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Jun 17 2010

How Often Should You Ask For Something? Part 2: The Specifics

Asking When it comes to asking for what we want in bed, how do we draw the line between asking and pressuring?

In last week’s column, I wrote about a letter to Scarleteen, the sex advice Website for (primarily) teens and young adults. In this letter, a 17-year-old girl complained about her boyfriend who said he respected her sexual limits, but then kept asking for the same thing… over and over and over again. Scarleteen suggested that, since the boyfriend had made his desires clear, the ball was now in her court: his continued requests had crossed the line into pressuring, and he should bloody well knock it off.

Now, like I said last week, when it comes to the particular circumstances of this particular letter, this principle is very clear-cut. No matter what you might decide about the nuances and gray areas of “asking versus pressuring,” surely “asking for the same damn thing every single time you have sex with someone when they’ve clearly said ‘I’m not ready for this now and won’t be until at least (X)’” lands squarely on the “pressuring” end of that spectrum. Scarleteen’s advice on that front was entirely solid. If anything, I’d argue that they cut this guy too much slack. Personally, I’d be less inclined to advise his girlfriend to have a serious heart-to-heart about why he keeps bringing this up when she’s made her limits very clear… and more inclined to advise her, as Dan Savage so often does, to dump the motherfucker already.

But like I also said last week: I don’t think it’s fair that the ball should always and forevermore be in the court of the person who said “No.” I don’t think it makes sense that the person who said “No” to a particular kind of sex should always be the one to raise the question again. If “asking for something over and over again every single time you have sex” is a lousy place to draw the line between “asking” and “pressuring,” I think “asking once and then never bringing it up again for the entire duration of the relationship” is a pretty bad place to draw it as well.

So where should we draw it?

How do we value the right to say “No” to any kind of sex we don’t want to engage in — while still valuing the right to ask for what we want?

How — specifically, practically — can we make this distinction?

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Thus begins my latest piece on the Blowfish Blog, the follow-up to last week’s piece: How Often Should You Ask For Something? Part 2: The Specifics. To find out my specific, practical thoughts on asking for what we want in bed without it crossing the line into nagging or pressuring, 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!

4 comments

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  1. 1
    Erikswanson

    I will preface this by saying that I don’t mean to be unkind or unfair. But have you noticed the similarities between the respect for one’s sexual limist and the respect for one’s faith?
    After all, what rational reason can theis girl have for refusing to let her boyfriend finger her? We all know that sex is a good enjoyable thing. Indeed, many would say that her current sexual relationship is one-sided, the guy gets all the pleasure while she sits there unfulfilled!
    And like the boyfriend, you suggest in your blowfish blog that no is not a good enough reason. You even suggest that it’s also OK to ask why.
    Because, after all, if it’s just because someone has some kinf of uptight religious problem, that’s not reality. Just because it says in the bible that adulery is wrong, it doesn’t mean it isn’t hot!
    What would be a good enough reason to say no? What would justify it, logically? I read your alternet post on faith, and I understand that you don’t buy into the idea that without justification, an action cannot be defended.
    So I ask you: when is it OK to say no, and why? What’s the reason?
    How can one be skeptical about religious beliefs and not sexual ones? If we say to the believer that their decision to not abort a baby is irrational, what about the non-believer who makes the same choice because they “don’t want to?”
    Why is it OK to refuse anal sex when you know (if done properly) that it isn’t harmful? Or any sex?
    Or, especially, fingering. What girl wouldn’t love the feeling of fingers slipping up inside her. Wouldn’t a loving boyfriend point out the errors in her refusal? Wouldn’t he guide her to the ecstacy he knows he can bring her if her irrationality weren’t getting in the way?
    It seems to me that refusal to give into sexual pleasure is the same as refusing to give in to scientific facts. When you wouldn’t let your boyfriend spank you, you were being irrational. You see the error of your ways now.
    Why let others continue to make the saem errors?

  2. 2
    considertheteacosy

    Erikswanson- sorry but I find your comment disturbing, at best. Are you really, REALLY saying that a person does not have the right to decide what happens with their own body? That they do not have the right to bodily integrity?
    These:
    “When you wouldn’t let your boyfriend spank you, you were being irrational. You see the error of your ways now.”
    “Wouldn’t a loving boyfriend point out the errors in her refusal? Wouldn’t he guide her to the ecstacy he knows he can bring her if her irrationality weren’t getting in the way?”
    I would like to be calm and logical about this. But since that is entirely inappropriate, WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK? There is NOTHING irrational about not wanting a particular act, or about not being comfortable with one. It is one thing deciding, freely, to engage in an act which your partner is likely to be more interested in than you are. It is another thing ENTIRELY to suggest that not being interested in any sexual act is irrationality.
    Also:
    “refusal to give into sexual pleasure is the same as refusing to give in to scientific facts”
    We do not give in to either sexual pleasure or scientific facts. We freely and consensually share sexual pleasures with those who desire to share these with us. Pleasure is subjective. Scientific facts are not.
    Also, again- what the fucking fuck?!?

  3. 3
    Indigo

    So basically, Erikswanson, refusing to “respect” someone’s assertion that the earth is less than 10000 years old…or that it’s okay to treat certain people badly because they were born into a certain caste…or that human consiousness ends at death…or that gay sex is evil…is the moral equivalent of raping them. Because saying, “No, I think that’s wrong, because…” is totes the same as forcing yourself on them.
    You’ll forgive me, I hope, for not finding this argument intuitively convincing.

  4. 4
    Greta Christina

    Erikswanson: I will preface this by saying that I don’t mean to be unkind or unfair.
    Are you fucking kidding me?
    Are you high? Have you completely lost your mind? Or have you simply lost your moral compass?
    Let me spell this out very clearly: Liking or disliking a particular kind of sex is a personal, subjective preference. It is not a question of what is or is lot literally true in the real, external, objective world (the way religion is). If someone says that they don’t like being fingered, then they don’t like being fingered. If it’s true for them, then it’s true. End of story.
    And — much more to the point — if they don’t like being fingered, they have the right to not be fingered. Absolute end of story. Even if they’re mistaken about whether they want to be fingered (as I was mistaken about wanting to be spanked): So fucking what? The right to sexual self-determination, the right to say No to any kind of sex, is absolutely crucial to sexual morality. If my partner had gone ahead and spanked me even though I’d said No — do you honestly think this would have convinced me that spanking was okay? Do you honestly not realize that this would have been a traumatic horror? Even if he hadn’t forced it on me — even if he’d just pressured me incessantly about it — do you think that would have made me see the rational truth? About, you know, my own, personal, entirely subjective desires and fears?
    When is it okay to say No? Do I really have to answer that question? It is extremely depressing to think that I might. But apparently I do. The answer: Always. It is always — ALWAYS — okay to say No: to any particular kind of sex, or to sex in general. Period. Absolute fucking end of story.

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