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Sexually confused – when no is a game

This article first appeared on PublicHouse.sg.

As a follow up to an earlier piece “Sexual Consent: When no is really no“, I would like to discuss when the act of saying no is actually a game women play; or, when no is actually a heavily coded yes.

When I first read this piece “No” Means “No.” So Why Do Some Women Teach Men It Means “Maybe?” written by Roland Hulme, it resonated with me. Women are quick to pounce on men who do not take no for an answer – surely one no should suffice, and women should not need to repeat themselves. But what if men are confused about the no women are saying?

In his article, Hulme shared how, many years ago, he backed off when a woman he was expecting to have sex with said no. He stopped what he was doing, thinking the no was an actual no, and then the young woman promptly went to another room and had sex with someone else. She had apparently meant “yes” with her “no”. The experience bothered him for years – as it would for most people if they could not figure out what they did wrong.

Things fell in place for Hulme when he came across the concept of LMR, or Last Minute Resistance by MTV’s Pick-Up Artist Erik von Markovik. Also known as ASD, or Anti-Slut Defense, it appears to be an interrupt mechanism to help her avoid being perceived as a slut, or feeling like she is one to herself. I might even call it part of the game of playing hard-to-get.

Because this was such a timely article in view of recent happenings in Singapore – SlutWalk Singapore, the launch of AWARE’s Sexual Assault Befrienders Service, and legal discussions about sexual consent – I reposted Hulme’s article with the comment on Facebook: “While men should get no means no, this man highlights how some women have been encouraging men to do the opposite for decades. Lets get better in speaking our truth!”

I did not expect the kind of ferocity that lay behind a comment by a friend:

“Sure! Let’s put the blame back on women! Come on… as a woman it’s fun (and an important part of foreplay!) to feel ‘conquered’ by desire. Your own and his. Only a moron can’t tell the difference between a real “no” (as in ‘f*** off you a***** and get off of me already’ kind of “no”) and a playful ‘no’ (usually accompanied by some tantalizingly seductive body language ;-)”

Here is a friend whom I have long thought of as an empowered individual, and she is calling men who can’t read body language (when accompanied by negative actual language) morons? She is talking about putting up a LMR or ASD. To her, that’s a core erotic theme, but she is indignant that I would suggest that women should speak their truth about their sexual desires?

I responded:

“Nobody was blaming anyone here. Sure I understand what you are saying, but it is not fun or funny when women are getting raped for men who (these women) really meant no. It is about being congruent verbally and physically, and sometimes sending mixed signals only leads to frustration for the men, or dire consequences.”

I am no prude. I can imagine that perceived resistance or a playful no can add to a woman’s allure. But, surely, there is merit in communicating your sexual intentions not just physically but also verbally, so there is no confusion or room for misinterpretation. What of the women who are raped because men are taking their no as a big fat joke? Do they deserve to be violated? What of the men who are not good in non-verbal communication, who end up confused like Hulme, or worse, commit a (non-violent) violation simply through the lack of communication from the woman?

Her reply:

“Hmmm … It still sounds to me like you’re implying that it’s the women who are sending mixed signals … not the men who don’t know how to read them as something other than what they want to read. I doubt that any woman who felt raped and protested during the act would feel it’s fair on her to say she sent mixed signals when she told him to stop.”

Me:

“I did not imply anything. I was saying we need to be clear about what we want and communicate it so there is no misunderstanding. To call men who can’t read your body language signals morons is to assume that all men are made equally. Discernment is needed in each situation. You are choosing to read my words in a way that seems convenient to your purpose of engaging in some kind of debate. Sorry I am stepping on your toes. Please go post elsewhere and leave me alone.”

I was angry. Women who persist in saying no verbally and communicating yes physically are indeed, by definition, sending mixed signals. Of course they do not deserve to be raped (no one does) but they certainly could do better at speaking up – speaking their truth. I found myself now siding with all the confused men out there who don’t know how to read such signals – the men this friend called morons.

Her reply:

“Whoa … where did that reaction come from??? If you don’t want people to engage in meaningful discussions with you on interesting topics you post, what’s the point in posting them? No reason to make things personal, Martha. Relax.”

My last response was:

“Didn’t seem as though you wanted to discuss anything but focused on interpreting my words your way. I could say ditto to you.”

Was I taking it personal? Was I unfair? Should women stop putting up LMR or ASD or playing hard-to-get? Discuss. And remember, there’s nothing wrong in being genuine.

———————

Sexual assault can be extremely traumatic. AWARE now has a Sexual Assault Befrienders Service (SABS). SABS Befrienders will accompany a sexual assault victim to the police, the hospital, or to court. They also provide information and emotional support to guide and help the victim through the various legal and medical processes. This service operates Mondays to Fridays from 10a.m. to 9:30p.m. The helpline is (65) 6779-0282; email sabs@aware.org.sg.

Dr Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching in Singapore. She is a certified sexuality educator with AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists), as well as certified sexologist with ACS (American College of Sexologists). She holds a Doctorate in Human Sexuality from Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality as well as certificates in practical counselling, life coaching and sex therapy. She is available to provide sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conduct sexual education workshops and speak at public events in Asia. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com.

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