Saturday, October 24, 2009

making love or having sex?

I could had sex tonight. It wouldn't have been that hard to nudge Sue along in that direction. Nudge her just over the edge on which she seems to be sitting.

I decided not to.

Why not?

Puritanical self denial? Obsessive compulsive determination? A loss of my own libido?


The real reason is, I don't want to go back to the chaser/chasee cycle that Sue and I were in for the year or two (or more) before I took my private vow.

After all this time, I could get her into bed, and she would be wanting to go there to please me, to move on, to move this all forward.

But she wouldn't want to be going there for herself. It would be starting off on the wrong foot; taking a step in the wrong direction.

Making love to a woman who isn't REALLY there -- who doesn't REALLY want to be with you, who is not sharing the experience with you -- that's not making love. That's not even having sex. It's masturbating into someone's vagina.

Sue and I had the BIG talk (though with much yet to say) a week or two ago.

Things are changing for the better. Glacially slow, but changing nonetheless.

Until then, I want to wait until she is ready to make love to me. Knowing that I could persuade her to have sex just isn't good enough.


  1. this really struck me deep... I don't know why you are where you are but I totally respect your point made here. Thank you..

  2. This is really very heartwarming. Lots of guys just don't GET this kind of sentiment, don't really care if their partner is enjoying sex. At best, their attitude is "Well I want her to enjoy it ideally, but if she's not it's OK as long as she doesn't shove me off her." Maybe you were one of those guys once; your descriptions of your former attitude sounds like maybe. If that's true, it's encouraging to know that not only can that attitude change, but it may change all on it's own from simple genuine introspection.

    What you describe is actually a pretty hot topic in the feminist blogosphere. It's called a "yes means yes" (as opposed to "no means no") approach to rape and sex. A lot of anti-rape activism uses "No means no" slogans to tell guys to really listen when a woman says "no". Which is true. But it's also really problematic since it assumes that women are always (or usually) O.K. with sex, that the only thing that matters is that they don't say "no." But in reality, there are many situations in which a woman doesn't feel comfortable saying no, or in which she's really not in the mood to have sex at that moment but saying no will start an argument. Or saying no means they must discuss their relationship and they're really not in the mood. Or...there's tons of reasons why a woman would not really want to have sex but not actually want to give a solid "no" to her partner (as you probably can imagine).

    So the new(ish) idea is to focus more on a "Yes means yes" approach: Partners (both men and women!) only assume sex is OK with their partner's enthusiastic consent and participation (vs. "meh, fine" or resignation or whatever). Obviously, it's only partially useful for formal legal applications, but it's really a great idea (I think) for changing us culturally. Sex which your partner didn't really want to have, in which s/he "gave in" but didn't really say no may not be rape (and said partner probably would not define it as such), but it's not acceptable sex. It's not healthy.

    You clearly honor Susan's firm no's and unspoken messages (or you wouldn't have created your vow in the first place! another reason I admire it), which is great. But the key is to go from avoiding no's to getting yeses from her. And that's what you are doing. It's even better. It shows a level of understanding and consideration for your partner that means you truly value her as a person — her feelings, her experiences, and her pleasure really matter to you. Her feelings are more important than your immediate pleasure. THAT is what makes a marriage one of the soul, instead of just a piece of paper. THAT attitude is what creates a true partnership, one born not out of convenience or mutual toleration, but love.

    Personally, I think the "yes means yes" perspective is the ideal for relationships. That's what we all (women included) dream about! Who seriously thinks "I'm OK with my partner having unenthusiastic sex that s/he doesn't really want, as long as I get me some"? As you said, it's basically just masturbating using another person instead of your own hand. Hell, I actually PREFER masturbation to the certain knowledge that my partner is just counting the seconds (minutes?) until it's over. When I've gone through some "*sigh* Yeah I guess we can do it" situations, it kills my self-esteem. I don't WANT to have sex with someone who doesn't want it. That's normal. Viewing sex as a chore, or an annoyance, or something to endure isn't healthy for either partner. You BOTH deserve to have sex you enjoy.

    And again, your insistence on holding your relationship to this ideal standard (though it SHOULD be the default!) says a lot about how much you care about Susan. Working through her abuse will likely take years. Patience is absolutely required. But in recognizing that she should want and enjoy sex, and part of your job as a partner who loves her is to make sure she's not pressured and really wants you, you WILL be helping her heal. Because that is the complete and total opposite of rape.

    I wish you the best of luck!

  3. I decided to post this separately because a) the comment form told me it was too long when included above, and b) it doesn't apply to your described relationship with Susan. Regarding the "yes means yes" concept:

    This helps with rape too, since it clears up the "She never said 'No'!" situation. I think it also clarifies areas where the perpetrator may genuinely think they didn't hurt their partner, or that it wasn't their fault because their partner didn't protest or stop them from what they were doing. If he just switches his point of view to the "I need to make sure she's OK with this first, and it's my responsibility to make sure it's ok instead of her responsibility to stop me if it's not" then the misunderstanding* probably never would happen.

    (* I think the vast majority of guys know in their gut, if they are honest with themselves, whether their partner is OK with what's going on, and it's not a "misunderstanding" as such but rather a deliberate choice to play dumb and ignore anything that's not a firm verbal "no" — but even giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming they are genuinely clueless, if they switch to the "my job to make sure it's ok" paradigm, theoretically the problem is solved.)

    For more on the "yes means yes" concept, and to get a more specific situation in which this applies, feel free to check here. Keep in mind that there's quite a debate over whether to call such situations "rape" — part of which is compounded by those who refuse to label anything as rape that would not result in a conviction by a jury, despite the fact that most rapes boil down to he said/she said situations that can't result in conviction but that doesn't mean it wasn't rape — but it's also pretty clear that, formally labeled "rape" or not, sex without an enthusiastic "yes" sucks on a whole lot of levels.


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