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On consent, and the meaning of ‘no’

There are very few blog posts that I regret writing – even if I’m wrong I’m happy to show how wrong I was and reflect on what I’ve learned. This one, though, I don’t like: it was written a long time ago when I didn’t have the language or knowledge to express what I was really talking about – consensual non-consent, and established trust within relationships. 

‘Yes’ is a powerful word. It gives someone permission to do things. Some people choose to say yes to certain people – you can fuck me, but he can’t. She can suck me off, but I’m not so sure about her. Some people give their consent for specific acts – you can shag me, but you can’t put it in my ass. You can cane me, but not so hard it draws blood. Restrain me, but with soft ropes not gaffer tape.

Etc, etc, etc ad infinitum – humans are infinitely different and weird and filthy. A man who chokes me with my consent is a stunning, cunt-wetting sex-god. A man who chokes me without my consent is a criminal.

But I hate the idea that I have to give that consent explicitly, and I hate that often I’m told to be more cautious than I am. I hate the idea that ‘no means no’.

If boys always took my ‘no’s to mean exactly that, I’d have spent most of my life crywanking myself to completion after disappointing vanilla sex, imagining how good it could be if he’d just, you know, spit in my fucking mouth or hit me in the face or something.

A blanket ‘no means no’ rule doesn’t hold up to scrutiny in my longer relationships – it’s an easy and useful default in an unfamiliar situation, and can prevent people from being forced into doing things they don’t want to do. But when relationships develop and communication muddies the waters, ‘no’ can mean anything from ‘I just can’t be bothered’ to ‘persuade me’ to ‘I’ll get wet if you make me do it.’

The massive ‘but’

I don’t speak for everyone. Obviously. My own views on consent within the relationships I enter into is probably pretty extreme, and if I only gave you my word on what ‘no’ means I could potentially cause a lot of damage.

So I want to show you a selection of other views on the matter. All the women I asked about this gave excellent, thoughtful and interesting responses. Not one of them had a simple answer.

Mags – If I give you a real ‘no’, you’ll know

The first time I had buttsex, my boyfriend didn’t ask, he didn’t even tell me he was going to do it – he just did it. Part of me was outraged that he didn’t ask, but a bigger part of me loved that he didn’t.

Overall, I don’t say no (and mean it) often…I sometimes play at “no”, but there is always a massive fucking “yes” in my eyes and I guess I’m lucky that I have always had partners who can read me.

A genuine “no” is accompanied by body language that also says “no” loud and clear – taking myself out of arms reach, covering my body, leaving the room – but it’s nearly always no from the outset, I can count on one hand, and still have digits spare, the times a yes has become a no.

Girl A – Consent is agreed beforehand

For me, the word “no” is very rarely used in the bedroom. Once you’ve made it that far, there’s not very much I’m not willing to at least try. Previous to this we’ve probably discussed my hard limits.

If I’ve invited you back to mine, or am coming back to yours, we’ve spoken about what unspeakable things we’d like to do to each other.  But I don’t outright ask/get asked “would you like to have sex?”, and then wait for an affirmative.

Something like having sex with me when I’m asleep? With some of my boys I wouldn’t mind, but I would rather we’d discussed it beforehand.

Amanda C – None of us can read minds

My idea of consent and responsibility for consent resides in this larger idea: you can’t read anyone’s mind, and nobody can read yours. You have a responsibility to yourself to clearly express what you want and how you feel to other people. This doesn’t mean being a totally unfiltered open book, but understanding that although there might be a lucky chance that someone else totally groks to your signals, you’re responsible for stating what you mean, what you want, how you feel.

I think that a lot of people react to grey areas by attempting to make a list of dos and don’ts, which is just impossible because you can’t make a list for everything, and what, are people going to carry a little laminated card with them? Like some kind of flowchart for banging?

You can’t assume the “whys” of other folks, be it in sex, dress, behavior, etc. This doesn’t mean that everyone is being deceitful, and showing one thing but feeling another. It just means that you can’t read their mind, and they can’t read yours.

Girl B – It depends on how well I know you

It very much depends on who I’m with. With one guy we have talked about everything we both like and don’t, so yes for him means that anything we’ve talked about goes. Part of that package is me saying “no”, because I love to play that game. I love pretending to say no and having him do it anyway. But I trust him and he knows the score.

If I was with someone new, yes would mean…well anything I’m comfortable with. If I haven’t already discussed it and something happens that I don’t like, then no definitely means no. If he doesn’t know me well I don’t think he has the right to interpret that “no” as anything other than serious.

As a woman who has said no and meant it, and been ignored, this is a tricky area. I was in a relationship years ago. One night, I didn’t want sex (at all, I was drunk and spinning and made it very clear), but he pinned me down, covered my mouth, forced himself on me and anally raped me. Now in a different situation with a guy I trusted and had talked about that with, it may have been a huge fucking turn-on. In this case, I was scared, unable to breathe, angry, violated. His view was that I was his girlfriend and he could do what he liked. Wrong.

Yes, no, maybe, please

I don’t know how to end this, but I don’t know the answer to the original question either. What is consent, and how can you make sure you have it?

You can ask for it outright, but that takes away the potential for fun sex that pushes boundaries and makes people uncomfortable and makes me come like it’s the end of the world.

Or you can guess that you have it, but then you risk damaging someone you’re aiming to delight.

But I think it’s OK to not have a blanket rule, so I’m happy to chuck ‘no means no’ away for the time being. If you’re following a set of hard-and-fast rules on consent then you’re likely to trip up regularly – either by pushing things far too far or not far enough – because everyone’s different.

No doesn’t mean no for everyone. Sometimes it means ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ or ‘persuade me’ or ‘not right now.’ To fully understand exactly what it means you have to listen really carefully.


Postscript: This was written in response to some reactions to my previous post on buttsex, in which a guy did sexy things to me after I’d begged him not to. Many thanks to @hellsbell_ for raising the issue


  • Chaz says:

    For me no means no. End of. If I say “no”, I mean it and will get really pissed off if someone tries to push it. It’s not sexy for a guy to try something on if I’ve said no and will pretty much mean the end of any fun and games if he ignores what I’ve said.

    I don’t understand people who play at “no means maybe”. If I mean maybe I say “maybe”. No wonder guys get crossed wires all the time. Can you blame them?

    Say what you mean and mean what you say. That way there’s less chance of lines that shouldn’t be crossed being crossed and someone ending up on a charge that could’ve been avoided.

    • jonny says:

      Thank you for being sane. People should say what they mean and mean what they say.

      To do otherwise would be like eating the icing off the misogynist cake before returning it to the Matriarchal Bakers for a full refund. You can’t have your cake and eat it as well.

      Trying will cost you any chance of refund and further perpetuate a world where He Who Rapes, Wins.

  • DJOD says:

    GOTN – I love your posts normally. I read each one and normally end up horny as hell. But this post has made me so angry. I’m a guy, here’s my take.

    “Or you can guess that you have it, but then you risk damaging someone you’re aiming to delight”

    You know what? I put my right not to risk getting arrested, spending time in jail, having my life ruined and living with the shame and guilt of ruining a girl’s life through rape, way ahead of your right not to avoid a “crywank” at the end of the night.

    I totally get that, within the confines of an established sexual relationship, consent and “no means no” can deliberately become a boundary you blur – because the trust is there.

    But for a one night stand? For a new relationship? What the hell, I can’t believe the posts you’re highlighting here.

    I don’t know what makes me feel worse – the fact that you’re almost insulting people who want to stick to “No means no” (something drilled into us blokes from an early age), or the fact that you value your own sexual thrills over the risk of a woman getting raped because some guy thinks “Ah well she wanted it anyway like that bird on the web said”.

    Suspect you might argue that these represent the mails you’ve received, but because of the (normally red-hot, sometimes extreme) nature of your posts, you probably have a self-selecting community of people who want to push boundaries.

    Go post this on a rape forum, see what response you get.

  • girlonthenet says:

    Wow, OK. Shit. That is definitely not what I’m saying, and I’ve just re-read this twice because I’m nervous that I’ve been clumsy with my language. I may well be completely wrong here, but I did say this:

    “A blanket ‘no means no’ rule doesn’t hold up to scrutiny – it’s an easy and useful default in an unfamiliar situation, and can prevent people from being forced into doing things they don’t want to do. But when relationships develop and communication muddies the waters, ‘no’ can mean anything from ‘I just can’t be bothered’ to ‘persuade me’ to ‘I’ll get wet if you make me do it.'”

    I made a point of saying that ‘no means no’ is an easy and useful default in new situations because, well, on a one-night stand you’re unlikely to have much clue about what people like – just giving them head how they like it can be hard let alone playing around with consent boundaries.

    I don’t disagree with you about priorities – of course it’s more important to avoid a situation where someone gets raped than to give someone cheap sexual thrills. But the point I’m making is that people, when they have moved past the initial ‘hey let’s shag’ stage, *do* play at saying ‘no’ and mess around with the idea of consent and non-consent, and within that *how* people consent is a far trickier issue.

    However, I am now terrified that this post reads like I’m saying “push it and see where you get” in all possible situations, and I want to make it clear that I am definitely and conclusively not. What I’m saying is that everyone has a different idea of what consent is, and as you play with those boundaries it can become much much harder for people to ascertain exactly what is and isn’t consensual. I’m not then saying ‘so just have a crack’ – I’m saying ‘accept just how goddamn important it is, and how different people’s interpretations are.’

    See Chaz’s example – now there’s someone who knows and states exactly what they are and aren’t consenting to, and in bed with a partner there will never be that kind of uncertainty. Likewise (I suspect) in Amanda C’s example – there’s explicit consent going on. However, in the original post that I wrote (that spawned this one) there were explicit ‘no’s and ‘please don’ts’ with a boy who knew with 100% conviction that he could ignore those because he was with me.

    • DJOD says:

      I think one trouble is that this is SUCH an emotive topic for guys – as per my comment before, ‘No means no’ is the absolute rule drilled into us (and I know for sure I’ve missed out on a shag because of this in the past – only found out ages later, after I couldn’t take advantage of that knowledge *sulk*).

      Anyway… due to the emotive nature, I certainly read this twice then just went into ranty-reply mode because I was freaked out by what I read… I need to re-read it too (which I will do tomorrow and may well reply then).

      Can I paraphrase? I’m guessing what you are saying is that consent is vital but it doesn’t revolve around the words yes or no for you? From what I’ve read I’m guessing that when you (GOTN) personally are in a sexual relationship with someone then you’ve pretty much laid out to them that absolutely anything fucking goes (once you trust them enough/fancy them enough :)) – so you’ve given *consent* to ignore the words that come out your mouth.

      It’s a small detail but such a really difficult area for guys. Please understand me and many other guys would rather see 1000 women frustrated than one damaged by our actions…

      Please don’t be afraid of tackling topics like this by the way… you’re a brilliant writer and it’s great to hear your views.

      • girlonthenet says:

        Absolutely – I understand that it’s tough for guys, and an extremely difficult area. I would never ever want to get a guy into trouble because of things that I had said/implied, just as I’d never want girls to end up doing things they didn’t want to do.

        As a side note, I have very rarely met guys who *don’t* have very mature views on consent, and almost all the guys I’ve been with have respected mine. There was one who didn’t and I might write on it at some point if I can come up with the right words.

        Your paraphrase is pretty much spot on in terms of what I think about consent – most of my boys have my consent for anything, regardless of the words I say. And yes, I do think it’s vital.

        The reason I wanted to show other girls’ opinions is because I think the point I want to make is that people do have different ideas – although I often write as if I think I know everything, very clearly I don’t and for this post in particular I’d hate anyone to go away thinking that my opinion is the be-all and end-all (or that I think it should be).

        So yes – thank you for disagreeing =)

  • Mo says:

    There is a blanket rule, I think, and it’s “you can’t make assumptions”.

    Knowing that with a particular person that “no means maybe” is not the same as assuming the same: you have to know.

    Without that actual knowledge, “no means no” is a safe fallback position. If you meet somebody in a pub/club/party/whatever and retire for some hot sex, neither of you is in any position to know very much at all about the other — and this is where, I think, “no means no” is really important to emphasise.

    However, and by my reading of this post this is pretty much the point, you can get to know somebody well enough to know whether you need explicit consent before proceeding with some act or other, or even whether explicit objection doesn’t mean “no”. For some people, that will be “never”, for others it won’t be — but you do have to know.

    As with just about every other aspect of sex, there are things which drive some people wild and form part of immense experiences but which others will find shocking and abhorrent. And so, there will be people who read this post and find it difficult to comprehend how somebody could possibly get off on an explicit denial being overridden, and there will be people who totally get it. That’s rather how the world works, like it or loathe it.

    • girlonthenet says:

      Your last paragraph puts things so much better than I did – thanks!

      Also I do like the general ‘you can’t make assumptions’ rule – I guess in the sort of situations I’m talking about where I’m happy for guys to assume implicit consent, they’re actually not really making assumptions but basing things on a lot of foreknowledge about me, and them, and what we do, and what I like and etc etc etc.

  • JE says:

    A balanced piece with lots of different opinions – I’m sure this is going to be one of your most discussed blogs. I think what I’m going to say has probably been covered but what the heck.

    I’d agree with DJOD to a great degree. This particular issue holds a massive amount of cache. Whilst I can understand the idea of what your getting at (and I totally undertand this is an opinion piece rather than factual reporting if you’ll allow the analogy), I think it is just to much of a dodgy area for men to stray into. Particularly ones who do care about the women they are with, be it one-night-stand, casual fling or long-term relationship. I would never want to hurt a women becuase of a mis-interpreted signal so I’m always going to err on the side of caution. End of.

    As I see it the issue is to do with communication. If a woman (or man) wants no to NOT always mean no then that has to be firmly established and give the guy some kind of safe word or signal which does mean “ok actually stop now, I’m about to prolapse”. He’ll feel more comfortable, although TBH I would still feel terrible about a woman saying “no” and me doing it anyway.

    Hopefully without straying into hackneyed stand-up comedy territory, I think a lot of men do get very frustrated with women becuase we’re expected to have some kind of intuition about when you actually mean something and when you don’t. Echoing Amanda’s point here: same goes for anything that you like in bed and what you don’t, what you’d REALLY like us to do but never ask. I’ve yet to go to bed with a woman who’s actually told me what she wanted, so I’m just left guessing most of the time which I’m sure is an incredibly frustrating and even tedious affair at times – for both of us – if they don’t get off there’s not a great deal in it for me either. The amount of hours I’ve probably wasted going down on someone when all she wanted was for me to stick a finger up her arse are probably innumerable.

    If you do want someone to spit in your mouth, or whack you with a bent coathanger or anything else he’s unlikey to pull out of his bag of tricks unprompted then just tell him. A woman sepcifically asking you to do something filthy is a MASSIVE turn on anyway.

    Maybe I’m just too Yorkshire – but say what you mean and mean what you say.

    A lot of stuff in life is slightly less thrilling becuase of rules which are there to protect us: wearing a seatbelt in the car, riding a motorbike with no helmet, wearing a condom and I’m sorry but this has got to be one of those times. For the good of both parties.

  • @Hellsbell_ says:

    I’m pretty direct in the bedroom, if I’m not getting what I want I’ll let my partner know exactly what he/she should be doing very clearly. I’ve always thought communication is the key to great sex, although it doesn’t always have to be verbal.

    When I read the original piece, I expressed concern as I felt it could be interpreted as encouraging men to ignore consent being withdrawn. I haven’t ever explored this type of sex myself, so I don’t feel hugely qualified to comment.

    In my opinion, a conversation should always be had at some point to explicitly say “I like denying permission and being fucked/ slapped/ etc anyway” (I can see how in the heat of the moment this is not the best time to set up an arrangement like this). I do see this issue in quite simplistic terms, I guess this is why some people have safe words!! I believe consent should always be given prior to the event, but that’s probably just because this isn’t the kind of thing turns me on.

  • Lily says:

    I am both a feminist, and kinky; so for me, there are two sides to this issue.

    As a feminist, is that I think it’s massively irresponsible to even float the idea of “no means no” being a flexible concept in a public forum. While I appreciate that personally, for you, it is the case – if just one person takes that message onboard in a way that doesn’t recognise the nuance of your message, you’re contributing to a potentially dangerous situation.

    People don’t always ask explicitly before sex, not everyone likes or appreciates it when they are asked – but it is the responsible thing for /everyone/ to do. I’d say at least 75% of my female friends have suffered some sort of non-consensual sexual experience during their life, and I’m included in that number. When that number is 2%, or even better – 0% – then by all means lets have this conversation. Right now, a large chunk of sexual experiences already aren’t consensual and why the hell would we muddy that water further?

    The argument against sexist jokes, for example, is that if someone is truly misogynistic they may not understand that you are joking. They may just take on board your joke as acceptance of their real opinions. If someone is looking for an excuse to not follow through on receiving consent, if someone is looking for justification on why what they did to their partner totally wasn’t rape – you’ve given them that here.

    I’m also kinky – this give me a perspective where I can absolutely appreciate your turn ons surrounding non-consent. But there is one unconditional requirement for this kind of play, and its: safeword, safeword, safeword. The kink community is fantastic for advocating the mantra of safe, sane, consensual – it takes the responsibility of promoting those concepts very seriously: I wish you would too.

    There are many things in life that we do wherein explicit consent is not deemed essential, but sex is NOT (and should not ever be) one of those things. I believe that you should have full sexual agency to with what you please – but please recognise that choosing to cloud consent like this is both irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

    Genuinely, I’m concerned that you’ve made this public. I hope to #deity it’s never the case – but what happens if one day a guy actually does do something that you don’t want him to? How do you get him to stop when you’ve publicly stated that most often, you don’t really mean it when you say “no”?

  • girlonthenet says:

    OK, so here’s a general response to the worries raised, then a couple of specifics:

    It feels like one of the biggest issues with this is the fact that I’m saying this stuff in a public forum, and you are right – raising this issue in a way that people could read it and think “so that’s how I should do it” would be dangerous and reprehensible. But I feel I properly should defend myself against this because it is loud and clear in the post that I’m saying it’s a personal issue – this is how *I* do it. That’s why I wanted the contributions from other girls – I wanted to get a wider spectrum of opinion so that it didn’t look like I was presenting my opinion as the be-all and end-all.

    As a side note, I am genuinely delighted that people have come in to say “actually, I want it laid right out explicitly” because that’s not just an important part of the puzzle but I would guess also the opinion of the vast majority – most people don’t play roughly with the idea of consent because, as a few of you are very right in saying, it *is* dangerous. I’m more than happy to accept that in the absence of a blanket rule that works in all situations, this is a very reliable default, as I do say in the post.

    But here’s the thing: I’m not saying everyone *should* have the same ideas as I do when it comes to consent, but what I am very strongly saying is that people *do* do this. People play with consent issues without safewords, they mess around, they push things, etc. Sometimes well, sometimes badly, sometimes utterly disastrously. What I’m trying to say is that we do have to take it as a given that this stuff happens (by ‘this stuff’ I don’t mean rape – I mean adults playing happily around with the idea of consent in whatever sexual relationships they happen to be in) and given that that’s the case, how do we raise the issue? What is consent? And how do you give it or get it from a partner? Like it or not, not all couples use safewords, not all couples have that explicit conversation. I guess I just want more people to have that conversation and think about what it genuinely means for them.

    For instance, in a very early relationship, would you be happy for someone to initiate sex while you were asleep? Most people I know would say ‘hell yes’, but is that something about which you should have an explicit conversation? Does it depend on what you’ve done before? Does it depend on the person you’re with? None of these are easy questions to answer, and I think that’s the point. I personally would be upset if one of my boys felt like he couldn’t do that because of a blanket rule that had nothing to do with the relationship that we had established.

    If having a blanket rule, or discussions beforehand, or safewords, etc works for you then that’s absolutely fine, and clearly an excellent way to communicate to your partner what you do and don’t want. What I’m saying is that it absolutely does not work for me. I don’t like it at all, it makes me extremely uncomfortable.

    Lily – your point about ‘what would I do’ is a good one, and I appreciate your concern. What happens if someone does push me too far? My actual view on what I would do in that situation is definitely something that I don’t want to say on a public forum, especially given the concern caused by my original post here, but I might have more of a think about that and see if I can write something on it. One of my boys expressed the same concern when I discussed this post with him originally, so I do appreciate that it’s important.

    JE – I agree that a lot of fun stuff is facilitated by people saying (demanding?) exactly what they want – a brilliant way to get past any issues of uncertainty. I can also see your frustration with women who don’t say that sort of thing. I reckon in situations like this, if someone is nervous about asking for stuff like this at the time (it’s hard to be in bed with a dude and ask him to spank you just like *this* – makes you less submissive, etc) then the best way to do it is to instigate conversations beforehand, in situations that aren’t sexual, so they can store this info for the future. Much as I like it when dudes surprise me, there is also a certain fun in telling a guy exactly how you’d like him to fuck you when you’re in a mundane situation such as sitting on a bus or working out how to work the self-checkout at Tescos.

    And here’s a final point – on safewords – again I completely appreciate that they genuinely do work for some people, and they are especially valuable in group scenes or when you’re fucking new people, but I’m not a fan. I’ve written on safewords before but they caused no controversy at the time because it was before anyone really read the blog =)

  • SBM says:

    Personally, I couldn’t do the “no might mean yes” game unless I’d spoken about it with my partner beforehand. When fucking someone new, I’ve been lucky in that they usually ask “is there anything you don’t like? Tell me now”, and it hasn’t killed the mood at all, if anything I’m happy that they obviously want it to be as enjoyable as possible. We know we’re going to have sex, we know that it’s going to involve a condom so what’s wrong with knowing what you can’t do? It makes the guesswork disappear, and you can be creative with the options left; we’re not stuck with the “well they like X Y Z, so I’ll do just do that”. I’ve always been honest with partners, and when you’re having sex with someone I think it’s important.
    I’ve had an exboyfriend try to have sex with me when I was asleep, I was completely dry and I woke up when he was putting on the condom. He did it several times after I explained that unless I’m wet, it’s a complete no-no. Not surprisngly, we’re not together anymore. His little habit had obviously grown from the couple of times he’d actually been successful in turning me on, and we had had sleepy sex. So with your method, he could have just gone ahead because he may have though your “no” was actually “I secretly love it, and this is all part of the game”.
    I do enjoy your blog, and you’re doing a fantastic job of getting people talk about sex, which is something we need to do more!

  • Helen says:

    I’m glad that someone else called you on your previous post – my reaction was exactly the same. There is a gross irresponsibility in what you posted and, aside from a few forced retractions above, you’ve only really managed to muddy the issue further here. I would strongly suggest you re-read your blog an imagine how it would read to someone who had been raped or sexually assaulted.

  • C.B.B says:

    I don’t want to talk about my feelings on the issue of consent, I think it’s all been pretty much said. I just wanted to say I think gotn is getting some unfair criticism here. Okay you might disagree with what she said, I might even, and that’s fine, but to say she shouldn’t even say it is too much. She clearly knew it was going to be an area where there were lots of variations which is why she had other people’s opinions for perspective in the original post. You can’t dumb everything down for fear of the effect on the lowest common denominator. I think the mistake here is giving more weight to gotn’s opinion, because this is her blog, than you’re giving to the other girls. When it should have been just one of five. I wonder, if one of the other girls in the main article had written the blog and gotn’s opinion had been in the “selection of other views” would the same fuss would have been made?

  • girlonthenet says:

    Hi Helen, I think CBB put it a bit better than I can so I won’t try to detract from his comment. Also, obviously I’m glad that you’ve come in to disagree – the original point I was making was that this issue isn’t black-and-white – no one’s opinion on it is de facto correct, especially not mine because I am, not to put too fine a point on it, bloody weird when it comes to sex.

    But I do want to point out that none of what I’ve posted in the comments constitutes a ‘retraction’ of any kind – I stand by what I said in my original post. How could I not? It’s how I feel. As I say in the original post:

    “My own views on consent within the relationships I enter into is probably pretty extreme, and if I only gave you my word on what ‘no’ means I could potentially cause a lot of damage.”

    So I am very obviously and clearly not advocating that everyone should have exactly the same views as I am – what I’m doing is giving you my views, along with the views of people who responded to my twitter shout-out for input, and inviting people to have a discussion about it. My point is that because of the wide spectrum of humanity, and the different types of play that couples enter into, in any relationship it’s an extremely important discussion to have and one which, I think, doesn’t easily lend itself to blanket rules.

    Again, I’ll reiterate the point I made in the original that for a one-night stand or early relationship, ‘no means no’ is a useful default to ensure people’s safety.

    Asking how a rape victim would feel having read it? Wow. I… seriously? A rape victim contributed to it (read under the heading ‘Girl B’) and has given a really thoughtful and interesting opinion on what counts as consent for her. Your comment echoes stuff that DJOD said: “Go post this on a rape forum, see what response you get.” To which my answer is: no, that would be desperately insensitive. I’m discussing the issue of sexual consent in the context of a sex blog in which I post about all manner of sexual things, within the context of all else I write about my weird perversions. This discussion has an important place here if people want to come and join in with it (and, yes, disagree with me) but it isn’t something I would force into the consciousness of people who would potentially be deeply upset by the issues. Consider this in the context of what it is and where it is, and please do also consider the opinions of the other women, whose views I sought for the very reason that I did not want to present my own opinion as a template for anyone’s behaviour.

  • SBM says:

    I think that rape is in the minds of everyone at the moment, and no-one really knows how to respond to it. Of course, it is never the woman’s fault and this society of “don’t get raped” instead of “don’t rape” is meaning a lot of people are sensitive about the subject. For someone to state that they don’t follow the rules that we are currently clutching to, we don’t know how to handle it.
    You have stated though, that it is the way YOU do things.

  • M says:

    well certainly controversial, understand girl on the nets perpective from a hotness point of view, the word no is so erotically charged for me, Personally I operate with a safe word and a slow down words and ive been lucky enough never to have to use it, as its a bit of a mood killer, but its always there and you can say no and be filthily violated and abused to your hearts content. I don’t know if safewords are unique to bdsm relationships, ive never used them in vanilla relationships but well that’s because there was just no need. …sigh , no no no no,please no (yes mmmmm)

  • BrenUK says:

    God! …women are soooo complicated. ;-)

  • Rosie says:

    This may seem irrelevant initially but bear with me.

    I recently spent a year living abroad in a culture I’m not used to. The men there are very forward, quite pushy at times and very attracted to white women. I was frequently approached while walking down the street, in the supermarket, even around the university, and especially if I went out in the evenings. I would smile and make polite conversation, while mentioning that I needed to go and taking a step backwards (I think politeness is hardwired into the British, we can’t help ourselves). Anyway, they never took any hints, and going to the supermarket became miserable, and stressful, until I realised that the local girls would simply give them a mouthful of abuse. All these guys must have thought I was encouraging them.

    Anyway, what concerns me in these posts is the “you’ll know when I mean no” attitude. That’s all very well for you, you’re the “local girls”. You have the confidence and you know how. Imagine a less confident girl, who suddenly finds herself a little in over her head, who smiles politely cause she feels intimidated, and says “no” instead of “No”. A guy who is used to “no”s that mean “yes”, and more forceful rejections when he goes over the line, might carry on. As far as she’s concerned he doesn’t care that she’s said no. As far as she’s concerned she’s going to be raped whatever, and it’ll be worse for her if she makes a fuss, so she shuts up and puts up with it, and he is none the wiser.

    Having said all this, I am in a long term relationship, and I’m familiar with the concept of “no” meaning “persuade me” or “not like that”, but if I meant no I’d never have to say it – he’d already know to be honest.

  • Dan says:

    I can’t help but be reminded of Louis CK clips by a lot of the stuff you say!

    The clip perfectly illustrates how mad your view is with new relationships or one night stands, (although ok, not so necessarily with established ones.)

    • Girl on the net says:

      That’s why I said this: “it’s an easy and useful default in an unfamiliar situation, and can prevent people from being forced into doing things they don’t want to do.”

  • Sarah says:

    I think the fundamental point here is:

    – in a new situation, where you don’t know each other or your limits, the word “no” must be taken completely seriously. If that then leads to a quick chat and starting again, that’s better than nothing. Basically, if a woman or man that you don’t know intimately says the word “no”, or more importantly does not say “yes”. You do not have permission.

    – In a developed relationship, consent is still important. However, consent becomes about other things than the word “no” when you know someone. You know their limits, having discussed them. You know their body language. You know their tone. You know the difference between “no, please don’t” and “no no fuck oww fuck off”, or a safe word, or a change in posture.

    Many people (men and women) have very specific sexual limits – so consent to have sex is not consent to grab, choke, spit, slap, shout, fist…. Whatever it is. Each new sexual activity requires consent, or at the absolute least, going carefully and responding immediately should you be told not to do something.

    When you’re familiar with someone sexually, you’re not so reliant on them telling you in the moment what is and isn’t okay. You already know. And if you want to try new things that you haven’t discussed, you still require consent – but if you know that your partner gets off on saying “no”, you should have other means of establishing they’re into it. If your partner suddenly yells out “no” and you have not discussed it, you should absolutely stop – at least long enough for them to ask you to carry on.

    Basically, consent is important all the way through a relationship – but as your relationship evolves, so will your own way of communicating consent.

    There are many things I love my husband doing to me, and I love it even more if I can let go and scream whatever takes my fancy (fuck, yes, Christ, stop, please, no and lots of others in any given session). However, there are very specific things that would seem very vanilla in comparison that he is absolutely not allowed to do to me, because of abuse in my past, and he knows this. They mainly consist of waking me up sexually or even spooning me when he has been drinking and smells of booze, and a few other things that seem tiny but which are big deals to me. In a new relationship, this is something I have to communicate or actively tell someone not to do – I can’t expect them to know this.

    I appreciate that muddying the waters of “no means no” could be dangerous, and no-one is suggesting for a second that “no” should be ignored, ever, UNLESS you have previously established that you will communicate your withdrawal or lack of consent differently when necessary.

    And as women, we need to take responsibility for this too. If we want to take away the meaning of the word “no” with a partner, we have to communicate this and replace it with something so that they are covered and feel safe. Many men freeze up when they hear the word “no”, it’s so ingrained in their brains. My partner only likes it when we are having obviously dirty sex – during romantic, loving sex he hates it, so I don’t do it.

  • Jennifer says:

    This is a super old post but I’m going to add my opinion in here anyways.

    I totally get what you’re saying here. I’ve never done anal, but I’d like to. If a guy asks me while we’re fucking, I will always say no. It’s safer and easier to say no, even though I actually want to. I’ve never done it because no guy has yet been willing to challenge my no. My no actually means yes please challenge my no… If we don’t talk about it before hand then the guy wouldn’t ever know… In which case he should honour the no. If it’s talked about before as being a yes then it’s a really weird grey area…

    I have been sexually abused so it makes the situation even more complicated. Very interesting topic for sure.

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