Sexual good manners

// 11 April 2008

The author of this guest post wishes to remain anonymous.

The debate about the BNP/chocolate cake analogy continues to rage, which made me want to share an experience, which still confuses me even after some time has passed.

I was seeing a man, with whom I’d been friends for some years before anything more happened. One night, things progressed into the bedroom, at which point he told me that he didn’t have any condoms, so we couldn’t have penetrative sex.

Fine by me, I said, and we continued with what we’d been doing. It was all perfectly lovely and we were both enjoying ourselves.

Until suddenly he manoeuvred himself on top of me and began trying to enter me.

“What are you doing?” was the obvious question.

He looked at me, bewildered – “We’re going to have sex.”

“No, we’re really, really not,” I told him, and pushed him off.

Except he didn’t think that was an end to the matter, and he tried again.

By this time, I was so angry and, yes, a bit frightened, that sex of any description was totally off the agenda. Again, I said no and pushed him off, and suggested that maybe we should get to sleep instead. He agreed. And then woke me up in the morning with a similar tactic – like a few hours’ sleep would have made a difference, or he didn’t think I’d notice, or something.

I still don’t know what I should have done, or whether I should do anything about it now. This was a long-standing friend, and a man I really liked. Did he think his persistence was in some way flattering? Should I have left after his first attempt at sex? Should I have talked to him about it afterwards? I don’t know. What I do know is that I came out of it feeling stupid and slightly violated and angry with myself. And I’m still friends with him.

Comments From You

Leigh Woosey // Posted 11 April 2008 at 10:40 am

Dear Guest Blogger,

I am really sorry to hear that you had such a lousy experience with a friend and sex. I think you behaved in an exemplary manner by defending yourself and sticking to your guns. You were not the one at fault here as it was your friend who was disregarding and disrespecting your boundaries and ruining the experience by forcing you to restate them. I have had similar experiences where penetrative sex was not possible due to lack of contraceptives and have never felt spurned or tried to press the issue because my concern for my partner always takes precedent of any desire for sexual activity. Alternative such as oral sex, mutual masturbation or just cuddling can provide intimacy and pleasure in ways that make up for (although not completely for everyone) penetration. Your friend may have felt frustrated by your totally justifiable refusal of penetrative sex but if he’d seen things from your point of view he would have been able to but that aside out of sympathy for your position. We all have a responsibility for the safety of our sexual partners and this requires educating ourselves so we know what factors are going to effect their decisions as well as expanding our sexual techniques and vocabularies to find alternatives to acttivities they are not comfortable with. I’m afraid your friend let you down and let himself down. If you want to talk to him about it I suggest being careful and starting off by explaining exactly why consent is paramount in sex, so that you have a common understanding from which you can move onto the specific incident of your night together. His persistence indicates that he saw nothing wrong with his actions and would probably be very defensive if you pointed out bluntly where he had gone wrong (sex is a vulnerable time for most people, so egos easily get bruised when discussing it). Now that time has passed he may have realised his mistake and be prepared to admit it. Meet him in a place where he feels comfortable but is public enough that he can’t get upset or offended at you if you want to discuss it.

In any case I hope you can find a way to move on with your friendship

Best wishes,

Leigh Woosey

Commenter // Posted 11 April 2008 at 10:55 am

Unfortunately you are not alone. I have had similar experiences. I’m even still friends with him. He’s still friends with my friends. Nobody knows anything. I still feel angry but I felt so stupid at the time that I couldn’t feel anything but I was in the wrong. I had sex with him later(because I’m an idiot and was very low at the time), he described me to mutual friends as a “warm dark moist place”(ie nothing more than a “warm dark moist place”). He later got accused of rape by someone else.

My advice would be not to keep it a secret from mutual friends and let him know how angry you are. If possible get rid of him as a friend. He has treated you very badly.

Nina // Posted 11 April 2008 at 11:43 am

You didn’t have sex because you didn’t want to, which makes you a normal person who can say no to friends who are a bit stupid. This is a difficult issue to comment on because politically all women are pressured to identify sex as very serious, identify potential rape, identify positive sex as something within societal rather than personal boundaries. I’ve been in this position and it didn’t bother me, that means nothing in relation to your experience. You need to decide how important this is to you but it clearly bothers you and that means you should take some action on it. Personally I don’t think male friends are people to fear, I think they’re people to talk to when something bothers you and if you can’t talk to him is he really a friend? If he can be assertive enough to try and have sex with you three times why shouldn’t you return the favour and be assertive enough to tell him he was being a…

Anne Onne // Posted 11 April 2008 at 3:45 pm

You did nothing wrong. Trying to think back what you might have done is pointless, because it puts the focus on you as if you had done something wrong, so I suggest try not to worry about what you might have done different.

It’s OK to feel let down and somehow violated, because you were. You said no, and a decent man would have waited until YOU suggested sex again, or asked politely (if I dunno quite a few hours had passed).

It is not right for a man to assume that he has consent unless pushed off, and that he can try again after a while, with the idea that he has your automatic consent, as if, after half an hour, your ‘no’ became a ‘yes’. It’s because that in his head, the default setting for a woman is always on ‘yes’, and if you were mad or uncomfortable, well, you’d get over it and switch back to yes.

We’re being let down by a sex education system that does not teach young men how to be considerate of their partners, leading them to only care about their own satisfaction. To men like your ‘friend’, their own fun matters so much more than that of their sexual partner, that they never even consider if you want sex, and seem surprised that after clearly indicating you are not interested, you don’t jump into bed with them five minutes later. Their expectations are wrong, selfish, and they don’t deserve to be protected and forgiven.

I’m glad that you managed to stick to your guns, and relieved that he didn’t go beyond trying his chances repeatedly.

I would advise women to leave, if they can, after a man tries it on twice after you clearly deny consent, but I understand it won’t always be possible. What is important to remember is that you are never at fault for putting your needs or desires first. As women, we are taught to think of all people above ourselves particularly men, but they are often taught to be selfish (not all, but we’re addressing the problem ones), and in turn, we need to be assertive.

At the same time, there will be instances where women fear to be assertive, and that is also understandable. You are not any more to blame for a rape or attempted rape if you are too afraid to resist than if you fight back. Just do whatever you think best at the time. Try to find supportive friends to talk to about it, and never blame yourself.

rose hasty // Posted 11 April 2008 at 4:53 pm

I think there are some really helpful comments here.

I was raped by an “acquaintance” who was part of the same group of friends as me. 3 of his ex girlfriends (also acquaintances of mine) approached me after his trial (of course he got away with his crime) to tell me he had been “pushy” with them. They described different levels of assault and violation. Not only had this man never been taught understanding of consent (ie in sex ed) but noone had ever corrected him on his ‘mistakes’ or shared with eachother that he had sexual issues. Worse still, the women who confided in me did not understand that the man had done wrong, only that their experiences had made them feel bad.

It showed me that men fail to take responsibility for their sexual coersion/force and women continually take responsibility for it. It also showed me that these sexual deviances, unchallenged can escalate into serious sexual violence and destroy lives.

Talk to him for his sake and yours and any future sexual encounter he has. He needs to understand the problem with his mindset regarding sex and consent.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 11 April 2008 at 8:16 pm

This is a case wherein the man believed ‘sex’ could not occur unless he penetrated you. But, sex is not just penetration it involves other acts, so I presume you both engaged in other sexual activity. Far too many men believe sex = penetration and if that does not occur ‘he has not had sex.’ Equally important is that both parties must always freely and mutually consent to any sexual activity because otherwise it is either rape or serious sexual assault.

This man obviously believed he was entitled to ‘have sex (sic) with your body.’ What this man did was to use coercion and pressure, but I do understand how difficult it is when a male partner appears to agree with a woman’s refusal to be penetrated and then later tries again to penetrate her body. It is called male sexual entitlement or rape in common language.

Seph // Posted 13 April 2008 at 9:52 pm

I’m sorry that happened to you, but you should feel proud for sticking to your first answer and pushing him away, i know too many women who think guys being “persistant” is “cute”

I’m still a virgin but have had several male ‘friends’ try to grope me or force sex onto me, it’s ridiculous that i’m actually uncomfortable being alone with male friends who are physically stronger than me, I don’t think any woman should have to choose her friends on the basis of wether she can push them off her or not.

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