Male sexual assertiveness and female desire (or lack thereof)

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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:42 pm

Hi, it's a busy day today. Just checking in to tell you I'm grateful for your replies and will be back later.
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Post by Conreezy on Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:10 pm

Short of it is there was some well-received touching/fondling from me, as in my friend was enjoying the hell out of it. IDK what came over me that night, but I grabbed her by the waist and pulled her up to my lap, I "took" her so to speak and cuddled a little longer. Maybe I succumbed to my own primal sexuality? Is that what it means to "own your [male] sexuality"? Yes, I'm aware that this isn't a story I tell very often because I forget it happened lol.

Sounds like you were getting some reasonable signaling of interest, so you tried a minor escalation with confidence while having no problem, I'm sure, with the possibility that it might not be what she was in the mood for at the time. I'd say that is owing your sexuality while making it safe and acceptable for your partner to do the same.

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Post by Guest on Fri Nov 14, 2014 3:53 am

Conreezy wrote:
Sounds like you were getting some reasonable signaling of interest, so you tried a minor escalation with confidence while having no problem, I'm sure, with the possibility that it might not be what she was in the mood for at the time. I'd say that is owing your sexuality while making it safe and acceptable for your partner to do the same.

Oh, then it sounds like I did just fine. Which is GREAT to hear, believe me! I was ready to stop at any point she'd say "No" or "Stop" like any reasonable/sane person, obviously. And through my petting escapade, I asked "Hey, is this okay? Do you like this? *rubrubrub* How bout that? Are you sure?" just to make sure she was cool with me and that I wasn't crossing any lines.

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Post by Gman on Fri Nov 14, 2014 10:59 am

[ltr]So I would just to add my very personal and sole experience with my ex, because it really helped me to clear things up about this issue for myself and helped me discover what kind of communication style is more appropriate for me.[/ltr]

[ltr]I think that it's important to add, that physical non-verbal communication can be just as powerful if not even more than verbal confirmation and that usually, in reality, you need to give and receive BOTH types of communications when escalating sexual/romantic situations. Thus, in my case, when me and my ex were at her place and things started to heat up – she decided to push me from seating to lying on my back on the bed (not a real aggressive push but a firm yet gentle one), took off her shirt and then said "You know this bra won't untie by itself" while giving a little smile.[/ltr]

[ltr]Her being so clear about her communication with me, immediately made me feel way more comfortable being more communicative with her during the sexy times and in general too. For example, I found myself asking her "how does this feel? Are you liking this?" during sexy-acts time, which benefited to creating a better communication parity between us.[/ltr]

[ltr]Personally, I don't think that I match the "can I kiss you? – asking verbally each step" communication group, because I believe that while it allows a 100% guarantee that I am not overstepping any boundaries – I feel that it's kind of an excessive way to handle these things. My style is to COMBINE the two techniques. I for example, I go in for a kiss when I feel that things are warming up – but I do so in AN EXTREMLEY careful way and if I even smell a whiff of uncomfortableness from the other side – I immediately stop and ask. The key to this is taking the physical escalation in small and calculated steps, while being extremely attentive to the other sides' response to it and stopping and asking if necessary.  [/ltr]

Though I also think that it's important to realize that this area isn't Black and White and that people's communication styles can vary greatly, so in the end it's just finding a person who simply matches your communication style.
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Post by Ron Ritzman on Sat Nov 15, 2014 2:28 pm

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:Hey Esselle28,
I recently had a great personal chat with a female friend who's also a feminist activist and works in rape prevention and I said this in a similar context - "Something that really annoys me is how women and feminists - you just as well as others - are constantly talking about predatory male sexuality and alternative masculinities, and *still* expect men to both accept that narrative, be aware of their privileges, and then still expect them to shake off the problematic ideas about themselves they get from that discourse and be the enlightened (new masculinity) but still sexually assertive (practically old masculinity) hero in whose strong arms you succumb. And for everyone who's not able to completely ignore one message or the other, that's really confusing and behaviorally disabling." She agreed wiht me at this point (probably also because she knows me personally and the stuff I already explained above), but she also doesn't know how to deal with it...

No one does, apparently.

I've been going through exactly this. At what point do I lower my "anti creep defense" (male version of the PUAish "anti slut defense") and make my move? Right now I'm lucky that the two poly relationships I'm in at the moment are with women who made it clear from the jump what they wanted from me. I've improved somewhat in that area as I'm a lot better at reading body language and IOIs then I use to be.

One thing I do realize is that usually it's not about trying to convince an uninterested women into dating/sleeping with me but in recognizing if interest exists and acting on it. Douchebag types always plow ahead not giving a rat's ass if she's interested, "weak(sic)" type guys stay in anti creep mode as if nobody's interested. Confidant and socially well calibrated guys can usually detect interest and act, or not act, on it as appropriate and know how to gracefully back off if they're wrong.
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Post by kath on Mon Nov 17, 2014 12:29 am

Sam, I think that for you, you perceive a catch-22 with enthusiastic consent* ... but I don't think that's because Feminism Is Communicating Wrong. I think you can work through that, and not that it's your "fault", but that you can't ask something that's a general discussion about enthusiastic consent to exactly answer all your particular hangups all the time. Enthusiastic consent isn't about your hangups or how you, individually, process these discussions.

I totally get that you're feeling like that way of talking about consent puts you in an impossible situation, and that that feels bad. But I don't think that's down to everyone else to stop talking about it that way so that some people whose internal wiring is like yours don't feel bad. I think you can work on rewiring your brain too, so that you can clarify in your thinking how this is not what is going on. That you can trust yesses and nos.

I think this because I think my own way of enthusiastically consenting - which I think is pretty enthusiastic and pretty consenual - is not one that would register for you. So I want to talk about where I see that difference happening, and why even though you might read my model as requiring my partner to "take" me or initiate, I disagree.

I don't particularly like sexy talk. I'm fine with talking about sex in the context of the relationship, and talking about sex after having sex, and I will make my preferences clear during sex when I need to. But I don't find talking about / during sex sexy itself. I also like the surprise - not being completely sure exactly what my partner is going to do. So I don't prefer to ask for specific things (though as I said, I will if it makes the most sense for me to do that), and I don't want to move his hands for him. So, I express most of my enthusiastic consent in terms of how I'm touching him. We respond to each other's cues, see what reactions we're getting, adjust. I wouldn't appreciate the suggestion that wanting to do sex this way means I'm not enthusiastically consenting. But it also doesn't include the things you said were the consent you required. (This preferred style of sex probably isn't particularly well-suited to casual encounters, because I couldn't rely on experience to give my partner and I the ability to read each other that well. That wouldn't be a potential casual sex partner's fault, that would just be a thing I'd have to deal with to figure out how to have the kind of sex I personally like. That wouldn't be a catch-22 of casual sex, it would be a catch 22 of me in particular having casual sex.)

It's OK for you to require that as a personal sexual preference. I don't think it's OK to suggest that it means that people who have other ways of communicating their sexual interest are sexing wrong in a general sense, or wanting something contradictory to their stated beliefs.

I'd also like to think about what you mean by "initiation", because I'm wondering if there's a similar thing going on there. I have found that most of my sexual encounters aren't particularly "initiated" by one person. They'll start as cuddling, and then slowly build as we play off each other's signals and responses. These interactions might not lead to sex is one or the other or neither of us is feeling it; but if we are, they do. So it's not like there's one point we can look at and say "that was the initiation, and in this case, Kath was the initiator, but in that case, it was her partner." We both initiate each instance of sexual activity (and to me, that's the True Meaning of Enthusiastic Consent. We should make a stop motion animation).

I think in the conversation about booleans, that was what was making my head hurt (it was a while ago, and I may not have posted in the thread, but I read it and this is what I was thinking about). Sure, I guess you could try to break down the sexual interaction into a million individual "yesses" and "nos", but for me, that is emphatically not the experience. I experience that process as an enjoyable, organic, and continuous feedback loop.

So just because someone sees the way they want to initiate and respond to sexual escalation is different from you, doesn't indicate that enthusiastic consent is actually a catch-22.

*How I'm interpreting the catch-22 you're talking about is like "you say everyone needs to be truly and enthusiastically consenting for sex to happen ... and the way I am willing to accept consent is very specific and women I have encountered do not appear to want to give me my conception of enthusiastic consent, so there's an impossible bind."
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Post by Ron Ritzman on Mon Nov 17, 2014 2:16 am

Just a thought. If you're a guy who has trouble initiating sex because of what's been discussed in this thread, then why not do something similar to a consensual  BDSM "power exchange". Negotiate with your partner that you can initiate sex and "take her and ravish her" even through any "token resistance" she might put up anytime you want unless she uses a "safe word" that you both agree on ahead of time.
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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Tue Nov 18, 2014 11:05 pm

Everyone,

sorry, it's been unexpectedly busy both personally and professionally for the last couple of days. I'll reply to all posts, but it may take a bit until I've done so. Thanks again for your replies.


Kath,

I definitely see a catch 22, you're right about that, and I also think you're close to my specific catch, thanks for being so understanding.That said, I don't think people in general are sexing wrong. I think the current discourse about consent is asking too much of people, and most people are reinterpreting the discourse in a way that they find acceptable for themselves by not addressing the logical problems of the discourse itself.

"I think in the conversation about booleans, that was what was making my head hurt (it was a while ago, and I may not have posted in the thread, but I read it and this is what I was thinking about). Sure, I guess you could try to break down the sexual interaction into a million individual "yesses" and "nos", but for me, that is emphatically not the experience. I experience that process as an enjoyable, organic, and continuous feedback loop."

Yeah, I think that's the way it is supposed to be. It's not me who has turned the discourse around consent into a discussion of booleans, but can you see any other way of logically addressing consent than booleans, in whichever language the yeses and nos may be given? In the end consent is a binary thing at every point of the interaction, even though it may not feel that way. And if the presence of someone's consent for most kinds of interpersonal interaction, certainly sexual interaction, is a what is considered a necessary consequence flowing from the concept of bodily autonomy, then I really don't see how we can get around those booleans unless we accept that, in the course of the continuous feedback loop, sometimes, consent may not be present and such a situation is then not considered sexual assault despite the understanding that interacting with another human being in a sexual way without consent is sexual assault.

That's why I find this article, for example, mind boggling -

http://www.damemagazine.com/2014/10/14/sex-can-be-complicated-consent-not

In it, Kate Harding, a well known feminist author, talks about a recent episode of The Mindy Project, in which Mindy's boyfriend, Danny, tried to put it into "fifth base" and, when she tells him to stop, claims he 'slipped'. Of course he didn't slip. Then, in Kate Harding's words -

"As a staunch feminist and author of a forthcoming book on rape culture, I was delighted—until I discovered that some people are characterizing Danny's thwarted attempt to "steal fifth base" as sexual assault. According to this logic, because Mindy hadn't signed off on anal in advance, at the precise moment peen hit butt, he became a rapist."

And later she says -

Sure, in an ideal world, boyfriends would always ask before trying to penetrate a new orifice—and they definitely wouldn't try to cover it up with a weak lie after the fact. Danny is duly shamed for that crap, by the way, and Mindy doesn't forgive him until he's apologized and they've agreed on how to handle things in the future so neither of them ever feels unsafe. To my mind, the episode sent exactly the right message about consent—it's not a black-and-white contract you sign before having sex, but an ongoing series of communications between sexual partners, whether that takes place during a single encounter or over several years.

Again -

To my mind, the episode sent exactly the right message about consent—it's not a black-and-white contract you sign before having sex, but an ongoing series of communications between sexual partners, whether that takes place during a single encounter or over several years.

Which is, I think, pretty much what you're describing, and which I find a useful description of real life.

But it's also a description that is a lot looser on the presence of consent at each intersection than, I think, the idea that "initiation without consent is sexual assault" logically requires. If that logical rule is one that Kate Harding also believes in ("sexual interactions without consent are sexual assault"), and Mindy did not consent to anal sex, then how can what Danny did not be sexual assault?

So, yes, don't you think what she writes about the series of communications in that article is contradicting her stated beliefs?

And yes, I would totally love to rewire my brain to be able to not see these contradictions or feel limited by them. But I don't know how that could work given that they are there, at least I don't see a way around them. If you do, please let me know, that would make my life a lot easier. Because you're right that I'm experiencing a catch that feels like this: We don't *really* mean what we say and we expect you to act on what we actually want, which is different from what we say we want, unless we decide that we, occasionally, actually do want what we said we want, and then it's your problem if you acted on what you thought we wanted and not on what we said want. And if you cannot figure out that problem on your own, you're probably not sufficiently emphatic to try and interact with women sexually anyway."

Does that make any sense to you?

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Post by kleenestar on Tue Nov 18, 2014 11:14 pm

Not to deluge you with more things to answer, Sam, but I wonder if part of your struggle is assuming that there's a single right answer to these kinds of questions. For example, I'm pretty damn horrified by the Kate Harding column. There's a huge difference between "Whoops, thought you'd be into that" and "I slipped." The latter indicates that the character knew, or at least strongly suspected, that his partner would not welcome his behavior. While I think that stopping immediately also stops the behavior short of sexual assault, I think that trying to sneak an activity past your partner is a deeply unethical way to behave.

I don't need you to respond to this - I just would like to make sure you hear that I also consider myself a feminist, and I think a lot about consent, and my take on this issue is quite different from Kate Harding's.

I think this might be part of your larger work here: to listen to women as individuals instead of trying to apply universal rules.
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Post by ggobsessed on Wed Nov 19, 2014 1:11 am

"We don't *really* mean what we say and we expect you to act on what we actually want, which is different from what we say we want, unless we decide that we, occasionally, actually do want what we said we want, and then it's your problem if you acted on what you thought we wanted and not on what we said want. And if you cannot figure out that problem on your own, you're probably not sufficiently emphatic to try and interact with women sexually anyway."

I think there are a few issues here. The first is that while yes, both women and men want others to act on what they actually want, it is oftentimes different from what they THINK they want, which may or may not be different from what they say they want.

This is why talking about sexual desires is really important, and it's better not to talk about it when you're just about to have sex or fool around. And yeah, it really, really sucks when someone thinks they want thing a, and later realizes they don't want it.

And if someone thinks it's 'your problem if you acted on you thought we wanted," then that person is being really immature.

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Post by Mel on Wed Nov 19, 2014 9:35 am

I agree with kleenestar that a big part of this is getting out of the mode of thinking in terms of one large feminist understanding of sexuality and consent, to which all feminists subscribe. Obviously Kate Harding would not have written that article if there hadn't also been lots of people saying they did think that interaction qualified as rape, or was at least highly problematic. Why do their opinions count less than hers in determining "what women actually want"? (And, er, even without having seen the episode, it sounds like the result of the guy not getting consent first was not Mindy being okay with that because that's what she actually wanted, but with her making it clear that next time he should get consent before doing something like that, no? So even what Harding is saying is not, "It's a good idea to go ahead without getting consent" but "Not getting consent at every single stage doesn't equal outright rape".)

And has Harding ever said that she thinks it's necessary to get consent at every single step in a sexual interaction or else it's rape? Because if not, then she hasn't contradicted herself.

Frankly in all the discussions of enthusiastic consent I've read, the emphasis seems to be on consenting to the process in general--we are going to be sexual together!--with a pause to confirm at the really major parts like moving from foreplay to penetration (if not discussed prior). I have never seen anyone suggest that once someone is enthusiastically making out with you/having sex with you it's necessary to get a signal of consent before going for every single kiss and caress within that act, and that if you don't and your partner isn't into one gesture or another, even if you stop when they indicate they didn't like that one thing, you've assaulted them. I can believe there are feminists who think that way, but a) they don't appear to be in the majority, so it seems unfair to expect everyone else to follow their beliefs and b) it is not hypocritical or contradictory for one feminist to be okay with something else, since we are all independent beings with our own interpretations and beliefs within the larger scope of trying to protect women's rights.

As ggobsessed suggests, this is why you talk--with your specific partner, so you can find out what they specifically want and are okay with. I know you've said you're afraid you can't trust a "yes", Sam, but that's something you need to work through. In a way, you have created the doublebind by setting yourself up in a situation where you feel uncomfortable assuming what women want (which is fair enough) but also uncomfortable asking them and then believing any given woman when she tells you.*

(And to note, I'm not talking here about things like "Can I kiss you?" but a broader question of, "When we get physical, are you okay with me trying out kisses and caresses and you letting me know if you like them as we go?"... except phrased better than that, but hopefully you get the gist. I think most women would say "yes" to that question. So the problem is not that most women would say they aren't okay with it, it's that from what you've said you'd be unwilling to accept their "yes".)

*Yes, I'm sure there are feminists out there who would claim that you can never know if a woman is okay with something until you're actually doing it and if it turns out she said "yes" mistakenly and you don't psychically realize that, you've assaulted her... but again, this seems to be an extreme minority position and there's no reason to define your sense of morality by that and not the majority position. The only place I've seen where men are widely told to not necessarily trust a "yes" is when interacting with a woman with whom you have no established romantic/sexual relationship and thus no base understanding that at least some sexuality is on the table. Within an established relationship where the woman has already shown she wants to be with you in general, the majority view seems to be that you should trust that individual woman to express what she wants, not make assumptions for her.
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Post by Ron Ritzman on Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:47 am

ggobsessed wrote:"We don't *really* mean what we say and we expect you to act on what we actually want, which is different from what we say we want, unless we decide that we, occasionally, actually do want what we said we want, and then it's your problem if you acted on what you thought we wanted and not on what we said want. And if you cannot figure out that problem on your own, you're probably not sufficiently emphatic to try and interact with women sexually anyway."

I think there are a few issues here. The first is that while yes, both women and men want others to act on what they actually want, it is oftentimes different from what they THINK they want, which may or may not be different from what they say they want.

This is why talking about sexual desires is really important, and it's better not to talk about it when you're just about to have sex or fool around. And yeah, it really, really sucks when someone thinks they want thing a, and later realizes they don't want it.

And if someone thinks it's 'your problem if you acted on you thought we wanted," then that person is being really immature.

I think a lot of us need to learn how to be more introspective. There often is a big difference between what we "want to want" and what we actually "want".
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Post by kath on Wed Nov 19, 2014 12:29 pm

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
I think the current discourse about consent is asking too much of people, and most people are reinterpreting the discourse in a way that they find acceptable for themselves by not addressing the logical problems of the discourse itself.

I don't think you have adequately identified real logical problems with enthusiastic consent, or the general discourse around it (one person's opinion not representing "the general discourse". Enthusiastic consent is basically sexing in good faith. So, not trying to "slip something past" your partner. I agree with Kleenestar's evaluation of that particular encounter (though I don't watch The Mindy Project either). I also agree that there isn't going to be one way that every woman consents, or one perfect answer. That's why maintaining good faith and putting the enjoyment of both parties first is so important - there isn't a set of black and white booleans to go by and you have to be paying attention, communicating, and adjusting throughout.

(I think that since they had not had anal sex before, Danny should probably have asked (verbally or not) before penetrating, since it's a considerable change in how they do sex, just as he presumably got consent before penetrating vaginally the first time. I don't think any of that is actually inconsistent with enthusiastic consent, or it not being a black and white contract but a series of ongoing communications throughout a sexual relationship and individual encounter)

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
Yeah, I think that's the way it is supposed to be. It's not me who has turned the discourse around consent into a discussion of booleans, but can you see any other way of logically addressing consent than booleans, in whichever language the yeses and nos may be given? In the end consent is a binary thing at every point of the interaction, even though it may not feel that way. And if the presence of someone's consent for most kinds of interpersonal interaction, certainly sexual interaction, is a what is considered a necessary consequence flowing from the concept of bodily autonomy, then I really don't see how we can get around those booleans unless we accept that, in the course of the continuous feedback loop, sometimes, consent may not be present and such a situation is then not considered sexual assault despite the understanding that interacting with another human being in a sexual way without consent is sexual assault.

I am seeing reality in a totally different way than you do here. I just told you that I experience the enthusiastically consented-to sexual encounters I have as fundamentally not a series of booleans. You are saying that in reality, it is a series of booleans. I am saying, I'm the one having the sex, and I think the booleans are the false front you're imposing on my sexual experience. You cannot tell me how I am experiencing sex I am having and you are not. I am not in fact experiencing it as a series of booleans, it is a continuous curve. Do not tell me this is not the sex I am having, you do not know.

In the course of the feedback loop, you are continually checking in with how your partner is feeling. If you think they are uncomfortable, you stop and check in verbally. If they say they'd like to stop, you do. That doesn't mean you assaulted them, unless you didn't get consent when you started. Consent can be revoked at any point, that doesn't mean you didn't get consent to the sexual activity up to that point, just that now the consent is over and the sex stops.

It seems to me that you are having some sort of logical chicken and egg problem. You're thinking, "if I got consent but then later the person expresses any discomfort, then I've been raping them." No, that's not the case. They gave consent. Then they stopped wanting to continue, so you stop. It is logically meaningless to argue that somehow that means you've been raping them all along or something. Before you do something new, check in more directly. As you continue the experience, continue to communicate with your partner, and just respond to what they are communicating. Something changing now doesn't change what the situation was minutes ago.

Another logical framework you seem to be trying to apply to sex that isn't actually applicable to sex is that it looks like you're thinking about sex as though it were a quantum physics experiment. Throughout the sex, your partner could be either consenting or non-consenting, and their state is only determined when you measure the their consent, and then that measurement applies for sometime in the past. That is actually not what is going on. You are always "measuring their consent" and always responding in good faith, therefore you know (based on your paying attention to them and their state, not based on reading their mind) fairly well what they're feeling about the encounter and you can ask if you're unsure and adjust the activity or stop. That doesn't change how they felt about it / what they were communicating up to that point. It just changes how you move forward.

The other reason I don't think the booleans model makes sense is that it's extremely reductive. Someone might consent to something and not something else, so you could presumably check on their consent and you would be able to understand that they want you to touch them in way X or Y, but not way Z. During sex there are many instances where you might have to correct how your partner is touching you. That doesn't mean you didn't consent them to them touching you (yes, touch me, or no, don't touch me) - it's "I want you to touch me this way". There's no reason to just try random stuff and get nos for all of the stuff that doesn't work - "how should I touch you" would work better. The answer to that isn't a boolean. But I'm still indicating my "consent" to be touched one way and my "non consent" to be touched in potentially myriads of other ways. And not because I think you're assaulting me if you aren't touching me exactly right, just because I like how it feels better to be touched one way versus another.

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
But it's also a description that is a lot looser on the presence of consent at each intersection than, I think, the idea that "initiation without consent is sexual assault" logically requires. If that logical rule is one that Kate Harding also believes in ("sexual interactions without consent are sexual assault"), and Mindy did not consent to anal sex, then how can what Danny did not be sexual assault?
I don't have any particular skin in the game of whether I want to call what Danny did sexual assault or like whether he should be prosecuted for it, but I do not think he got consent before he tried it, and I think that was wrong.

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
So, yes, don't you think what she writes about the series of communications in that article is contradicting her stated beliefs?
I have no skin in the game of whether this individual has ever said anything against her stated beliefs, it is not relevant to whether enthusiastic consent is a reasonable standard. Could you point out the logical bind in http://www.yesmeansyes.com/consent-0 please? It also talks about sex and consent as not booleans.

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
And yes, I would totally love to rewire my brain to be able to not see these contradictions or feel limited by them. But I don't know how that could work given that they are there, at least I don't see a way around them. If you do, please let me know, that would make my life a lot easier. Because you're right that I'm experiencing a catch that feels like this: We don't *really* mean what we say and we expect you to act on what we actually want, which is different from what we say we want, unless we decide that we, occasionally, actually do want what we said we want, and then it's your problem if you acted on what you thought we wanted and not on what we said want. And if you cannot figure out that problem on your own, you're probably not sufficiently emphatic to try and interact with women sexually anyway."
Well, I don't think the contradictions exist, so I don't feel limited by them or need to find a way around them. I have explained why they don't exist above. And no, what you are saying doesn't make a lot of sense to me, mostly because I do not think it accurately characterizes the discussion around enthusiastic consent.

I've got a story here that I think would be a useful example but I'm not sure I should share it because it's super personal. :S. I'll see if I can figure out how best to phrase / package it\ and come back to add it i I can.

It seems like what you want is a nice boolean way to check on your partner's consent so that you can be sure you have it and it will not change. That's not a thing. Consent can always change - minds can change. What you want isn't how sex works, and no one can offer it. Sorry. What you can do is continually check in with your partner and stop if you have reason to think they might not be comfortable.
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Post by kleenestar on Wed Nov 19, 2014 1:02 pm

I want to bring up something else inspired by what Mel said. The degree to which you can trust another person's yes or no has two parts to it. Part of it is your knowledge of them - but part of it is also how you behave. You can be a person to whom others are reluctant to say no, and these are decisions you make outside the context of sex.

Example behaviors to avoid:
- Trying to argue someone out of a no.
- Ignoring a no when it isn't convenient for you.
- Getting pouty or sulking when you get a no.
- Expressing extreme insecurity or neediness when you get a no.
- Repeatedly following up after a no until you get an answer you like.
- Implying or expressing threats after a no.

Note that these are all things that have nothing to do with sex, necessarily, and they're not specific to men. But if you show that you are someone who can't take a no, then yes, you can't trust your partner's no - and that's not their fault, except that they've chosen to continue to be with you. All they're doing is responding sensibly to how you behave.

For me, I know that I need to be careful about my extremely forceful and bold personality. My partner and I have long ago worked this out, but I rein myself in when I'm engaging with people who don't know me well. I have a whole library of techniques I use to make myself someone who can be trusted with a yes that means yes and a no that means no - and that is my responsibility, not anyone else's.
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Post by Ron Ritzman on Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:09 pm

kleenestar wrote:
- Repeatedly following up after a no until you get an answer you like.

She's a human being with agency, not a "magic 8 ball" you keep shaking until you get a positive answer.
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Post by Gentleman Johnny on Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:39 pm

kath wrote:I'll see if I can figure out how best to phrase / package it\ and come back to add it i I can.

She said package. *Snerk*
Yes, I'm that immature. The emphasis struck me as funny.

More seriously, Sam, I think you're taking the idea of "yes means yes. No means no" boolean and perhaps over applying it. I really like the pharse elsewhere of "in good faith" because it explains everything to me. I recognize that it doesn't explain to everyone, though. Sex is more like a conversation. Some people are ok talking about the weather. Some people are fine sharing their deepest, darkest secrets. Either way, if they don't want all the gory details of your appendectomy, you don't have to stop the conversation entirely. You just back it up to a safer subject.

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Post by ggobsessed on Wed Nov 19, 2014 4:49 pm

Ron Ritzman wrote:
ggobsessed wrote:"We don't *really* mean what we say and we expect you to act on what we actually want, which is different from what we say we want, unless we decide that we, occasionally, actually do want what we said we want, and then it's your problem if you acted on what you thought we wanted and not on what we said want. And if you cannot figure out that problem on your own, you're probably not sufficiently emphatic to try and interact with women sexually anyway."

I think there are a few issues here. The first is that while yes, both women and men want others to act on what they actually want, it is oftentimes different from what they THINK they want, which may or may not be different from what they say they want.

This is why talking about sexual desires is really important, and it's better not to talk about it when you're just about to have sex or fool around. And yeah, it really, really sucks when someone thinks they want thing a, and later realizes they don't want it.

And if someone thinks it's 'your problem if you acted on you thought we wanted," then that person is being really immature.

I think a lot of us need to learn how to be more introspective. There often is a big difference between what we "want to want" and what we actually "want".

There is definitely a vast discrepancy between what we wish we wanted and what we actually want. I'm not sure it's so much an issue of introspection as an issue of our ideals when it comes to relationships and also cultural issues of shame attached to sex.

For example, someone might truly like and value an equal partnership with his/her bf/gf. And they therefore might want, or think they want, a certain type of sex. But what they are truly into is a completely different type of sex.

I guess maybe you're right about introspection, as without that, how would you know about the disparities between what you want to want, and what you actually want?

I do think that the best way to solve all those problems is to really listen to and trust your partner.

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Post by ggobsessed on Wed Nov 19, 2014 4:53 pm

kleenestar wrote:

Example behaviors to avoid:
- Trying to argue someone out of a no.
- Ignoring a no when it isn't convenient for you.
- Getting pouty or sulking when you get a no.
- Expressing extreme insecurity or neediness when you get a no.
- Repeatedly following up after a no until you get an answer you like.
- Implying or expressing threats after a no.

.

i think sulking and pouting is definitely a problem, but the biggest issue I've come across is just acting like I don't exist when I say no. Or, really, acting like i were any place else but with them. That just hurts, and it makes me glad I said no, and it makes me never want to say yes to them. This happened enough times that I gave up for a long time.

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Post by kath on Thu Nov 20, 2014 1:55 am

Gentleman Johnny wrote:
She said package. *Snerk*
Yes, I'm that immature. The emphasis struck me as funny.


Aw, shucks.

I am really conflicted about this because it is a very personal story and I am not sure how the other person would feel if I told it, and I don't think there's a way I can credibly make it not read as a story that clearly happened, and also part of the reason I want to tell it is because I did it. So I have basically tried to strip it of specifics, which makes it a really weird story, but whatever.

Basically, I once thought I had consent when I really didn't, and when I found out, I felt horrible about it (er and had a conversation with them about it). There were reasons that I think would be understandable that I thought I was getting consent*, but the fact remains that while the other person wasn't mad at me, they were really uncomfortable about what happened. And I had to figure out ways to (try to) prevent that from happening again. The first strategy I picked was actually wrong and didn't work, but I think I have now found a behavioral marker I can use to prevent the situation from recurring. But in any case, it's my responsibility given my state vs. their state in this context. I still have sex with this person, and I know that when they are not in this particular state, I can totally trust their yes. They weren't screwing with me or doing anything inconsistent with their values. It's my responsibility because I respect them to take responsibility for it.

*they were responding physically in ways consistent with their interest, and they were also responding verbally to some extent, but they weren't in a position to really know all of what was going on, and signifiers for other people that they are able to consent seemed to be there but weren't indicators that turned out to be reliable in this very specific case.
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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Tue Dec 02, 2014 1:37 am

IHaveToes,

IHaveToes wrote:I, as a woman, feminist, and internet stranger, give you permission to forget about feminism while in a sexy situation. All you need to do is follow the golden rule of "don't be an ass".

Thats a good rule Wink

IHaveToes wrote:For realsies though, the disconnect between feminist theory and the way some women ask is just something that is. Feminist rhetoric doesn't cover all women's experience and thus you are going to find women who are totally on board with the men initiating thing. You'll also find women who are on board with feminist theory but want to be "taken" because that is what gets them off. What gets you off doesn't have to be in line with feminism as long as you aren't hurting others. It happens. I feel like you're having issues reconciling "what women say" (feminist theory which in some cases talks about ideals, not necessarily reality) and "what women do" (real experience with real women who have flaws and their own, many non-feminist, ideals). I'm not saying it's bad to have feminist ideals, but sometimes they need to be put aside so you can connect with real, flawed people.

Well, yes, but the problem is that I feel that the idea is that something that I have internalized (been socialized to feel) that what's not in line with the theory *is* hurting women. And yes, I'm having trouble understanding the benefits of a theory that's not describing the reality fo real, flawed people? Why should the people learn to tiptoe around the theory instead of adjusting it to be a better fit for reality?

IHaveToes wrote:Some suggestions which I think may be helpful:
- When you're getting sexy with someone and you start to feel the what-if-I-go-too-far panic start up, maybe try to take a moment to address that thought then focus on something else. Try thinking to yourself "Has she indicated a no? Does she seem to be enjoying this?, then (assuming good answers on those) you can try and dismiss the thought. Focus on what you're doing instead of the theoretical implications of the actions.
- When you feel up for it but don't know if she is, try something along the lines of "Would you like to kiss/fool around?" Then each time you want to escalate farther ask "Can I grab your [body part]?", "Do you want to get undressed?", "I'd really love to fuck right now, how about you?", etc. That way if she doesn't want a particular escalation she'll say outright or you'll hear hesitation and a soft no.
- Before you get too far into sexy times, tell her "I have a bit of trouble escalating things sometimes. Can you tell me when you want to go further?"
- Before getting too far into a sexual relationship, say something like "I can't always tell when women want to start something sexy. Can you tell me when you want to start fooling around?"

Thanks for your suggestions. As I said I'm trying to work around my problems with words and by waiting what she does. But here's three examples from the last two weeks that may explain where the problem with this approach lies... -

#1 girl I had met at the same birthday party last year. We end up going to the same club afterwards. So first off she tells me about her boyfriend, then she tells me how their relationship is over, then she pulls me in while dancing, grinds with my knee, then she tells me she doesn't like to dance closely, but only until she decides to put her head on my shoulder. I leave because I don't like those kinds of mixed signals, she follows me, puts her arms around my neck, looks at me expectantly, after a couple of seconds of me looking at her expectantly, says: "whatever..." and eventually starts talking to another guy. I doubt a serious discussion of my limits would have helped here a lot.

#2 girl at another birthday party a week later. We danced for about half an hour, then had some deep conversation about life, death, and lust, and then go dancing again. Serious close dancing. At some point we get close to the wall and I ask her "would you like to kiss me?" and she says "no". I tell her that I will not try again if she says no. We dance a little more and then she says she'd like to dance alone now. Interpretation #1: she was never interested in anything but dancing and I misread the situation; #2 she really didn't want to have to admit to wanting to kiss me and wanted to be taken. As usual, I acted like she meant #1 while I'm pretty sure it was #2.

#3 girl I have a bit of a crush on at the moment. We've known each other for about five years, and she was in relationships for most of the time. Now she's single, and for the first time in those five years we're starting to really get to know each other. We've kissed once, a while ago, but she's also giving out mixed signals about what she wants, saying (playfully, jokingly) things like "I could see myself together with you" and then "I really don't want anything at all". So last week, after a night out, I take her home and we sit in my car in front of her house and we start talking, and the topic quickly becomes a philosophical discussion about sex, her ability to orgasm, what we like, don't like etc. She told me a long time ago and then again that night how she likes "real men", but do you think I was able to try and kiss her even given that context? Nope.

Not me.

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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Tue Dec 02, 2014 1:46 am

Kleenestar,

kleenestar wrote:To me the critical issue is "I can't trust her no." I think that if you can address that, it will help you unlock the log jam.

Maybe. It would certainly make it easier to initiate. But there's the whole "women have been socialized to not say no" thing. And yes, that whole gender debate has occasionally made it harder for me to see the person instead of the gender. Desensitizing has worked for me, too, to a degree. It's one of the bigger aspects of why I am "already" at the point at which I am. But at this point of escalation, I'm not sure how to adjust the idea to the problem, as there's usually not a relationship within which I could develop that individual skill. But this is a really good tip for the next longer term proto-/relationship like the one I mentioned above. Thanks!

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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Tue Dec 02, 2014 2:02 am

BasedBuzzed,

BasedBuzzed wrote:Feminism is not a monolith. There are bazillion blogs out there, from LessWrong/feminism crossblends to snarky sex worker blogs, and from weird transhumanist feminists to halfway-intersectional harping that perpetuates gender normativity to an unhealthy degree. Go out there and read a plurality of perspectives if you have some sort of inner feminist voice shaming you for stuff that other strands would tell you to embrace.

The same with sexy talk. Learn a variety, from mock-polite to guttural, from cheesy to snarky, and tune it to the person's conversational style.

"Can I touch your breasts?" can be "Would milady like a massage of her bow ornamentation?" or a husky-needy "Can I grab those?" or "Wow, that's stunning" to "If the boobs don't come to <your name>, than <your name> will have to go to the boobs". Sometimes you misfire and it sounds awkward, other times the mood is broken and you'll have gigglefits together, but it often just works if you're in tune with her communication style.

thanks, that is true. I'm so much in my head about the politics and consequences of all this that I'm more in a "legal mood" than in an interpersonal mood and despite my best effort to perform sexy masculinity in that moment, I'm pretty sure that my subtext is not as strong and sexy as I'd like it to be. The bigger part of addressing the problem is mental, but I guess developing a larger vocabulary to talk about my own desire in those situations would also be very helpful. If you have any suggestions, links, etc, I'd be grateful.

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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Tue Dec 02, 2014 2:18 am

Kleenestar,

kleenestar wrote:I don't need you to respond to this - I just would like to make sure you hear that I also consider myself a feminist, and I think a lot about consent, and my take on this issue is quite different from Kate Harding's. I think this might be part of your larger work here: to listen to women as individuals instead of trying to apply universal rules.

Yeah, but before you know someone you have to go by something to form your expectations about that group. And that's where my problem is. Feminist socialization has actually made it harder for me to see the person behind the gender.

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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Tue Dec 02, 2014 2:39 am

Mel,

Mel wrote:And has Harding ever said that she thinks it's necessary to get consent at every single step in a sexual interaction or else it's rape?  Because if not, then she hasn't contradicted herself.

Frankly in all the discussions of enthusiastic consent I've read, the emphasis seems to be on consenting to the process in general--we are going to be sexual together!--with a pause to confirm at the really major parts like moving from foreplay to penetration (if not discussed prior).


That's true, at least to a degree. I guess this brings us back to the question of thinking of that process in transaction-booleans, and the contradiction I see when "consent activists" talk about consent, particularly affirmative consent. They by-and-large want to get people to better communicate, in the way you describe, but to me that's problematic for the concept. If lack of consent means sexual assault, and consent needs to be present during the entire sexual activity, then we end up with questions about definitions and booleans.

Mel wrote:"I know you've said you're afraid you can't trust a "yes", Sam, but that's something you need to work through.  In a way, you have created the doublebind by setting yourself up in a situation where you feel uncomfortable assuming what women want (which is fair enough) but also uncomfortable asking them and then believing any given woman when she tells you.*

Yes, and I would say that a significant part of that problem for me is a consequence of the feminist gender/consent discourse.

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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Tue Dec 02, 2014 3:14 am

Hey Kath,

kath wrote:I don't think you have adequately identified real logical problems with enthusiastic consent, or the general discourse around it (one person's opinion not representing "the general discourse". Enthusiastic consent is basically sexing in good faith. So, not trying to "slip something past" your partner. I agree with Kleenestar's evaluation of that particular encounter (though I don't watch The Mindy Project either). I also agree that there isn't going to be one way that every woman consents, or one perfect answer. That's why maintaining good faith and putting the enjoyment of both parties first is so important - there isn't a set of black and white booleans to go by and you have to be paying attention, communicating, and adjusting throughout.

I find the idea of "sexing in good faith" interesting, because I think a lot of mistakes get made in "good faith" that mean there was no mens rea, but still no consent. If the idea of consent is "sexing in good faith", and I may agree with that, that also basically means that *actual* consent is a logically impossible ideal.

kath wrote:I am seeing reality in a totally different way than you do here. I just told you that I experience the enthusiastically consented-to sexual encounters I have as fundamentally not a series of booleans. You are saying that in reality, it is a series of booleans. I am saying, I'm the one having the sex, and I think the booleans are the false front you're imposing on my sexual experience. You cannot tell me how I am experiencing sex I am having and you are not. I am not in fact experiencing it as a series of booleans, it is a continuous curve. Do not tell me this is not the sex I am having, you do not know.

I'm not trying to tell you how you're experiencing consent. I'm also not saying that *in reality* it is a series of booleans. I'm saying that it logically is a series of booleans, not in most people's experience. I find it personally difficult to reconcile booleans with reality here.

kath wrote:You're thinking, "if I got consent but then later the person expresses any discomfort, then I've been raping them." No, that's not the case. They gave consent. Then they stopped wanting to continue, so you stop. It is logically meaningless to argue that somehow that means you've been raping them all along or something.

I don't think it's meaningless, but I understand what you're trying to say. And it's certainly not meaningless in a yes-means-yes situation that requires of the initiatior to ascertain ongoing consent.

kath wrote:Another logical framework you seem to be trying to apply to sex that isn't actually applicable to sex is that it looks like you're thinking about sex as though it were a quantum physics experiment.


That's funny. And true. And, again, I agree that it's not really applicable to sex. But that's a problem of the concept of consent if taken seriously.

kath wrote:It seems like what you want is a nice boolean way to check on your partner's consent so that you can be sure you have it and it will not change. That's not a thing. Consent can always change - minds can change. What you want isn't how sex works, and no one can offer it. Sorry. What you can do is continually check in with your partner and stop if you have reason to think they might not be comfortable.

I agree with everything you say except  that I think what you're saying about "sexing in good faith" is useful and a good way of conceptualizing good communcation/sex, but "sexing in good faith" may well entail portions where consent is not actually present until someone says "no". We can agree to not deal with that aspect to protect the terminology, of course.

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