It goes without saying that one of the crucial aspects of sexual intimacy is safety. Even those with more risqué tastes establish mutual respect with their partners. Unfortunately, many women find themselves in situations where they don’t feel comfortable when it comes to sex. Even if they don’t feel immediately threatened, many women don’t feel like they are able to refuse a sexual encounter with a partner.
It might seem obvious, but women often find themselves in these uncomfortable situations out of necessity. Sometimes, the alternative to appeasing a partner can be difficult or even dangerous. The #metoo movement has done a lot to highlight the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment. But, more nuanced situations have since come to light because of this movement.
Two stories published recently embody this feeling. The first, reported by Babe.net, tells the story of Grace’s date with actor Aziz Ansari. The other is fictional story, ‘Cat Person’, by Kristen Roupenian. Neither of these women felt that their partners would become violent if they said no. Instead, they felt it would be easier to go through with their sexual encounters. They may not have felt threatened, but there was the possibility of guilt, coercion or persistence.
In the Cat Person story, the narrator decides she doesn’t want to sleep with the guy she’s seeing. But the complications of saying ‘no’ are too overwhelming for her, so she has sex with him since it’s easier. In Babe.net’s article, Grace tries to fend off Ansari’s constant sexual advances, whilst also keeping him on her good side. In these stories, the women’s sexual desire is taken away from them as they only agree to sexual activity to protect themselves.
The debate still continues on whether we would call encounters like this ‘assault’. But, what is clear is that they both felt uncomfortable saying ‘no’. Even though that was what they wanted to do. Not being in control of your own experience stops you from having a fulfilling sex life.
Feeling safe goes deeper than being unsure of whether a partner might become physically violent. Saying ‘no’ can lead to a partner persisting, using non-physical abuse or manipulation. Because of this, it’s easier for many women to agree to, or not refuse to, engage in sexual activity with a partner.
Men and women alike need to be aware of these situations. Everyone should feel safe during sex and that includes turning it down when they want to. No one should ever feel obliged to engage in sexual acts just because saying ‘no’ is too difficult, or, in some cases, dangerous. In all sexual encounters, both people should feel safe and respected. They should feel like they could stop at any time and their partner would understand and be considerate of the other person’s needs. As safety is a crucial component to intimacy, not feeling secure means that your desires are coming second to someone else’s. But, what should be happening is that both people’s sexual needs are prioritized equally.