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How Often Should You Ask For Something?

Asking If you’ve asked for something sexual, and your partner has said “No” — or “No, not now, maybe some other time” — is it okay to ask again?

And if so… how often?

I was inspired to write this by a letter to Scarleteen, the sex advice Website for (primarily) teens and young adults. A 17-year-old girl has a boyfriend who wants to finger her — and he keeps asking for it. He says that he respects her right to say “No”… but he keeps bringing it up. Over and over again. Like, every time they do sexual stuff. She’s made it clear that she won’t be ready for that for a while; she’s told him, “Wait ’till I’m in college and we’ll see.” To which he says “Okay”… and then brings it up again the next time.

Scarleteen’s advice, in a very short oversimplified summary: “Asking for a particular sexual thing every time you have sex is not okay. It’s pressure, and it doesn’t count as taking ‘No’ for an answer.” And in my opinion, this advice is totally sound. Especially for this particular situation. No matter what broad general guiding principle we might come up with for “How often is it okay to ask again for something when your partner has said ‘No’?”, surely “Every single freaking time you have sex” has got to be an unacceptable answer. And when you’re talking to an audience of largely teenaged girls — many of whom have yet to develop strong No-saying skills — that goes double.

But while this one situation does seem to have a clear answer, it does raise some interesting broader questions. So again I ask: If you’ve asked for something sexual, and your partner has said “No” — or “No, not now, maybe some other time” — is it okay to ask again?

And if so… how often?


Thus begins my latest piece on the Blowfish Blog, How Often Should You Ask For Something? To read more about the blurry line between pressuring your partner and asking for what you want, read the rest of the piece. (And if you feel inspired to comment here, please consider cross-posting your comment to the Blowfish Blog — they like comments there, too.) Enjoy!


  1. says

    I think it’s all about context. Requests made in a sexual context can feel quite fraught, particularly if they’re repeated- repeatedly saying ‘no’ to the same act, time and time again, EVERY time, would, frankly, really turn me off. And annoy me. It’s not a fair situation and you’re left with a person who obviously really, really desires a particular act right then, and getting guilt-tripped for saying ‘no’ to that.
    I think that having a conversation every so often, in a non-sexual context is the way to go. It’s often easier to talk about desires and boundaries when it’s not about Right Now, and when your mind isn’t clouded by oceans of hormones sloshing about the place. Then you can get into what it is you’d like to do, why you’d like to do it, what kind of a boundary that act is for you, whether you’re ever likely to be interested in it, and whether (and when!) it’s okay to bring it up in an actual sexual context.

  2. says

    My Favorites say:
    Greta Christina: mind-blowing atheist.
    Met you in your article; “Do You Care Whether the Religious Ideas You Believe in are True or Not?”
    Already quoting you to friends and dreaming up a myriad of new bumper stickers…thank you. Ogden Lafaye

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