The heat of passion
You and your girlfriend are kissing and things start to heat up. Soon, she’s taking off your clothes. She’s totally into this or so you think. So you pull her clothes off. You’ve had sex with her before this, so you assume she wants it now. But when you get on top of her she stops responding.
She fumbles a ‘hold on a minute’ but doesn’t actually say ‘no’ or ‘let’s not have sex’. You don’t pay attention to her mumbled, half said words and in the heat of passion continue the sex act.
Ready for sex?
However, soon you realise, she is there with you physically but you are not sure what’s on her mind. There’s a difference between your girlfriend being sexually interested in you and her saying ‘yes’ to sex. She hasn’t given you her sexual consent.
So what exactly do we mean by ‘consent’? Quite simply, when a woman lets you know she’s willing to have sex. She can do this with her words or actions.
You are not the only guy on this planet who is not sure if his girl is ready for sex or not. All other guys face this tough situation where they find it impossible to look into a woman’s heart and know if she is giving him consent or not. So, what makes it so tough for men?
In a recent US study, a team of researchers tried to decode these important questions by asking 145 men. Their aim was to understand why college students have trouble telling whether a woman says ‘yes’ to sex.
Interest or consent?
The male students were given six sex scenarios. They had to work out when a woman gave consent, refused it, or was passive, and communicated this either with words, actions, or both. For each situation, the students had to decide whether the woman sexually wanted the guy, and if she wanted to have sex with him and gave consent.
Shockingly, it turns out that men have a pretty hard time telling the difference between sexual interest and consent. They tend to think only a loud ‘no’ really means no. So consent is clearest when a woman says so – loud and clear.
Some versions of ‘I want you’ were obviously a green light for the students, especially when the woman used both words and an action like pulling a guy close. Guys have more trouble telling whether a woman is saying ‘yes’ if she uses only actions, the researchers found.
‘No response’ means ‘no’
When the women in the scenarios refused consent, either with words, by saying something like ‘let’s not do this right now’ or with an action like pushing a guy away, the students got the message loud and clear.
The problem area was passive responses – when a woman was not direct in saying ‘no’ and neither did she resisted in any way. The men in the study saw this as different from refusing sex, even though the woman wasn’t consenting.
So if you’re a guy who has sex with girls, what do you do in this kind of situation? You should be one hundred percent sure she’s giving you consent.
But how can you tell if she doesn’t say she wants sex? What if you can’t read her actions? A good rule of thumb is not to assume she’s saying ‘yes’ just because she’s not saying ‘no’. If you have any doubts, just ask her! Try something like, ‘Are you into this babe?’
If you’re a girl, dare to be open about your sexual needs or lack of them. Sex has to be pleasurable for both the partners. If you are not in the mood to have sex – because you’re tired, have a mood swing, PMS, headache or just no particular reason – there’s no need to be ashamed. Your consent is equally important. Don’t have sex to please your partner. Go ahead only if you want it too. Say no – loud and clear.
Signs she’s not giving you consent even though she doesn’t say ‘no’:
Her body tenses up
She stops responding to you physically and just lies there - even though she doesn’t actually stop you
You’re the one who’s doing everything
She doesn’t say anything at all
She says anything that could mean she’s not into it, like ‘slow down’ or ‘hold on a minute’, even though she doesn’t say ‘stop’
Reference: Situational and Dispositional Determinants of College Men’s Perception of Women’s Sexual Desire and Consent to Sex: A Factorial Vignette Analysis. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. (2017) Published online November 2.
Persons in the picture are models. This article was first published on January 24, 2018.