A tip for mind-reading: ask

When I don’t post for a while, it means one of two things: either nothing is going on in my life so I don’t have anything interesting to write about, or so much is happening that I don’t have time to post. In this case, it’s the latter. Post-grad degrees are hard – who knew? A lot of time has been spent in the library, with me desperately trying to work out what I want to spend the rest of this year writing about, and stressing over the fact that I still don’t know. In addition, I’ve been heavily involved in theatre, and any spare time I’ve had off my degree has been channelled straight into a show I was working on. Time for drama and gossip and exciting new experiences? Definitely. Time to write about them? Not so much.

This post isn’t actually about my life. While I do have some news, I want to wait and see how it works out before writing about it. (The whole thinking-about-what-you-publish-on-the-internet thing again, sorry to disappoint.) This is about a friend of mine. I’m going to call him Icarus, because while he’s lovely and well-meaning, he can be a little clueless when it comes to some things, especially regarding women. But he knows I’m very open and honest, and that I write a sex blog, so he came to me for advice about a girl he was dating. Or rather, trying to date.

He tells me they’ve been out together twice, and it seemed to be going great, except she doesn’t want to sleep with him or go any further than making out. And he says that’s fine, except he’d quite like to know why. So I ask him to elaborate – what happened? He tells me they got back after dinner and were lying in bed cuddling, and then kissing, and then he tries to take off her tights and she pushes his hand away. And so they go back to just kissing, and then he goes home. He tells me he’s completely okay with this, but he’d just like to understand why, because surely she would have had more fun if he’d at least gone down with her, even if they hadn’t had sex. And then he looks at me hopefully, as if his omniscient sex-positive female friend can magically present him with the perfect answer.

I say, in a slightly puzzled tone, Did you ask her?

There are dozens of reasons why she might have pushed his hand away. Maybe she was a Christian virgin who didn’t want to have sex before marriage. Maybe she’d had sex the night before and was still sore. Maybe she was fairly inexperienced and felt anxious. Maybe she liked to get to know guys much better before letting them touch her. Maybe she was pissed off that he’d tried to take off her clothes without asking her first. Maybe she actually did want to go further, but felt self-conscious and nervous. Maybe she was on her period. Maybe she felt it was too sudden, but later on in the evening would have said yes. Maybe she wanted to discuss where (if anywhere) the relationship was going. Maybe she was wearing really unsexy underwear that night. Maybe she’d recently got out of  a relationship and was still upset over it. Maybe she’d noticed that his hands were really blistered and didn’t want him to touch her.

…And those are only the ones I could think of off the top of my head!

I made this point to Icarus, and he seemed disappointed not to have an answer as to ‘why a girl would do that’. And then I gave him the best advice I think I could give for anyone in any kind of similar situation: Why don’t you ask her? Or rather, why didn’t he ask her at the  time? He mumbled something about not wanting to pressure her and respecting her decisions. And hell, I am one hundred per cent for not pressuring someone and for respecting them! Enthusiastic consent all the way! But there’s no reason to act like respect and communication are mutually exclusive concepts.

So let’s say they’re back in bed, he reaches down to take off her tights, and she stops him.  And then his response is an aggressive ‘Why did you do that? I thought we were going to have sex. What are you stopping for?’. That is pressuring, bordering on coercion, which is inevitably going to have negative results. But what if instead, he says, ‘Hey, I’m sorry if you feel I’m taking things too fast. I won’t touch you again if you don’t want me to, but why don’t you tell me what you want and how you’re feeling?’. Even better would be to have that conversation beforehand. Not necessarily an in-depth discussions about everything they like and don’t like (though that’s how I mostly do it, and it’s great fun), but just a quick chat about things like how open they both are to sex early on in a relationship, and any boundary issues or triggers. That’s not pressure, not if you do it in a polite, respectful way. And yes, I get that sometimes it’s awkward to talk about these kinda things, especially if you’re in bed at the time. But is the alternative really any better? Trying something, getting a negative response, and running to another friend for answers because it’s too weird to ask directly?

It’s at times like this when I am very thankful to my crazy relationship history, or liberal upbringing, or whatever it was that has enabled me to just go ahead and ask the awkward questions when necessary. I’ve even learnt how to ask them in a sexy, flirtatious way, but that took practice. To the best of my knowledge, Icarus has yet to ask, so we may never know why the girl pushed his hand away when she did. Next time, I hope he asks her. For everyone’s sake.