Earlier this week, something bizarre and horrible popped up in my facebook feed: the Metro’s list of “27 things men do in bed that women hate.” That link goes via DoNotLink, so shouldn’t give them traffic.
The article in question lists 27 things which women hate men doing in bed. Normally I’d expect an article like this to raise my hackles because it would probably tick off a few things that I bloody LOVE guys doing in bed but which don’t happen to float everyone’s boat. It’d be the universal generalisations that get me, and I’d probably give it a quick mention in passing, before stamping off to get enraged at HuffPo’s shit dating advice or something.
On this occasion, however, it was far worse than that.
Normally I’d write an angry, sweary rant about how appalling it is in the hope I could whip enough people up into outrage that they’d kick off about it. But I’m very tired and very ill and far too late to make a significant difference with this, so I’m kicking myself. A couple of people asked me to write it up, though, and I feel like perhaps a voice or two shouting into the ether might help a tiny bit in getting the message across that this is totally unacceptable, so here goes.
The following content comes with a massive trigger warning.
Things not to do in bed because they’re annoying
There are some things in the article I agree with – things that guys have done with me in the past, and I can understand why they might be irritating to some. These include such side-splitting classics as:
“When you’re on top and they’re just staring at you and it’s like, ahhh what face do I pull?”
“Trying to remove underwear with their teeth.”
I’m quite partial to the latter, but I can see why it grates on people. I’ll still quibble about the idea that all men should stop doing it ever, but in principle there’s nothing appalling about this. Unfortunately, in its other tips, this Metro list takes a turn for the much more fucking appalling.
Things not to do in bed because they’re assault
These are all direct quotes from the article, sold alongside the points above. Sold as ‘irritating’ behaviour at worst. Presented as tricks that women have cottoned on to, and which they laugh about with their mates while wishing you’d just cut it out:
“Pulling your hair so hard you scream and your eyes water.”
“Being so aggressive with their hands during foreplay that they pretty much give you internal bleeding and bruising.”
What. The. Fuck.
These things are not annoying, as the article presents them. They are assault.
Now, as one who engages in BDSM activity a lot, it would be remiss of me not to mention that I play like this quite frequently. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that within the context of a trusting relationship, in which I am consenting, and in which my partner fully understands what I love him to do, neither of those specific physical actions is bad per se. However – and it’s a ‘however’ written in such gigantic flashing lights that you can see it from the fucking moon – this is not stuff that it is ever OK to just surprise your partner with. And, like any other sexual behaviour, it is never ever OK to keep doing it after your partner has indicated they don’t like it.
If you accidentally pull someone’s hair too hard: that sucks. If you deliberately pull someone’s hair so hard that their eyes water, if it is something that they explicitly hate and especially – as is heavily implied by the title of the article – you do it repeatedly? Then that is assault, and you are an appalling, horrible gutter-scraping of a person.
You know this already, of course, but Metro clearly doesn’t, because it gets worse.
Things not to do in bed because they’re rape
“Casually trying to have anal sex without asking and without lube. It does not just slip in there.”
Yeah, that says what you think it says. Again, here’s the thing: I’m up for my partner having a go (although not without lube – he understands the laws of physics and realises that friction there isn’t sexy at all), but only because I have fucking told him I am. He understands what I like and what I don’t, roughly when I like it (and how), and because we have had lots of conversations before about the fact that I bloody love it when he slips my knickers down and lubes me up.
Most importantly, he knows all the signs I give that mean I’m not up for it on a particular occasion. The only reason I can trust him to play in the way we both enjoy, and the one reason I trust him to fuck me in the arse, is because on countless occasions in the past he has recognised my stop signs, abided by them, and put his fucking dick away.
There’s a subtle and nuanced debate to be had about safewords, hard play, bondage, and power exchange. I love having that debate with people here all the time. But this, Metro, is nothing like that fucking debate. It is an overt list of things that women have told you they hate, and I think in that instance you have a responsibility to present ‘unwanted sex’ not as an irritation or a frustration but as what it very plainly is – rape.
Things not to do in bed that you might not have realised were offensive
Here’s a more subtle one: can you spot it? Having listed the many different ways in which guys can ‘annoyingly’ assault girls, they throw this ‘annoying habit’ in:
“When they just stop, and it’s like, “hello? Did you hear me orgasm?” No.”
This is something women find annoying. Fair enough: it is a bit annoying. But the implication here is that men should stop doing that, and I’m afraid to say that is just not an OK thing to ask of someone. Why? Well, the speaker is essentially saying that it’s not OK to stop during sex if your partner hasn’t come yet. Still not sure why that’s dodgy? Let’s gender-flip this bad boy:
“Man, I was having sex with my girlfriend the other day and she stopped halfway through. I hadn’t come. How annoying. Obviously she’s obliged not to stop before I’ve come.”
Unfortunately, no matter how annoying it is not to come during sex, and how selfish it might be if a regular partner doesn’t put in the requisite effort to make you come, they are never obliged to continue having sex with you. No matter what their gender. No matter whether you’ve orgasmed yet. No matter how close you might be. Anyone has the right to withdraw their consent at any time. I shouldn’t have to say this.
Things not to write in the paper because they’re irresponsible
The Metro claims that the points on their list came when they ‘threw the question out to facebook.’ I’ve looked at their facebook page and can find no trace of them asking this question, so I’m a bit curious as to whether they asked, then deleted the answers. But that’s by the by.
The fact is that if you ask people what they ‘hate’ their partner doing in bed, and you’re fishing for amusing anecdotes, you have a responsibility not to lump assault in with those roll-in-the-aisle gags. You’ll make it look like it is merely an inconvenience – something that just happens to people, and to which the best response is a giggle, an eye-roll, or a quick click of the ‘share this article’ button.
The vast majority of men aren’t ignorant of these issues, but in publishing this you might make some men think it’s OK to surprise their partner with anal that she expressly doesn’t want. You might give more people the idea that their partner has an obligation to make them come. And you may well give women the impression that they should just put up with physical assault, and cross their fingers in the hope that their scum partner happens to chance across a Buzzfeed-style list of sex tips and eventually check his shit behaviour.