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Learning the Value of “Yes Means Yes”

September 23, 2009

The first time I had sex while sober I was eighteen and since I lost my virginity when I was fifteen that accounts for three years of drunken sexual activity for a total, within that time frame, of nine sexual partners plus one or two others depending on your definition of sex.

Most straight people I know define sex as performing the act of intercourse, but that doesn’t cover the whole gamut of possibilities. It’s a limiting view of sex, a view that takes the perspective of the heterosexual male, but where is the line drawn and how should we define sex as opposed to making out or fooling around when there are a multitude of different perspectives to account for?

How intimate do you have to be with another person for it to be considered sex? Maybe, I should be more specific and say that between the age of fifteen and eighteen I had intercourse with nine different men and for each and every encounter I was under the influence of either drugs or alcohol. I am not mentioning this fact to bring up the issue of my ability to consent, because hell, I was young, I was having a good time and I wanted to get laid, but there was definitely something self-destructive about my behavior. 

The self-destruction didn’t necessarily lie in the substance abuse nor did it lie in the fact that I had several sexual partners, but mostly, knowing myself the way I do now, it was self-destructive, because I wasn’t using the power of yes. 

In sexual discourse, when it comes to giving you agency over your own sexuality, women are taught that they can say NO. I agree, that is a very powerful lesson to learn. No means no. I got it, although sadly not enough people get it, but what I want to talk about is saying YES! 

We should be taught and encouraged to explore ourselves sexually, either from second hand sources or through experience. There is also tremendous power in knowing what you want, and having the self-confidence to say yes to your sexual desires as opposed to being a passive player in your own sexual education. 

It’s not enough to just do it. 

That’s what I did for the longest time, I just did it. I had all these thoughts and feelings and desires inside of me, but I was petrified to express them to my sexual partner. Hell, I could talk about it with anyone and at anytime except where it counted most, in bed with another naked body. I could barely moan for fear of the way I sounded, for fear of ridicule. Worst of all, I was afraid of being a bad lover and that fear led me to try to hide my inexperience and vulnerability. 

I’ve had sex for a variety of reasons in my time, not all of them stellar, but I’ve been lucky enough that ultimately I was willing and able. I was a sexually liberated woman, right? Casual sex wasn’t a big deal, but that desire for sexual expression and need of sexual pleasure got mixed up with self-doubt and indecision leading more often than not to unsavory experiences that left me feeling empty and sad.

Why? Because those experiences did not satisfy. Besides the fact that none of them ever led to an orgasm (for me anyhow), I didn’t have the confidence to really do what I wanted or enjoy what the hell was happening at the time. Once, my clothes came off, I was like a petrified dear in headlights trying to play it cool and that facade made it impossible for any true sexual or emotional connection to take place. 

Of course, now that I have the confidence to say a big YES to all my wants and desires, I don’t drink anymore and I’m not nearly as slutty, which makes it harder to get laid in the first place. 

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2009 11:04 pm

    This fits in nicely with a BUST post I read today about some “findings” that women apparently like to drink before getting it on: http://www.bust.com/blog/2009/09/23/the-facts-of-life-women-like-to-get-drunk-before-sex.html

    I mean, duh?

    But regarding your post, I think the concept of “the power of yes” is an interesting one, because like you say, we are supposed to say NO, but are we ever encouraged to say yes, to be present, to enjoy ourselves? We are supposed to be great lovers, because that’s what *men* want, but as for having orgasms, it doesn’t really matter whether we get off.

    My very first boyfriend was obsessed with Greek mythology and a bit of an idiot, but he did make one good point while we were together: he thought that the ancients had it right, as one of them apparently suggested that if a woman didn’t orgasm at the moment of conception, her baby would be born with no soul. Hence, pleasing a woman was actually of utmost importance.

  2. September 23, 2009 11:20 pm

    The last line is the BUST post you just mentioned is golden: “Hopefully everyone doesn’t have to get tipsy before getting frisky.” and it rhymes too, which is always a plus.

    I like what you said about how we’re supposed to be great lovers, because that’s what is expected of us, often to the detriment of our own sexual pleasure. I’ve definitely been in situations where I’ve felt inhibited about taking more control over what would bring me sexual pleasure during sex, since I also felt that what would bring me pleasure didn’t match up to the definition of being a great lover (that is in a typical heterosexual kind of way).

    I like the idea that a baby would be born with no soul if the woman didn’t orgasm at the moment of conception, I like the poetry of it, but the first think I thought of after reading that was: “No wonder there are so many soulless people out there.”

  3. Liz permalink
    September 26, 2009 8:28 am

    I love this post. Ugh, EVERYONE should read this. Seriously.

    On a side note about my experiences, the first time I ever “fooled around” with a guy, I was 15 and totally stupid and was conned into his bedroom. Once it started I didn’t know how to stop it – and you know what the problem was? I physically wanted to keep going. I was super into it. But I didn’t love him, or even LIKE him for that matter and couldn’t understand why I wanted him. They don’t really teach you that part in Sex Ed, the joys of fucking people you don’t like. So I stopped him. And didn’t tell anyone about it until I was 18. I was embarrassed, as if I’d done something wrong. I always thought that was an interesting and strange introduction to sex. After that, I was with a few guys that I chose and I liked and totally took the reins in doing whatever I wanted. I didn’t orgasm until I was 21 but I had a lot of fun just exploring. I feel like that’s pretty unique in that the fears started later on in life… and those I guess were primarily emotional.

  4. September 26, 2009 7:08 pm

    I totally know what you mean, I think a lot of women have stories like that where they have mixed emotions about what is going on. I’ve personally been in situations where as it was happening I was still trying to figure out if I actually wanted it to be happening. Not necessarily afraid to say no, but unsure as to whether I wanted to say yes, and then just sort of letting it happen, because it did feel good, at least physically, and because it also somehow felt wrong to stop it when I hadn’t done anything to indicate that I didn’t necessarily like what was happening.

    I remember one experience clearly, and this happened when I was nineteen or so, this guy was over at my place and I was showing him some of my drawings and at some point I was standing in front of him and he lifted up my shirt and started to kiss my stomach. It felt good, but as I was looking down at him, I asked myself “Do I really want this to be happening?”. By the time I answered the question we were already having sex, and I really didn’t know what the hell to do. I mean, it was already happening. How could I stop it? It ended badly, he probably thought I was the biggest bitch in the world, because I pretend to cum and then just kind of stopped participating and then asked him to leave.

    Definitely not one of the high points in my life, but I’m happy I had the realization that I could stop it at any point. There’s wasn’t a line of no return so to speak. Obviously, it’s best to handle it differently, but the thing I realized is that I could handle it.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Liz permalink
    September 29, 2009 9:39 am

    Wow I know exactly what you mean about that sort of ambiguity in our minds… I feel like sex education covers all the obvious physical things, which my parents (or rather mom) had already drilled into me, but someone, somewhere ought to explain all the complex emotions that come along with those physical impulses. It’s like oh… just abstain! It’s the safest! Or use condoms, then it’s ok! Their biggest fear is pregnancy? Like really? Or an STD? What about all the other emotional baggage that trails afterward? I think being taught it’s ok to say NO, is great.. and so incredibly important, but without understanding when to say YES, it kind of falls flat.

  6. September 29, 2009 12:33 pm

    So true, in sex ed they teach the biology behind it all and the practical facts like using condoms and what the physical risks are (i.e. pregnancy and stds) and maybe you have parents who will tell you to wait until you are ready, but not once does anybody have a discussion with you about how to tell that you are ready or not or the difference between being ready in a sexually aroused kind of way and emotionally or mentally.

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