dating where a bunch of money is being thrown around, and not by me, is a personal thing because I feel it creates an imbalance. Plus I like to indulge my boyfriend just as much as he indulges me.

    Situations like the one you describe do come up, of course, but man I read that and I just think both people involved sound really passive. Either he needs to say, “Look, I wouldn’t do this for just anyone, but I’m smitten with you” or she needs to ask “Hey is this about friendship or something more? Because I appreciate what you’re doing, but it’s a really really big favor.” Either way, both people have something invested in a vague-ass fantasy of either blossoming romance or a devoted platonic friendship and are just coasting along hoping the other person won’t actually speak up and burst their bubble. That’s not really acting in good faith.

  120. humbition says:

    RocketFrog:

    I have great respect for you, which I have perhaps not expressed enough in these threads.

    I do not mean to ridicule the actual obtaining of verbal consent by anyone at all, for anything at all. Far from it. I think that people should welcome this as a sign of respect and good intent.

    I may mean to ridicule the kind of person who can invent a new Moral Imperative for the entire human race in around 1990 and then propagandize it by shaming arguments. I think the mentality behind this is, what is a good word… prescientific. Personally the way I would have gone about things was to figure out how people were actually negotiating consent, in the real world … but this isn’t what was done … and then I would start with small, incremental modifications toward the ends I wanted. Based on ongoing, peer-reviewed research — research which did not have as an assumption that the specific modification proposed was The Answer.

    But never mind though. I think the real science on things like nonverbal communication has only just begun. Our unexamined philosophical ideas are just that — unexamined philosophical ideas. (Well, I do think more highly of mine, but I would, wouldn’t I?) As for “ability to process nonverbal communication” — what is this based on? For example, if someone desires touch, this is based on what touch means. If you have feelings based on how people are, with you, and your feelings make situational sense, you are processing nonverbal communication. But this is not aimed at you, I just think that thinking about all this stuff is in its infancy and needs to be seriously debugged — but of course we implement policy before we think straight about our concepts, because, you gotta do something, what could possibly go wrong? Oh wait.

    You may be right though, that a lot of people have more confidence in their interpretations than is warranted (Dunning-Kruger etc.). However, given that we give so much attention to confidence in sexual matters (both genders I think value it), the kind of lessons that HughRistik went through — which seem like attempts to undermine, precisely, confidence — might not be the best approach. It may be better to say, yes, be confident — but throw in a few confident check-ins from time to time, just in case.

    But please don’t mistake me. I want a world in which someone who does, like yourself, feel they need to ask at every step, is respected for the intention behind this.

  121. dungone says:

    @RocketFrog, my initial opinion on this has actually been very much aligned with yours. I think humbition and Hugh Ristik made good points, though.

    @Hugh RistiK:

    This sort of rhetoric is typical of the consent education I received in high school and college. Perhaps it will help people see why, for some of us, it’s hard to separate consent definitions from criminality. It’s because my earliest education about consent was about authority figures speaking to women as potential victims and men as potential perpetrators, threatening me with prison or social stigmas unless I followed their idiosyncratic notions of consent and sexual violence which were completely divorced from either current law, and from how people actually negotiate consent successfully in the real world.

    This lines up with my experience very well. Sex Ed basically schooled boys to become Nice Guys. Anything, some leaves ruffling outside in the wind, meant No, but if you push a girl to where she has to say no in the first place it means you just raped her.

  122. dungone says:

    @f, you have my deepest sympathy, but I think we live in the same place because that’s exactly what women think where I live, too. And I think that those women are really prude and 100% passive for thinking that. Those women are the ones that I was thinking of when I said, “So you might have this policy that says “my default answer is no… so this was never about sex.””.

    To be fair, I’m not a native of this culture and as such, I’ve always had an outsiders perspective and I have experienced other cultures as well. You know, like the saunas in Europe where the girls from America have to be coaxed into getting naked because they don’t understand that being naked does not equal sex… Well, Dating is the same way… they think that Dating equals sex because there’s at least one connotation of Dating where this is true. But suddenly if you have sex, then you’re dating. And it’s actually retroactive, too! Just ask around and put together some timelines.

    There are also these weird singular/plural distinctions. You can go on ‘a’ date, such as a ‘blind date’ and that’s acceptable because there’s very little chance of sex. But then you go through a thing where you’re not ‘dating’ in the plural sense between date 2 and date 6 when you finally have sex, and after that it’s okay for it to be dating again. Is this not true or is it true? Of course it’s true, we all know it, we just try not to think about it because our brains would hurt.

  123. tovyasagain says:

    @humbition
    “You may be right though, that a lot of people have more confidence in their interpretations than is warrante”

    I actually think I read a study which indicated that when it came to men interpreting whether a woman was interested or not, their interpretation was overwhelmingly based on their own experiences when it came to relationships – to the point where the women’s self-reported interest level took a back seat to how much experience the guy had. Basically, a guys perception of how interested a woman was in him was far more strongly tried to his experience with relationships than to what said women self reported as their interest level. An experienced guy tended to assume “She’s into me” and be assertive, even when the women indicated hesitation. I remember the study mostly because it stuck with me because of the unintentional implication that being viewed as a “confident” guy had more to do with experience than actual self-esteem. I’ll see if I’ve got a link saved somewhere.

  124. AB says:

    @humbition:

    AB:

    Ozy’s Law, in action!

    Most definitely. But for once, unfortunately, not in a way in which it seems like the interests of the sexes (or approacher/approached) are aligned.

    @f.:

    This is why I kinda don’t do dinner dates and stuff like that in the early courtship phases very often. Or if I do, I make sure to plan and pay for the next date myself, so the quid pro quo is I get dinner, you get dinner and not I get dinner, you get… ummm… something other than dinner. Personally I am REALLY uncomfortable with unspoken assumptions about who owes whom a favor or present for sex, and vice versa. I’d probably describe that as my #1 turnoff actually.

    Agreed. I’ve had guys very insistently pay for me in the past (one even asked for the bill while I was in the bathroom and had it settled before I came back, even though I’d said I wanted to pay for myself), and I’ve always regretted it, except when the guys were my friends and were trying to get me to taste alcohol. It seems like either the guy expects something from it, or you end up feeling guilty. I prefer to take turns paying too, it avoids making you feel like you’re counting every penny, but it’s still equal.

  125. Rae says:

    @RocketFrog, I agreed with humbition, and I didn’t mean to be ridiculing people who communicate with explicit words either. (In fact, I like to be explicitly asked about my desires, with words. It makes me feel respected.) I think nonverbal communication only works when both people feel able to step in with actual words when they’re not clear on the other person’s signals, or when the other person’s failed to get the message. I really liked humbition’s point about hazy or unclear communication being the problem–and the point that verbal communication as well as nonverbal can be unclear.

  126. Lamech says:

    @Hugh Ristik: “In his world, people inching their faces together, turning their heads to opposite sides, with parted lips and eyes half-closed are just being “ambiguous.” Yet I think many people would find such body language perfectly clear, and exemplifying “good consent.””
    Yes, this is pretty much the universally accepted sign for I want a kiss. If you are really paranoid*, though just make the other person complete the last inch or so. Then you were kissed and any wrong-badness is really the other persons fault.
    *Okay actually paranoia not really required.

  127. Flyingkal says:

    @Dungone:

    Sex Ed basically schooled boys to become Nice Guys. Anything, some leaves ruffling outside in the wind, meant No, but if you push a girl to where she has to say no in the first place it means you just raped her.

    This is very much my experience as well, and not just by Sex Ed but by society at large.

  128. Flyingkal says:

    @AB (January 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm)

    That’s tough. I have to say, I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with having convenient sex.

    I didn’t mean to say that “convenient sex” is wrong by definition. I was just waxing philosophically around the terms “good” vs. “enthusiastic” consent in the light of a person rarely if ever getting “I want to fuck you right now”-sex.

    Have you ever turned your girlfriend down for sex? Simply told her that you’re not in the mood, and that she should try again later. Or that she could try to get you in the mood? And if you have, what happened?

    It’s a long and complicated process involving slowly increasing body contact, cuddling, kissing, accidental (or, is it?) stroking close to sensual parts of my body. But all the while talking about totally mundane things or concentrating on something else, and if i say something wrong or even sneeze in the wrong place the whole process breaks off. I have proboably told her off plenty of times, without even knowing where she was going with it. All I know is that plenty of times I’ve been treated as an idiot for being ready to take it to the bedroom after half an hour of this.

    It also sounds like you and your girlfriend maybe don’t have compatible libidos. My boyfriend and I don’t either, but we stay together because it’s what we both want, and we try to work it out. I know what it feels like to only be in the mood once in a while, and sometimes having my boyfriend care for me can feel like I’d be letting him down if I don’t get aroused by it, which just turns me off. On the other hand, he once stopped trying to engage with me sexually, and in the end, I started to take the initiative more just because I wanted it. Then again, sometimes it works well if he takes the lead and I just follow. It’s a really hard balance to find.

    Thanks. I’ve stopped trying, but she doesn’t seem to… i don’t know, mind? care? notice?

    Have you tried asking her?

    Yes, that’s why I included the word “communication” there 😉

  129. dungone says:

    @Flyingkal,

    This is very much my experience as well, and not just by Sex Ed but by society at large.

    I think that even the most progressive sex ed program ever created will still adopt the attitude that boys don’t need to have sex, anyway, or that they have too much of it as it is. So what possible harm can come out of destroying their psyche? When I went through it they told us that they really didn’t want us having sex, but they knew that we “weren’t going to listen anyway,” which is why we might as well learn a little bit about it. In the meantime they seem to treat the girls as if they don’t really want sex, it’s just that the boys make them do it. And basically treat them like they must not be normal if they actually want it. They basically took the whole active/passive thing and treated us like we were two different species of predator and prey.

    I think it’s pretty bad when they teach from the conservative position of “All sex is evil and all the 13 year old sinners will go to hell and god will destroy Earth with lightning bolts from his ass….but all sperm are sacred.” But the next step up isn’t that great either. Especially when it exposes classrooms full of boys and girls to sex-negative feminism that treat the boys like monsters.

  130. RocketFrog says:

    First of all, I am sorry if I am conflating “disabled issues” with “men’s issues”. I probably do that a lot, but I have no experience being anything but disabled and male.

    I know that neither humbition, Rae nor Hugh Ristik are trying to deliberately ridicule anyone. However, things like:

    In [a nationally famous consent educator’s] world, people inching their faces together, turning their heads to opposite sides, with parted lips and eyes half-closed are just being “ambiguous.”

    If that is the case, then apparently I live in a similar world. If someone inched their face close to me in such a way, in context I would probably have no clue what was happening and get freaked out over having my personal space invaded. I would probably be able to figure out after the fact that it was a nonverbal invitation to a kiss, but in medias res I get freaked out, because I process these things very slowly – particularly if I am feeling anxious or nervous (which I think I wouild probably be in such a situation).

    Ridiculing said consent educator’s insistence on verbal communication and claiming that nonverbals are how it is all done in The Real World, I am sorry to say, is something I have difficulty perceiving as anything but (probably not deliberately) excluding me and others like me from “The Real World”. I cannot speak for anyone else, but a long time of being told things about not being a real man (which admittedly was sometimes intended as a compliment) or a real human being means that I basically have a hair trigger for these things. My apologies if I overreacted.

    humbition:
    I appreciate your attempt at a taxonomy of nonverbal communication in terms of consciousness and unconsciousness of sender and recipient – it gives me a good tool to explain exactly what I mean. Warning: This is going to be a bit rambling, and is semi-offtopic as it has to do with nonverbal communication but not directly with sexual consent – read it if you are interested, skip it if you are not. But when you write:

    the conscious mind trying to read someone else’s unconscious communications like some kind of semaphore or rebus puzzle

    This is literally all someone like me has. You cannot nonverbally communicate with my unconscious, because my unconscious is entirely unable to process nonverbal communication due to a congenital brain abnormality. A lot of nonverbal communication processing is entirely instinctive (as is also the case for other species), and I lack those instincts. While you might literally see “that boy is happy” because an unconscious part of your brain (specifically the amygdala, a limbic system brain component that is specialized in emotional processing, and which triggers chemical responses in the sympathetic nervous system) has preprocessed the input from your sensory system before it becomes available to your conscious mind. I lack this preprocessing, and all I see is “that boy is turning the edges of his mouth upwards”. My conscious has to fill in all the rest. When neuroscientists describe a condition like mine in the objective observation that “neural activity occurs in the outer cortex of the frontal lobes instead of in the amygdalae, indicating that the frontal lobe cortex has taken over the tasks usually handled by the amygdalae”, the subjective perception is that I have to consciously think these things over rather than rely on an unconscious “preprocessor”. Learning to “unblock” or “stop overthinking” intuitive responses is, if you will pardon my bluntness, entirely worthless when you have no intuitive responses in the first place. The “rulebook” is all I have to go by, except mine happens to be based on entirely unprofessional observations (when I was a child, I actually literally wrote and drew a little “rulebook” for understanding facial expressions on a school notepad – it amused me greatly when I saw a fictional character in a movie, who was portraying a condition similar to mine, had done the exact same thing).

    You mention touch. It took me a long time to learn to appreciate touch, because my “instinctive” response to touch is to feel violated. When I was a child, I would “freeze up” and become stiff like a stick if someone hugged me. Again, in most people, gentle touch causes the amygdalae to tell the sympathetic nervous system to send out a rush of oxytocin and dopamine, which is experienced as pleasure. I have grown to appreciate touch when I can be entirely focused on it, because I have formed many pleasant associations with it over my lifetime. If I am hugged by someone who does not either inform me of their intention in advance (or does it slowly enough that I have time to figure out what is coming), then my initial response is still the lizard brain hissing “GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME!!!!”, not the human brain thinking pleasant thoughts and fetching pleasant memories (the mammal brain, lodged between the two, purring pure tactile pleasure seems to be something that I am not capable of experiencing).

    Does this make any kind of sense to you?

    It is probably understandable why I find the whole mate-seeking business a terribly confusing mess.

    Back on topic: The problem with “nonverbal consent” and “nonverbal nonconsent” is that it is in my opinion (which is definitely biased) necessarily ambiguous, precisely because there is no well-defined “rulebook”. What the receiver receives is not necessarily the same as what the sender sends. I think it is only wise to rely on it for purposes of consent when the people involved know each other very well, and with a firm rule that says that verbal nonconsent always overrides any nonverbal signals (“no means no”, in popular terms), regardless of gender.

  131. dungone says:

    @RocketFrog, I think that your condition is terribly unfair and I believe that we should all be prepared to make special accommodations to someone like that. However, I think that it would also be unfair for other people to use their “pre-processor” to understand the environment around them. It’s a tough call for me, but I think that a “nationally famous consent educator” is flat out wrong when they set the standard for everybody this way. First of all, I doubt that they’re thinking about you at all, I think that they are just being sex-negative. Second of all, as Hugh Ristik pointed out and many of us chimed in with our sex-ed experience, those educators are actually setting something up a double standard. They think that nonverbal “no’s” are necessary and valid, but nonverbal “yes’s” are not. I think that this scenario puts you in the same boat with all other men even in spite of your disability. You are still told that you have to process the nonverbal “no’s” or else a woman might say that you sexually assaulted her. And there’s very little room for mens rea in extralegal sexual assault policies as it is. So the only thing that these stupid standards do is make it more likely that people who follow them will end up having less positive experiences and more negative ones.

  132. humbition says:

    RocketFrog:

    Thanks for that.

    There is a lot of back talk on aspie web sites, not that I go on them very much, about how wrong the general Asperger’s diagnosis is about “lack of empathy” and, I believe also, lack of understanding of nonverbal communication in general. I find the school of Baron-Cohen in general very hard to believe. On the other hand, your description of yourself admits of absolutely no doubt whatsoever. By the way, you’re one of the most empathetic folks around.

    Speaking of empathy, note how much better a basis empathy can be for teaching the reasons for more explicit consent, rather than shame or legalistic shock tactics? Reading your story would do far more for this purpose than the kinds of educational strategies which expect that their audience will not listen and thus the educator needs to, in effect, yell louder.

    The “rule book” is culture, but culture changes and today I would argue our culture is ambiguous too. There was a cultural anthropologist a few years back who articulated the job of the cultural anthropologist as being able to provide the manual for how to behave in whatever culture was studied — what is it you would need to know to navigate in that environment. As if you could get that in a one or two year field study for a Ph.D! But it is an interesting conceit.

    So, some people would like to create a new rule book, a new moralism to beat down the sinners, whoever they might be. For me, I want the rule book to be kindness. And context, always context. Consent negotiation is kindness and empathy, or it is nothing. Kindness and empathy on all sides, and we will find a way.

    Thanks again for the lesson.

  133. Schala says:

    There was a cultural anthropologist a few years back who articulated the job of the cultural anthropologist as being able to provide the manual for how to behave in whatever culture was studied — what is it you would need to know to navigate in that environment. As if you could get that in a one or two year field study for a Ph.D! But it is an interesting conceit.

    I’m wondering if those who go against that current, who consciously or unconsciously shun culture stuff, because it’s not useful, because it’s damaging, because it’s unnecessary, are the people who eventually would make the culture change, or if they’ll always be relegated to the “freaks” category?

    Because “what I need to know to navigate an environment”. Tell me about what could get me arrested, fired, killed and socially shunned, and I’m likely to find 75% of the clauses in it to be tradition-based, or simply bullshit not worth the paper it’s written on (and much is unwritten and still as much BS).

    Like no topless laws. Or people who refuse to hire men with long hair, or with jewelry, or with make-up. Or people who refuse to hire/rent/associate-with-in-any-way with trans women.

    I’m for choice here.

    Victorian notions that you HAVE to wear a corset and not show an inch of your legs or you’ve earned social death…well that needs to go.

    Wanting to wear Victorian-period outfits with or without a corset, and purposely not show an inch of legs. That is fine.

    The difference is the first is a norm, the second is a choice to dress however you want. Maybe an aesthetic choice? For some it could be nostalgic of little girl dresses. This is what lolita fashion is to me. Both aesthetically pleasing and nostalgic of times when it is/was acceptable (not costume-y) to wear something similar.

  134. humbition says:

    Schala, I’m not saying culture = tradition = good, FFS. I’m saying that culture is a name for the shared contexts on the basis of which people communicate and act. There is no outside-of-culture, culture is always present. But our actions also change culture, it is never static.

    There is no fully nonambiguous communication, verbal or nonverbal. All communication presumes some shared background and understanding; sometimes this fails. Actually it always fails to some degree. This is why communication, culture, and life is endless negotiation, verbal and nonverbal. There is never total certainty.

    Nonverbal negotiation can IMO be ethical, if it is done with awareness and consideration; verbal negotiation can be coercive, if done with insensitivity. For most people I think a braiding of verbal and nonverbal negotiation will be what happens. But “erring” on the side of explicitness can’t be wrong — best that this be done, though, on the basis of kindness and courtesy rather than as a compulsive act based on guilt training.

    We can learn to be open to others who are different through empathy. We can learn to be open to ourselves through self-kindness, which enables empathy. If social justice is not kindness, it is dead to me; I am decolonizing my jerkbrain.

  135. RocketFrog says:

    Shock and scare tactics almost inevitably backfire. Consider the “war on drugs” (which really needs to go into rehab, that war has been on drugs for DECADES by now). Rather than informing honestly about both the attraction and dangers of drugs, drug information for young people focus tries to manipulate using shock and terror.

    When someone has been told that smoking a single puff of a joint will instantly turn you into a drug-frenzied addict monster, and that people only use drugs because they are terrible, contemptible losers, only to discover that people they actually respect do use drugs, and that a puff of a joint does not in fact turn you into a junkie, then the logical thing to do is to conclude that one has in fact been lied to, and start wondering what else of all the things they said that was bullshit. Even the correct things then become suspect.

    I imagine that some spooky Puritan character declaring to boys that “IF A GIRL DOES NOT GIVE VERBAL CONSENT, THEN YOU ARE A RAPIST!!!!!!!”, a mutually enjoyed nonverbally initiated consensual sexual encounter leads to much the same outcome: “What they told me was bullshit. I wonder how much of it turns out to be bullshit”. Scare tactics are public service anti-information.

    As an aside: Fortunately for me, the sex ed teacher I had in school was apparently fairly enlightened, and considered his responsibility to be taking questions and explaining how to avoid stupid mistakes, not to try to frighten his pupils into celibacy. I suppose this is a factor of me growing up in a culture where traditional religious conservatism is relatively rare.

  136. RocketFrog says:

    humbition:

    What I do is to always think carefully about my words and actions and try to cope analytically with my lack of “instinctive empathy” by rigorously applying a code of ethics (based primarily on the categorical imperative, which I find easiest to work with precisely because it attempts to focus on reason rather than empathic intuition). I have had professionals tell me that this is a form of benign “fake empathy” (because I do not “share others’ feelings” – I cannot look at a happy person and feel happiness myself, for instance), and others saying that it is meaningless to make a strict distinction between innate intuitive empathic capability and an analytically constructed one. I prefer to sidestep the issue by making a distinction between empathy and compassion. The latter can be developed using practice (possibly except if one suffers from sociopathy) – in fact, certain religious and spiritual traditions focus on doing exactly that.

    “Empathy” seems to me to be an overloaded word with multiple related meanings. It both means the ability to perceive the emotions of others and the ability to acknowledge as important and valid the emotions of others. “Lack of empathy” is used to describe both sociopathic and autistic people, but my experience is that autists generally only suffer in one of those two meanings, sociopaths only in the other. Sociopaths are often very acutely aware of the feelings of others, but are impaired in their ability to care if they cause harm to others, whereas autists are usually impaired in their emotional awareness – but feel terribly guilty and remorseful if they inadvertently say or do something hurtful. Distinguishing between empathy and compassion means that we can now acknowledge that while the two are related, they are not one and the same.

    If people actually were the Betazoid-like empaths some folks like to pretend we are, then the consent problem would apply only to sociopaths and to downright malicious people, because nobody would ever misinterpret anyone. But we are, in fact, just a bunch of very clever apes, so we are stuck with making do with the best tools we have. Language, in my opinion, is the most efficient of all tools in social interaction – although I suppose you could make a case about things starting to look like nails to someone who only has a hammer.

  137. forkis says:

    “… when your partner thinks it’s a good idea to, without asking, bite your clit (this happened).”

    I… But… Why?

    (I’m sorry for not having a more insightful contribution. I’m busy being horrified and pressing my legs together.)

  138. This was a really good post. I’m very fond of the “Enthusiastic Consent” concept as a way to eliminate the spurious loopholes some people create and exploit in the “No Means No,” concept, and as a way to encourage people to actively communicate consent. Speak up about what you want; someone frozen in fear isn’t consenting just because there’s not a ‘no’- those are faults in the no means no concept that were well addressed.

    Then, some people totally did take that, flip it, and started implying it wasn’t up to anyone to start talking more, but that the definition of consent was getting specified to something crazy specific that would let a lot of healthy relationships (like the attempt to conceive that the post mentions) get labeled as toxic. I do like this concept of Good Consent even better. It addresses a lot of weird issues people were bringing up under the ”Yes Means Yes,” concept. I still like the focus YMY made on positivity and the absence of pressure when seeking consent versus the ‘no seriously, rape really is rape,’ limitations of No Means No. Props to all three, Good Consent, Enthusiastic Consent, and Nonconsent, as addressing a serious issue with the best of intentions.

  139. @ f

    I’m late to the game but thank you for the Louis C.K. link. It was new to me and I’ve totally been there. More than once! So crazy.

  140. Developers^3 says:

    The first step to making sure that you don’t do anything you don’t want in bed is to know what you want! You’d think that would be really easy, because you’d just be like “hey, does this turn me on?” and then you’d have your answer. Maybe it works that way in Liberated Sex-Pozzie Utopia Land, but unfortunately in the real world it’s more complicated.

    There are a lot of things that “turn me on” that I think will make me a worse potential husband, and thus I will avoid doing under any circumstance. It seems that you are suggesting that my thoughts are not as important as my feelings, and that the whole idea of sacrificing short-term pleasure for a real or perceived long-term gain is not valid. With my reading of this statement, you are simply swapping one “One Right Thing To Want” for another.

  141. ozymandias42 says:

    D3: Well, if you don’t want to do it then you shouldn’t do it. If your reasoning is “it will make me a worse potential husband,” that is exactly as valid as “it doesn’t turn me on,” because any reason to not want to do something is a valid reason!

  142. Developers^3 says:

    Certainly, but that wasn’t exactly my quibble. I’m effectively asking if you consider self-denial to ever be a positive thing. The way I read that paragraph in the op, I got the impression that while such self-denial must be allowed, it is a bad thing that we wish didn’t exist in the world. When you say “I think the most important question to ask yourself is how you feel about it.” you seem to exclude a whole lot of very important things.

  143. Hugh Ristik says:

    @RocketFrog,

    I said:

    In [a nationally famous consent educator’s] world, people inching their faces together, turning their heads to opposite sides, with parted lips and eyes half-closed are just being “ambiguous.”

    You said:

    If that is the case, then apparently I live in a similar world. If someone inched their face close to me in such a way, in context I would probably have no clue what was happening and get freaked out over having my personal space invaded.

    Hmm, I think you’re talking about a related advance, but slightly different from what I was getting at. I was claiming that if both people are inching their faces together, tilted at an complementary angles, with eyes half-closed, it’s not ambiguous that they are going for a mutually consensual kiss with each other. In this scenario, the initiating person would only move an inch, and then wait for the other person to move an inch, etc…

    Here are a couple examples which each show part of what I’m talking about:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCITaAyJR9Y (they move in fast, but it is mutual, and the video shows a great example of the heads tilting)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VQRgPKglsA (notice how they both mutually inch in and touch each other before the kiss even starts)

    According to the consent speaker, these are both sexual assault (though who assaulted who?).

    You are raising a somewhat different case: where one person is unilaterally moving into your space, without reciprocation from you. I agree that such a case is more ambiguous, because you haven’t indicated that you want to close the space and kiss.

    I can understand that for some people, either the mutual or the unilateral move in for a nonverbal kiss might be uncomfortable. What I was getting at is that the vast majority of the population don’t find it ambiguous. Even for you, the communication wasn’t completely ambiguous: you would have recognized that they wanted to be in your space, and pulled away, communicating your lack of consent for them to enter your space.

    Ridiculing said consent educator’s insistence on verbal communication and claiming that nonverbals are how it is all done in The Real World, I am sorry to say, is something I have difficulty perceiving as anything but (probably not deliberately) excluding me and others like me from “The Real World”.

    I suspect that mutual noverbal communication around kissing is how the vast majority of the population do things, and that they don’t find it ambiguous. That being said, I didn’t mean to imply that mutual nonverbal communication is the ideal way to initiate kissing. It’s not going to work very well for a certain segment of the population. Some people will have trouble engaging in it, or reading it. Some people won’t find it ambiguous, but will find it uncomfortable.

    I would not want people who don’t like mutual nonverbal communication to be excluded from the sexual world; they have a perfectly valid preference. What I’m saying is that people who prefer to mutually and nonverbally inch towards each other also have a a valid preference; their behavior is not ambiguous to them (if it was ambiguous to someone, then they wouldn’t be reciprocating!), and they don’t deserve to be stigmatized.

  144. EGal says:

    “You always have a right to be uncertain, to try things, to do something once and decide you hate it and never do it again, to go through phases, to change your mind.”

    Co-signed. Very important for explorations of gender as well as sexuality.

  145. Pingback: Male Consent, or Can Women Rape? |

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