I am visiting South Africa. I’m staying in a beautiful apartment overlooking the ocean, I am all alone, and my sex drive has been insane.
I figured it would be nice to go on a date with a guy from Okcupid, maybe have some casual sex, and never see him again. I searched, found many possibly eligible men, but none really pushed me over the ‘action’ cliff. And so I spent nights alone, drinking wine on an empty vagina.
Why couldn’t I get laid? Why wasn’t I letting myself get laid? Why did I have these impossible standards about who I fucked when it didn’t really matter in the long run? I would obviously enjoy it while it was happening. I was cockblocking myself and I hated it.
I want to make clear that my following explanations for my behavior are not describing a conscious decision, but rather a framework for what must be happening behind the scenes.
Saying no to sex is a form of power – not because I want it to be, but because of the way the system is set up.
A lot of men are willing to sleep with me (as they are willing to sleep with nearly all young women) and saying ‘no’ to them all is kind of power, because it means
A: Men want something (me), and B: They cannot get the something – because I’m the sexual ‘selector’ and thus sexually superior to them.
I only say ‘yes’ to men I find sexually superior to myself. If a popular, handsome, and charming movie star – say a generic Chad McMuscles – came around and paid attention to me, I would probably at least start out with sexual interest, because he would be the most sexually superior mate. I assume I must be very motivated to have superior mate in my vagina, because I assume I’m programmed to try to produce the best baby, and settling for an inferior mate is just not great for my line of DNA.
This means that when I say yes to Chad McMuscles, I’m essentially telling him that he is the hottest/smartest/most intriguing man who’s paid attention to me – but more importantly, I am admitting he’s the best I can get. I’m submitting my sexual power, in a way, and it’s a very vulnerable position to be in.
This might be fine, because fancy moviestar Chad McMuscles is pretty high hanging fruit – but the problem is my subconscious brain doesn’t think so. My subconscious brain is an asshole.
“Are you sure you can’t do better?” it whispers to me (usually on the first date when he asks if I want to go back to his place). “Are you really going to let him know he’s the best you can possibly get? Your power is in saying no. You’re about to say yes. Are you sure you should be saying yes? Is this a good choice? You know you lost all your superpowers, right? Is this worth it? Is it?!?”
Of course this is very silly. I frequently just ignore this stupid voice because I am an adult and I like sex. I also frequently ignore it because the kind of people I like and respect as individuals are people who aren’t generally very good at triggering the primal side of me, and if I want to be intimate with them, I have to shut myself up, usually with copious amounts of alcohol.
But I do think this has had an effect on what I like in bed. Forceful sex is a primal way of taking away the stress of choosing a sufficiently high status mate – that I am not admitting anything about my sense of sexual self worth by having sex with his person.
And I think it feels so freeing because I no longer have to worry about whether or not I’m giving up power. It tricks me into feeling that I did not say yes to this. I am not giving up power. There is nothing wrong with my sexual value because I neither asked for it nor allowed it. Really, it just reaffirms my ideal view of the world – of course a man would want to have sex with me so bad that he would ignore my ‘no’.
I trick my primal brain into believing this, and then it allows me to enjoy sex.
Now, I’ve been followed and chased twice before – one involved chestkicking a man out of my apartment door when he tried to shove in after me, and the other involved a man trying to grab me in a dark alley in the middle of the night. Both were absolutely terrifying and horrible and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.
But those events later turned into sexual fantasies. I felt fucked up because it turned me on, like it shouldn’t, like I was betraying some sort of moral code, or admitting a victory to those horrible men, by allowing myself to fantasize about it.
At some point I just have to throw my hands up. I’m not going to judge myself for the things that get me going. I engage in safe, consensual play. I in no way condone actually forcing anybody into a sexual experience against their will.
I don’t know how many other women experience this sort of mindset. Part of me wants to think it’s widespread, because a lot of women are into rough stuff, and the idea of a woman demonstrating sexual value by loudly rejecting men is a
Men don’t really get the same message. Generally you don’t hear them bragging about how they said no to all the women. Men get the message of sexual value by getting lots of women to say yes (cue every single music video of rappers coated in a writhing blanket of womanflesh). When men do brag about being “too sexy for you” it’s almost always done for comedy.
(disclaimer: this seems to be the case regarding initial dating or flirtations with the opposite sex, or pure sexual desire. Messages about love and relationships are a whole different category.)
It doesn’t seem like too big a leap to hypothesize that maybe this emphasis on a woman’s sexual value in rejecting leads to anxiety about accepting. And in a world where rejecting sex is celebrated as a status symbol of value, this may be what leads to slut shaming – where those who accept too much are viewed as having given up their status symbol.
So… maybe we should stop celebrating women who say no?