How It Feels To Not Want To Have Sex with Someone But To Do It Anyway.

I met a really nice man earlier this year. We had a great first date, he was cute, interesting, mature, respectful, a feminist. We didn’t have sex on our first date because we both had plans that evening. I saw him again a few weeks later. We had a lovely second date. We walked and talked and he was still nice. We went for dinner, which he paid for. Not because of any gender bullshit, but because he knew I was a student, and because he knew he could afford it, and that one day I’d be in a position to help someone out by buying them dinner, and that I would. See, thoughtful. I remember I still liked him while we were eating dinner.

After dinner I went back to his house, and as I sat on the sofa, I started to go cold. Literally and metaphorically. I could feel myself withdraw. The hairs on my arms started to stand up. I didn’t want to be there anymore. We made out on the sofa and it was like an out-of-body experience. We’d made out before, so why was this any different? I was going through the motions.  I was letting him kiss me. My mouth was moving but the rest of my body was still. I didn’t turn towards him, I didn’t wrap my arms around him, I wasn’t overcome with the desire to be on him, to be touching him, to be close to him.

We kissed for a while then went to his bedroom. I was shivering. A weird kind of adrenaline, like ‘fight or flight’. And I still didn’t say anything. I just went along with it. I lay back and sort of thought of England. I tried not to cry. I tried to focus really hard so I would come, and he would stop. The situation was not ideal.

As soon as the whole thing was over, I grabbed my phone and WhatsApped my (now) boyfriend. I asked to see him the next day because I knew he was one person who wouldn’t make me feel like shit even though I’d only known him a couple of months. I needed some kind of reassurance, from a cisman I could trust, who wouldn’t judge me. I lay awake with tears in my eyes, wondering why I’d just gone through with the whole stupid thing.

I knew for sure I was somehow massively fucked up when, at the tube station in the morning, before he took the tube to work and I went to the library, he said ‘Do you want to see me again?’ and I said ‘Yeah sure, but I have exams coming up so it’ll have to wait ’til after May’. Why did I say that? Why, even then, was I still unable to say ‘No, I don’t want to’?

This wasn’t ‘sex I later regretted’, this was ‘sex I wished I wasn’t having as I was having it’. I don’t blame him personally. I blame the patriarchy. I blame patriarchy for the fact I blamed myself. For thinking that being bought dinner and being in someone’s home meant I had no right to say no to sex, even when I was with someone who would absolutely have understood.

There’s a line in a Smiths song that goes, ‘But you could have said no if you’d wanted to… you could have walked away, couldn’t you?’. I thought about this as I lay there. I shouldn’t have gone for dinner. I should have walked away. I shouldn’t have gone home with him. I should have walked away. I shouldn’t have kissed him. I should have walked away. I shouldn’t have gone to bed with him. I should have walked away. Yes, I could have walked away, but why was I in that position in the first place?

I’d talked openly about my nonmonogamy, because he was nonmonogamous too, and I even thought ‘well he knows I sleep with lots of people so it’ll look really bad if I don’t sleep with him’. How fucked up is that? Like because I was having lots of consensual sex it was as if that consent was no longer being individually applied, but was somehow derived from my general attitude to fucking.

I felt like a bad feminist. I felt like I’d let the side down. I still feel like that now, a bit. Like I have no right to complain about this, because I did nothing in the moment to reposition the dynamics. I ‘missed an opportunity to teach someone an important lesson about consent’.

What I learned is that patriarchy is so all-encompassing and pervasive that it is simply not a question of ‘just saying no’. It’s not about ‘just walking away’. I’m known as being an angry person, a troublemaking person, a brave person, and I still couldn’t tell a nice man I didn’t want to fuck him. The rhetoric of ‘just say no’ is not enough.This is about power relations, and that’s bigger than me just saying no. When you’ve got a girl over a decade younger than you, in your home, who you’ve just bought dinner, and she’s usually chatty and charming and now she’s silent and sad and immobile, it’s probably not active desire that’s operative; it’s a lot of power, and if that power isn’t matched with enthusiastic consent, then… how much fun can you have?

(he messaged me a couple of times afterwards, which I rudely ignored. I have not seen him since)

Image taken from Flickr under Creative Commons License

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3 thoughts on “How It Feels To Not Want To Have Sex with Someone But To Do It Anyway.

  1. Im glad you wrote this.. a little about me: im 23, single, and i work my ass off for a graveyard shift job that pays just above minimum wage to help take care of my family. Now my story: on xmas eve i went to a coworkers place to hang out. This guy owes me for getting him out of few messes and though im not exactly physically attracted, ( he has more than two decades on me, but still looks quite young) i love his personality and we usually get along very well. I wont say I havent flirted or sent him some naughty pics though. Heh, drunk nights.. anyway, I thought a night with some company would be better than me sobbing in a corner. We had some beers and i was incredibly high, though much of it was a body high, making movement harder than usual. We sat and talked like normal, but he then started being forward with me and i repeatedly shook my head at his advances.
    Ill admit to being an emotional wreck as of late. Life isnt easy in general, but the recent blow of being refused a chance with the man i REALLY wanted to be with that night.. who im so in love with… had really messed up my emotions. I wanted hugs and comfort and someone to tell me it would be ok. Thats what i needed.
    However, the more this guy pushed and questioned my logic, and physically turned me on, the more difficult it was for more me to deny, despite my many tries. He offered me a massage instead, which i took, fully knowing it would be a bad idea, but that part felt amazing and did my terrible back wonders. Obviously, he couldnt keep his hands to my back and extremities and at this point i realized i was already in his bed, naked and weak. Was there a point to fighting this now? When he was making me feel something other than my internal pain and depression? I wanted it, but i really, really didnt.

    He started kissing me and i shut my eyes. Its not so bad when im not looking right? It could be anyone.. i dont remember opening them until i gave him oral., Once again, it could be anyone right? That was also the first time i moved. When that was done, i went back to lying on my back, doing and saying nothing about it all. He continued .pleasuring me through various means and eventually got on top of me. That when it finally hit me. He rubbed against me and tried to go in, but i realized he didnt have a condom and my pregnancy paranoia kicked in, as well as that looming feeling that this is just NOT what i would like or enjoy or want to go through right now, regardless of all the protection in the world. I immediately gathered strength from seemingly nowhere, opened my eyes and pushed him off and said no no no no no no, i dont do that without protection and just.. no.
    I didnt explain myself. I didnt need to. He finally got the picture. He hugged me and snuggled against me and fell asleep. I eventually got up and woke him up, but it was pretty clear what i wanted when my clothes and shoes were on again. He let me out the door without a fight. I havent seen him at work yet, but im sure there will be strange vibes. Maybe we can talk about it later, but ill leave that for now.

    Im glad i refused him in the end, but im just mad that i let myself in the position to begin with. Im mad i let him get away with so much. I lost my inner fighter for moment. My sense of self worth and independence and dignity. And it wasnt even fun.. I never want to let that happen again. Im worth more than that and so are you. We are obligated to nothing. If you let your guard down, make sure theres no hesitation in the process. Do it because you want to and feel good about it and the person youre with and know it wont affect you negatively. I wont look at this s a mistake, but an experience that ive learned from. Ive learned more about myself and im sure it will help my continue to grow.

  2. I was really glad to read this. I used to have sex with my ex to make him like me again when he was being moody or if we had a little tiff. I didn’t want the sex (why would I want to sleep with someone who was treating me badly for no reason?!) but I wanted the bit that came after where he was friendly and loving again. When I plucked up the courage for telling him this he was nice, but then often when we had sex after that he’d keep asking me if it was what I really wanted, if I was just doing this because I felt I had to and idk, the way he’d say it made me feel like he was trying to guilt me or make me feel like I didn’t truly have agency in the relationship. I’m glad it’s over and I learnt a lot about patriarchy during that shit, unenthusiastic sex – it works in fucked up mysterious ways even in nice relationships.

  3. Thanks for this blog B – this sums up 90% of the sex I have had outside LTRs. I get into a position like you were on the sofa and then feel totally unable to say no, like I’m somehow obliged or I’d really hurt the other person’s feelings (this has happened with men and women). I put a lot of it down to this conditioning girls get to make everyone happy, be obliging, don’t hurt any feelings, facilitate everyone and everything. I’m not in my late 30s and despite being kinky, feminist and non-mono, I’m too scared of this scenario playing out once more so I just avoid sex. I hate that I’m like this, and despite all the therapy I’ve had and how feminist and sexually open-minded I am I cannot block these feelings. I met a sex therapist last month and am trying to arrange sessions with her, because I just cannot go on like this, I DESERVE proper, engaged, fabulous SEX goddammit!! So yes, thanks for sharing and making me feel less of a freak. But also to add – the guy SO should have sensed this and stopped FFS!

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