As a man looking to grow, I’ve sought out life lessons learned by other men. Sometimes that comes through blogs, podcasts, videos, or 1-on-1 conversations.
Recently, I stumbled on a blog post entitled “I Promise, It’s Not Lame To Ask A Woman for Permission”, written by Dave Booda.
I was a bit leery when I started reading the title. Parts of me were being triggered.
Ask a woman for permission? But it’s obvious that if she doesn’t say NO, then she’s enjoying it. Right?
But once I finished the article, my perspective changed.
I thought I understood everything there is to know about consent. No means NO. Yes means YES. And if she doesn’t stop me then everything is okay. It’s that simple.
But that’s NOT how it works.
My Personal Encounters
I’m not the kind of guy who keeps count of his sexual partners, but I am able to recall my first encounters with each partner. After reading this article and reflecting back on my first encounters, each scenario played out similarly to the one Booda describes:
… clothes were coming off and body parts were being pushed together, but there was never any words exchanged, or verbal confirmation that we both wanted to have sex. I simply made a move, and she didn’t say no.
I leaned in for a kiss, she didn’t say no.
I put my hands on her breasts, she didn’t say no.
I reached down her pants, she didn’t say no.
I went through the motions, all the way up to and through intercourse, and she didn’t say no, so I assumed she was enjoying herself and everything was good.
The scene was all too familiar to me. With some of my partners, our first encounter ended with sex. With others, it ended just short of it. But in every case, there was never verbal agreement that anything leading up to sex, including sex itself, was desired by both parties.
I thought I understood what it’s like to be a woman. I thought I was a good guy who made the effort for women to be comfortable around me during sex. But Booda explores this a bit deeper:
I’ve never said no to someone and been afraid they would become violent. I’ve never walked through a crowded bar and been afraid someone will grope me.
When I began to understand this, it changed the way I talked to women about sex. I needed them to understand that my standard of “yes” was no longer “I’m ok with this” as it was in the past, but nothing short of a 100% enthusiastic, full-body yes.
I was also clear that I would celebrate their “no”, if that was true for them.
I would explain to them that “no” was just as valuable to me as “yes”, because the goal wasn’t to move things forward sexually, it was to create an environment where we felt both the freedom to speak into what we wanted and the patience to discover what that is.
These practices really opened my eyes. I recently began living my life in accordance to the “HELL YES” or “NO” principle. If I’m making a decision in my life, and it’s not an absolute, 100% yes, then it’s a no. I don’t apply this to everything, but I use it regularly and especially for big decisions.
So why wouldn’t a woman to apply the same principle when it comes to sex? And why shouldn’t I communicate and create a space for her to decide HELL YES or NO and celebrate that decision with her, regardless of what it is.
That’s another thing I never did. If I was intimate with a woman, and she decided she didn’t want to have sex with me, I wouldn’t celebrate her decision. Sometimes I’d go silent and stop dead in my tracks. Sometimes I’d give a sigh of disappointment, and say, “Are you sure?” or flash a smile and call her a TEASE. Whatever I did, the subtext was lined with guilt.
How can I expect a woman to fully open her heart if, by not getting what I want, I plague her with guilt?
It Starts With Men
Booda goes on to describe what’s keeping men from fully experiencing amazing sex with women:
The more I stressed the importance of communication with women I was with, the better my experiences became. The more I slowed down our interaction and brought awareness to speaking our desires, the hotter we would get for each other.
I started having experiences that were incredibly fulfilling both sexually and emotionally. Women would tell their friends about me. One even joked about starting a yelp page and writing me a 5-star review.
And yet, when I would explain this to men and enroll them in the idea of allowing a woman’s desires to lead the interaction versus their agenda for sex, I would occasionally get the comment “but that sounds so lame”.
I used to think that too. In fact, I even know where it comes from.
It’s ignorant to believe that my experience as a man is the same as her experience as a woman. It’s ignorant to think that because I feel good with moving things forward that she would too.
As men, we need to be open-minded and empathize to a woman’s experience in the world. Until we fully understand what a woman goes through on a day-to-day, and this includes sexual experiences, we won’t be able to fully understand or receive the gifts she has to offer: the full freedom to express herself wholeheartedly.
This means creating a safe space.
This means listening with your FULL presence.
This means asking how she feels without judgment.
When we don’t provide these things, women can’t trust us. And if they don’t trust us, they don’t feel safe. And when a woman doesn’t feel safe, she’s holding back a part of herself; constantly guarded.
Since I’ve started this path to empower men to be strong, grounded men, I’ve had many conversations with women regarding my work. Some courageously shared their sexual experiences. And too often I hear the same thing: women left feeling guilt, shame, and unsafe after sexual encounters.
Some men don’t know how to create a safe space for a woman to truly feel safe; safe enough to say NO without fear of judgment, guilt, shame, or violence.
As men, we can’t let “getting laid” be the primary objective to connect with women without recognizing the importance of communication and consent. The goal needs to be a 100%, unequivocal YES for both parties to having sex with each other. I’ll admit that sex was my primary goal for many moments in my life. I placed more importance on getting sex over trust and deep connection.
As a culture, men have learned that it’s okay to move towards sex without communication. Popular media’s definition of consent is ambiguous. Think about our culture’s sources for sex education: typically a few classes or programs in junior high or high school; maybe a conversation with our parents. But the majority of our education comes from sex scenes in film, television, and pornography. Looking back, that’s how I learned to communicate with women during sex.
The only way to change this is through awareness. We need to continue talking about these topics openly – men especially. When it comes to trust, communication, consent and sex, men often get uncomfortable or refer to these topics as “lame” or “gay”. But when we don’t talk about, we’re only hurting ourselves and the opportunity to experience deep connections with women.
Because Booda’s post had such a profound impact on how I view sex, communication, and consent, I think it’s appropriate that he wraps up this post.
When women don’t feel safe, they don’t want to have sex. Then because no one is having sex it becomes scarce, and men chase after it more, and women withhold it more, and we have to play games to coerce each other to get something we both already wanted in the first place.
Welcome to the insanity of today’s culture.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are places on earth where women feel safe and men take a stand for things like permission and true consent. I’ve been there, and you know what happens at these places? People have a lot of sex, and they feel great afterwards.
When women don’t have a voice, everyone loses.
But when women have a voice, everyone wins.
Which world are you helping create?