Learning to Listen to Consent

With all the recent sexual allegations going on, a recent problem in American sexual culture has come to light: the word “no” is meaningless.

This is something we all probably already knew. PUA websites tout the adage that a woman doesn’t really mean “no” until she says it three times. Let me tell you – this is such exhausting nonsense. Do you know how frustrating it is to have to tell someone no three times before they believe that you actually know that you mean it? It’s like going to a bar and ordering a gin and tonic three times before they realize that you don’t actually want the Long Island Iced Tea you’re being served.

This myth is perpetuated because men think women are too stupid to understand what they want and how to express it. In PUA circles, men believe that women need to be pressured into the sexual act. Coerced. Seduced. This thought process belies the idea that women are adverse to sex, disinterested in it, or don’t think about on a critical level or in a way that allows them to understand and express their sexual desires and dislikes.

If you’ve been reading this blog for at least a little bit of time, you know damn well this is not true. A woman’s mind is not a stationary monolith, and over time women can change and grow in their opinions and desires, too. The PUA thinking around “she has to say no three times to mean it” is a gross oversimplification of the idea that women change their minds. However, in the PUA context, women only change their minds when pressured by a man. This is not true. Women’s ideas and attitudes to sex are allowed to grow or change over time of their own volition and through their own autonomy. A woman may be disinterested in sex one day and obsessed with it the next.

But the nuance of a woman’s mind isn’t what I want to discuss here. Instead, I want to examine the toxicity of pressure and coercion in sexual relationships. A man can use pressure and coercion to attain consent from a woman in a sexual situation – this is know. He can ply her with alcohol and set the mood in order to get that “yes.” But what’s strange to me is the fact that men don’t condone doing something ordinary and effective such as having mature conversations about sexual desires and consent. In fact, because male courtship is so geared to coercing a yes out of a woman, when her no sticks, it becomes a disaster of rejection.

As a woman who has had conversations about sexual desires with men, let me tell you – it is shocking how little men are able to express their sexual desires outright, even after having set up this nuanced dance of seduction. It is a strange revelation, certainly, but mostly because: why are men taught how to seduce and coerce women into sex before being taught how to sexually express themselves both physically and verbally? Why are men taught how to play this intricate game of sex before they are taught how to win or how to lose that game?

We are setting men up for failure. We are not teaching them to communicate in the most simple manner possible: through plain, old verbal communication. Men don’t know how to hear the word “no” and walk away. Men don’t know that hearing “no” isn’t an assessment of the failures of their personalities or who they are as both a person and as a sexual being. Men can’t smile and walk away. Men don’t even seem to understand that it’s more beneficial for them to accept “no” the first time a someone says it. Perhaps men don’t know that women give in after saying “no” three times because they’re fucking afraid and they start to feel powerless and it’s easier to give in than to start a physical fight that they are sure to lose.

Sex is better when both parties consent, both in the moment and afterwards. Sex is a deep form of physical communication, and to start the sexual experience off by ignoring a someone’s “no” is to compromise that communication. It also compromises the ability to communicate during the sexual experience, which should be an opportunity to maximize physical pleasure. It compromises the ability to communicate after sex, the ability to say what was good or what was bad. The inability to communicate sexually induces anxiety. It is a set up for failure.

Ignoring someone when they say no the first time is a great way to lose someone’s respect. It’s also fucking annoying and childish, and no one wants to fuck an annoying child.

I would appreciate it if people respected me the first time I say no – in every aspect of my life.