I matched with a guy who checked all the boxes. He was older than 30. Not a frat boy. Had a job. Benefits. Wanted a God-centered family, had friends, and was pleasant to look at.
Even better, he was intentional. He texted me, called me, followed up, and I responded.
And then I turned him down.
At first I felt guilty – how dare I turn away a perfectly nice guy who was interested? How dare I look down my nose at someone who’s crossed my path and actually paid attention to me and wasn’t a certifiable creep?
Something felt weird, though, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
I spent a couple days torn between my head (He’s nice! Smart! Interested! Socially acceptable! Not looking to just get laid!) and my gut (This just feels wrong. Why did I wake up to four texts and a Bible quote when we’ve only spoken once?).
My gut was saying get away! My head was screaming get over it!
But then- then!- my finger landed on the point my gut had been trying to make.
I felt like I owed him.
I don’t think that was his intention, but I still felt I had to keep up with the level of interest he was showing me. It started to feel pushy, not to mention ever-so-slightly delusional (why are you already so into me it’s only been four days you don’t know me). In the end, I just felt weird and I said goodbye.
Sounds lame and felt lame, because what kind of excuse is that? I felt weird. Boo hoo. But then, my gut – that wise, mysterious organ of intuition – brought me to another point.
I don’t owe anyone anything.
My discomfort is reason enough to step back. That needs to be okay.
Allowing the spirit of paying debts and fulfilling obligations to weigh me down is a social norm that might be harmless now but has the potential to spiral out of control. It is the mild-mannered gremlin with the capacity to evolve into something much more threatening.
For instance: When he takes the time to call do I owe him one tomorrow? When he puts in the effort to set up dinner, am I obligated to attend a second one? When he pays for drinks must I stay for dessert? A kiss? A hand job? Sex?
Dating cannot be transactional.
Dating must be respectful.
He may have called, and I may have answered. We may have talked, and I may have been interested. He may have complimented me, and I may have been grateful. But then I was done, and I should not let these deeply ingrained, transactional, cultural standards pressure me any further.
It is time for me to practice ‘no means no’ in a much lower-stakes scenario. I’m now free to learn what I want to say no to and adopt my standards well before I’m faced with a situation where I feel like I want to say no but I feel like I can’t say no because the sense that I owe someone something has overpowered it.
It’s time I practice making my own decisions and becoming obedient to my own intuition before the “you’re such a flirt” or “why’d you turn me on” or “but I want you” beckons the guilt back home. Before “don’t you want to make your man happy” feels less like a request and more like a demand to perform sexual services that no, I don’t want to provide if that’s what it takes to make you happy, especially at the expense of my security, safety, or preferences.
I must reserve the right to step back. We all must. Being uncomfortable should be an acceptable enough reason to do so.
I need to let it mean enough to me first. Men next.
In that same spirit, I’m going to bring up some things again that’ve gotten lost somewhere in my Instagram feed so they can get lost somewhere in my blog feed.
I repeat- again, I repeat: ‘No means yes and yes means anal’ is NOT a funny joke.
This is a PSA for the creepos that’ve said it and a validation for the rest of us who’ve looked on confused.
When we’ve agreed to become involved with one another, be that for a casual evening, a relationship, a marriage, or otherwise, we are agreeing to take on a small sliver of responsibility for that person. That person should be handled with care. With respect.
This means we are listening to the requests of that person and then ACTUALLY TAKING THEM SERIOUSLY.
Behaving in a way that falls short of this, actually being douche-y enough to ignore someone’s NO, or joking about such inappropriate behavior is ridiculous. Ignoring consent is not funny, it never should have been, and it never will be to people who actually have fully formed brains.
Let’s also agree that ‘no means no’ is one of the weaker mantras we stand behind. At this point, evolved as we are, we shouldn’t be pushing each other so far that we’ve had to turn boundaries into a catchy marketing platform. As if they’re new.
Best practice: Ask for permission, not forgiveness. Don’t put people you date and love and care for in a place where they are on the defensive, awkwardly defending their decision to take your hands off their chest because choosing to kiss you did not also mean she wanted hands in her bra.
So. To be perfectly clear. Me agreeing to step one did not automatically mean I wanted step two. You greedily taking what you assumed was yours is rude- you wouldn’t help yourself to my pantry without asking, my underwear drawer, my makeup box, the pages of my journal- and in the world of intimacy, behavior like that is barbaric and is also actually considered assault.
This is especially true when I’ve been clear about what I did or did not want, you knew that, but then you tried it anyway.
Of course, there’s also those scenarios where no isn’t clearly communicated. Where it’s happened too quickly, where there’s a power imbalance, or where there’s simply confusion. Does that mean we assume all is fair in love and sex and take whatever the heck we want? Or does that mean we assume people have more boundaries than they’ve yet had the chance to describe? In practice it’s the former. Best to assume the latter.
Also worth considering, what do we say about the situations where seduction has played a part? Where person A pushed the line so subtly and slowly that person B hardly noticed what was happening until it was too late and their no got lost in hormones and habits and appetite and then, even if mentioned, feels a little less meaningful because it’s a little more breathless and maybe the body now wants something that the heart and the head didn’t plan on.
If we consider drunk college girls as incapable of providing complete consent, should we also consider consent incomplete when the body has been coerced, seduced, and is now practically drunk in a haze of endorphins? If nothing else, at the very least, it is altered.
This becomes dangerous, especially when those seductions and coercions aren’t anchored in love or respect. Especially when those seductions are based in self-focused hunger. Especially when she’d made it clear days and weeks and months ago that she’d really feel most respected when you did/did not do X but you kept at it anyway because she looked hot or you were horny or she wasn’t complaining so that probably meant it was fine.
FYI that does not mean it was fine.
Don’t take what does not belong to you.
Don’t push for a no. Listen for a yes.
Then let ‘I’m uncomfortable’ be reason enough.
We’ll practice that together.