Once in awhile you see a headline that makes you think that we’re doomed. Okay, not once in awhile– almost every day. One such headline appeared recently in The Guardian. “Dating after #MeToo: I’ve had a lot of sex out of politeness. How do I say no?” Having sex out of politeness seems to fall into the category of “I get into random people’s cars out of politeness” and “I shower with strangers out of politeness.” It seems to be be written for The Onion but it is actually written for a general audience. Side note: If you have an issue with this, you might also suffer from “I stick firecrackers up my ass out of politeness. How do I stop?”
Look, I get it. We all have issues. Everyone has different shit to deal with. But I’m not sure how this is connected or should be connected with the #MeToo movement. From what I understand, the #MeToo movement is about women who have been sexually assaulted and raped. It is about exposing sexual predators and our “rapey” culture. I didn’t know it was also about women who are dis-empowering themselves out of their own free will.
The headline comes from a 38 year old woman who seeks advice from writer Jean Hannah Edelstein. Edelstein proceeds to give her advice on the matter. Although some of the advice is great, there is much that is problematic, in my opinion. Here are a few takeaways.
“It sounds pretty normal to me”
I’m going to go out on a limb here, but having sex with people out of politeness is not normal. Or, should I say, having sex out of politeness shouldn’t be normalized. But when you say that it “sounds pretty normal to me” you’re kind of normalizing it, aren’t you?
“Many women are socialized to be polite to people at the cost of their own feelings or well-being, so it’s not surprising that it can apply to sex, too.”
Yes, many women are socialized that way. But it is surprising that it would apply to sex in the same way that it would be surprising if it were applied to getting into a car with a stranger. Sex is an intimate thing with high stakes for many women. Doing so just to be polite doesn’t remind me of most of the women I’ve met. Have I met the wrong kind of women? Where do I go to meet these women who will have sex with me just to be polite? (sarc)
“When I was growing up I was told to say no to sex until I was married; no one told me how to say yes to sex that I wanted or, indeed, how to change my mind about sex if I was being led in a direction that I did not want to go.”
The #MeToo movement is unequivocal that no means no. It also follows that yes means yes. And of course, people have a right to change their mind and that should absolutely be respected. This strikes me as a societal issue and a personal issue. We definitely have room for improvement on this issue if women are having trouble with this basic concept, as many men also are.
“If you do something sexually because you are afraid of what will happen if you say no, then you are not at fault.”
There is a real problem with this. Let’s contextualize it. If you’re saying yes because someone is threatening you into sex, that is not your fault. But if you’re saying yes because you are “afraid” something will happen–that just might be your fault. People are afraid of all kinds of things, for legitimate and sometimes illegitimate reasons. For example, many cops today are “afraid” of black men just because they’re black. That is a perception problem. Don’t try to blame other people for that. Someone who has sex with people just to be polite, in my view, is not the most reliable judge of social situations and expectations.
The onus should be on her to figure that out. She will most likely find it empowering. Isn’t that the goal?
Featured image by Alysha Koby — Flickr.