Last post we talked about three main barriers in today’s society when it comes to understanding sexual consent. Let’s dive into the ways in which these biases can support nonconsensual behaviour, and hopefully we can unpack some things with compassion for both ourselves and our partners past and present.
Gender Biases have been heavily researched, and are one of the prime culprits that support sexual violence. Depending on the messages we receive (at home, at school, at church, in our peer groups, from media and pop culture etc) about gender, we likely formed deeply rootes biases that impact our view of sexuality, sexual acts and intimate relationships. Even if we disagree with these gender stereotypes, they still impact our subconscious decision making.
When we talk about these biases in a blunt way, many people reject the notion that anything or anyone in today’s society could possible fall prey to these biases. Hearing them out loud is startling in its obviously problematic frameworks. Yet, these ideas are a huge part of the societal foundation of sexual and intimate violence.
Folks who have penises are sexual aggressors and folks with vaginas are gate keepers.
Let’s note some social scripts taught to us by modelling, cute common phrases, movies etc:
-If she says no, woo her harder
-If she is reluctant, just grab her and kiss her
-Real men (insert bizarre masculine standard here)
-Men can’t help but want sex when ….
-She’s playing hard to get
-Women like a man who takes control
-Nothing worth having is ever easy
-Boys need sex, girls need love
-Men having lots of lovers is natural, women should be chaste
I can go on for hours, about the many ways in which we have taught and been taught that we either have no control over ourselves, or are responsible for controlling others. Hopefully we all understand that our genitals do not control us. That ”boys” can and do experience a wider range of emotion other than rage and lust, that they are not going to fall into a lusty fit of fucking at the sight of an ankle, breast or even the shortest skirt in the history of the planet. That “girls” can indeed feel intense desire, and that their worth is not in one iota diminished if they choose to explore sexual activities. That no one ever HAS TO touch us or allow us to touch them intimately.
So likely we do not, as adults, run up to someone we find attractive and push them into a snow bank, even though as children we may have been taught that this is a normal sign of affection. But most of us do continue to express these ideas with subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) microaggressions and other nonnconsensual behaviors and attitudes.
Chances are we have felt cranky with a lover or partner when they are not interested in having sex with us when we are in the mood. We might have complained to a partner when they tell us (or hint at us) no. This is a socially taught idea that our partner/spouse/lover is responsible for our sexual satisfaction. But are they?
If my sex drive is higher than my partner’s, are they actually obliged to want to allow me to use their body to masturbate? Because if they are not feeling it, that is pretty much what I am demanding-that their body be available to me if I am feeling lusty. If they want to engage in a specific activity, and it is not to my liking, am I obliged to meet that desire?
(Hint, no. No one is ever responsible for your sexual desire other than you, and no one owes you a body part for you to get off with).
What of that tendency we have to complain at our partner about our mismatched sex drive? What of our habbit of pleading or whining or guilting a partner into having sexual contact with us? Technically, this is sexual coercion. Once someone has been asked if they are interested and they do not give you a clear yes, the answer is now. The ball should be in their court, allowing them to come back to us if they change their mind.
You might be wondering why it is coercion:
Once someone has indicated they are not wanting to do something (by saying no, or by not saying YES!), if we continue to whine, beg, complain etc we are clearly letting them know that their interest is not what we are after. We are pressuring them to say yes or face the ugly consequences of our dissapointment, our dissatisfaction, our disgruntlement. Asking over and over again, or putting someone in a position to constantly be rebuffing our advances, is a form of emotional blackmail, where we clearly indicate our sexual needs take precedence over the other person’s enjoyment.
Another not so endearing sexual habit we may have is to take any indication of closeness as an invitation for sex. If everytime your partner kisses you, you assume they want to fuck, soon they are not going to want to kiss you UNLESS they want sex. If everytime they relax and cuddle up you are reaching for genitals, they are not going to want to cuddle unless they want sex. It can be exhausting to continuously have to say no to sexual overtures, and the fact that so many of us are willing to wear someone down to a tired ‘fine, do it’ is a not so shiney example of how our culture has taught us that getting sex is a win.
So what does consensual sex look like? Coming up next!