The other night something kind of strange happened to me.
I was out with a guy I’ve been talking to on and off for months. We had great chemistry, were attracted to each other and were out drinking. The night was getting late so I asked what his plans were for after the bar. He said he had no plans, so I took what I thought was an opening to throw out a little “so, your place or mine?”. His answer?
No, not tonight.
He had his reasons, but only one really mattered: he just plain didn’t want to. My reaction? I felt shock, then annoyance, then embarrassment at being rejected. I said goodbye and headed home, feeling miffed and perplexed.
I woke up with those feelings still slightly lingering, then realized something.
There’s always a sense of shock when a man turns down the offer of sex from a woman. The general assumption is that men never turn down the chance to get some, especially since they spend most of their existence in pursuit of it. As a result, it seems we women expect every offer of sex to be accepted enthusiastically. When it isn’t, that shock and subsequent feeling of rejection leads to some pretty stupid questions.
“Wow, he must be crazy!”
“What’s wrong with him? Isn’t that what all guys want!”
“What’s wrong with me? Did I do something to turn him off?”
I had at least one of these thoughts as I left the bar, shaking my head at what had just transpired. Randomly, I ran into a friend, who kindly dropped me off at my apartment on his way home. I took the short cab ride as a chance to vent about my night, and my rejection, and his reaction was pretty much the same as mine (but more complimentary because he’s a doll that way). He was coming from a place of being my friend and obviously wanting me to have lots of great sex in my life, but also from that same space of believing that this type of thing never happens.
But the reality is, men have just as much right as women to turn down sex whenever they want.
This sense of expectation that women have when it comes to men wanting sex all the time is fairly ingrained. It’s probably because we are all conditioned to believe that men want sex all the time, the same way men are conditioned to believe that they have the right to a woman’s body whenever they want. The latter also greatly contributes to the former train of thought.
While the burden should and does rest on men to change how they view and treat women, ideas that women hold about men and their own right to their sexuality and bodies needs to change as well. Yes, men aren’t being raped by women at the same alarming rate, but that mentality that many women have, myself apparently included, contributes to the lack of mutual respect that feeds rape culture.
Another pertinent but very different example: I was hosting my Handsome International Men Show last weekend. For context, it’s a Magic Mike Style show where men dance and take some clothing off for the entertainment of women. One of my female staff came up to be with a look of disgust on her face. It turns out a woman in the audience was groping the dancers as they came on and off stage. She was doing this in full view of security, laughing and joking with her friends every time she did it (yes, it was multiple times). Pretty gross right?
Once we saw her do it again, one of the bouncers threw her out of the club, much to her shock and dismay. Sadly, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence, and neither was her reaction.
“I’m a woman, what’s the big deal?”
If she was a man and the dancers were female, she would have been out on her ass instantly. But because she was a woman, she thought she could get away with it, and was surprised when she didn’t. And that right there is beyond problematic.
Consent is a two-way street. Each one of us has autonomy over our bodies and ours alone. No one else has the right to touch us, to have sex with us, or truly to even expect to have sex with us. Every human has the right to turn down sex whenever they want.
We would vilify a man for being annoyed that woman didn’t want to have sex with him. A man expecting sex from a woman is nearly a crime in itself by our standards these days, and that’s how it should be. But it should go the other way as well.
I’m a total asshole for expecting a guy to come home with me just because we’ve been flirting and drinking for a few hours. I’m an even bigger asshole for being annoyed by it. The sad and scary part is though, where I went home to nurse my ego, as we all know, if the situation were reversed, a man may not have taken such a passive path. The entitlement issue is the core of the problem, the actions that result from that entitlement day in and day out are what we now refer to as rape culture. And while I hate that term, I hate more that we live in a world where it has to exist at all.
Men have a ton of work to do to right the wrongs that continue to happen to women by their and their fellow men’s hands. But women need to acknowledge that our skewed view of men and their own sexuality, however rooted in experience as it might be, contributes to that problem.
Until we can be respectful to one another, these issues will not not go away. Each of us has some work to on ourselves to break those weird ideas that are so deeply entrenched in us. So let’s all go out there and have safe, awesome, respectful sex with people who are just as into it as you are, and things may just start changing for the better.