What Kind of Man Turns Down a Willing Woman?
A comment on one of my recent articles caught my attention. A young man expressed appreciation for my advice about letting friendship grow before deciding whether to explore a sexual connection.
The problem was, he said, sometimes women he went out with were ready for sex before he was.
Now, I can’t say I’ve wrestled with that problem. When I was that man’s age (half a lifetime back), I would have laughed at such a statement, maybe even asked him, “Are you bragging or complaining?”
Not that I have never turned down sex. But the times that I was propositioned and declined, I had reason to be leery, as the offers were from strangers or near-strangers, and I was pretty sure one of them wasn’t interested so much in me as in a place to sleep that wasn’t in her car. (She had some major issues, too, but holey moley she was hot.)
But I digress. The point is, now that women are stepping up and speaking out for what they want, and now that everybody knows that horny isn’t just a guy thing, we need to take another look at issues of consent.
Men may be the askers, but women are the choosers. They decide which men get lucky, which ones lose.
Most readers on this site are probably familiar with these guidelines, which I see posted on the food court wall of my college’s student center:
Consent is an enthusiastic and freely given yes to any sexual activity. It must be given before each sexual activity, even if it was given before to the same or similar activity. Consent cannot be given under pressure, or by a person who is under age, or by a person who is intoxicated. Consent can be withdrawn at any time.
No part of that says anything about applying only to a woman.
This is hardly news, of course, at least in theory. Yes, men can experience unwanted sexual advances, exploitation, even rape. We know this.
What we don’t think about is the subtle pressure coming from the way a man’s role in the dating culture is defined. Men may be the askers, but women are the choosers. They decide which men get lucky, which ones lose.
If deeper knowledge kills the buzz, so be it.
In my article, “Why Dating is a Waste of Time (for single people),” I made the case for slowing down the race from swipe right to the coffee shop to bed. Dating, after all, is more about impression management — touting our desirability — than about a good-faith search for real compatibility. How can anybody really get to know another person in that process?
If you want to know if you’ll be happy sharing more than sex and good times with someone, you have to spend some time with them and do more with them than just play. You have to learn about each other’s lives, meet each other’s friends and families, know each other when your charm’s turned off.
If deeper knowledge kills the buzz, so be it. That means the buzz was doomed already, and it’s better knowing that before you’ve gotten so entangled that you’re going to be in pain when you fall out of love or lust.
But what if friendship is the process in which you discover beauty far beyond what was at first apparent, that this person’s not just hot but also loyal, compassionate, and refreshingly down-to-earth, and that they genuinely get your quirky side?
. . . she’s just being playful and seductive, right?
When a woman holds out for a true connection before she takes the physical relationship to the next level, people say she’s wise and choosy. And if the guy she’s dating starts complaining that he’s tired of waiting, it just proves his lack of depth. If he tries to hurry things along, he’s crossing into criminal behavior.
But when a man says to a woman, “I’m not sure I’m ready,” he may not be taken seriously.
Maybe he really likes her and doesn’t want to spoil the magic by pushing it too fast. Maybe he has his own rules as to how soon is too soon. Maybe he knows both of them are just a bit too drunk for such decisions. Maybe he’s just shy and nervous. Maybe he’s a virgin.
But she knows he’s attracted to her — sees hard evidence of that attraction — and she knows she’s ready to show him the feeling’s mutual. And she knows, no matter what men say, they love a woman who refuses to take no for an answer.
So if she pours them both another glass of wine and sits down in his lap and whispers all the lovely things she’d like to do to him, if she pouts, cajoles, teases, touches, loosens buttons, or crooks a finger from the bedroom door, she’s just being playful and seductive, right?
Reverse the genders, and it’s obvious exactly what she’s being.
Even if she isn’t quite that pushy, even if she just looks hurt and asks him if he finds her unattractive, she’s ignoring the principle of consent. And if he does give in, and they have sex, and he enjoys it, that still doesn’t make it right. She pressured him.
If it isn’t “Hell, yes!” then it’s “No.” And no means no.
Feminism, as I understand it, is about liberating all of us from gender roles that hold us back from being our true selves. I’m glad we’re finally approaching that place where no one will ever be embarrassed to express their sexual desires. But we won’t be there until everyone — even men — can say without embarrassment what they don’t want, and be confident their choice will be respected.