Tag Archives: consent

Dear Captain,

I’m a 20-year-old college student and I don’t drink, nor will I likely ever drink in the future. My father is an alcoholic, and every family member on his side has some form of substance abuse problem. I know that having a drink now and again will not necessarily hurt me or lead to a drinking problem of my own, but I’ve decided to just abstain completely anyways.

Most of my peers/classmates, however, like to drink and will often talk at length about it. I’ve been asked multiple times about my beer preference or some other alcohol-related question, to which I simply reply I don’t drink. For some reason, most people can’t seem to accept this and will ask me why not, or even try to convince me how great drinking is if I say it’s because I’m not interested. I don’t have a problem with other people drinking or listening to stories about it, but I don’t know how to explain my “disinterest” to other people.

I really don’t want to be a huge bummer in front of other people and say outright, “I don’t drink because my dad is an alcoholic,” but I don’t know how to get people to stop asking questions. “I don’t drink for personal reasons,” also feels like either a bummer or might lead to people asking what those reasons are.

So, Captain is there any way I can sidestep these questions without having to divulge my personal circumstances or bringing down the mood of the group?

Thanks for any help,

Sober in South Florida (she/her)

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As of 12/7 comments on this discussion are closed.


Hello Captain!

I need a script for talking to my girlfriend about what she wants in bed. She’s eighteen and I’m twenty and we’ve been together for four years. Neither of us really experimented with other people before we met each other, so we’ve done most of our sexual experimenting and maturing together. The problem is, we’re still having big communication problems.

The first issue is that, over the past year or so, my girlfriend has started to think that she might be a lesbian. She says she’s attracted to girls and not guys, and has explicitly stated that she’s not physically attracted to me. I think this might be part of the cause of the second issue.

The second issue is, my girlfriend never gives me an answer about whether or not she wants to have sex. She never gives me a solid “no” and she never gives me a solid “yes”. We tried employing a direct consent method where I would ask her directly, “Do you want to have sex right now?” but she would never give me an answer. Instead, she says things like, “Honey…” or “Maybe…” or “Tomorrow, okay?” For a while, she told me she didn’t want me to ask; she just wanted me to do what I wanted. Of course, that backfired, because I could never tell when she was actually into it and when she wasn’t. 

None of her feelings on the matter come up until after we’ve already had sex. I never know if she wanted it or didn’t want it until sometimes hours or days or weeks afterward, when she’ll tell me either that she liked it or that she didn’t actually want to have sex. She gets angry with me during these times and says that I’m using her body, or that I expect sex too often, and then she’ll stop sleeping with me as a way to set me straight. 

Captain, I know that my girlfriend is well within her rights not to have sex with me, and if she wants to have sex with other people instead or not to have sex at all, that’s okay. I love her and we’ll find a way to work it out one way or another. But I can’t do anything to help her feel safe and happy with me if she doesn’t tell me what she wants. If asking her directly doesn’t work, what should I do?

Thank you for taking the time. 


Yes Means Yes

Dear Yes Means Yes:

There is a lot of badness here. At this point, with your history, you should not have any sex with your girlfriend unless she herself initiates it or responds to your request by smiling from ear-to-ear, taking your hand, leading you into the bedroom, and removing your pants while saying things like “This is awesome” and “Yes please!” and “More!”

I can imagine your response to the above suggestion:

But, Captain Awkward, if I didn’t initiate sex then we’d never have sex!

You are correct, this is probably what would happen if you stopped initiating sex. This is because she does not want to have sex with you anymore.

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The Hulk

The Hulk is my patronus.

We’re going deep into the Jerkbrain today, so let’s start with nice things that I love.

First, a safe-for-work, short animated film, Address Is Approximate. It’s so simple and beautiful, and it punched me right in the heart (in a good way).

Next, Holly’s post about Consent Culture:

A consent culture is one in which the prevailing narrative of sex–in fact, of human interaction–is centered around mutual consent.  It is a culture with an abhorrence of forcing anyone into anything, a respect for the absolute necessity of bodily autonomy, a culture that believes that a person is always the best judge of their own wants and needs.

I don’t want to limit it to sex.  A consent culture is one in which mutual consent is part of social life as well.  Don’t want to talk to someone? You don’t have to.  Don’t want a hug? That’s okay, no hug then.  Don’t want to try the fish? That’s fine.  (As someone with weird food aversions, I have a special hatred for “just taste a little!”)  Don’t want to be tickled or noogied? Then it’s not funny to chase you down and do it anyway.

 I think part of the reason we have trouble drawing the line “it’s not okay to force someone into sexual activity” is that in many ways, forcing people to do things is part of our culture in general.  Cut that shit out of your life.  If someone doesn’t want to go to a party, try a new food, get up and dance, make small talk at the lunchtable–that’s their right.  Stop the “aww c’mon” and “just this once” and the games where you playfully force someone to play along.  Accept that no means no–all the time.

…It’s good to practice drawing your own boundaries outside of the bedroom, too.  It can be shockingly empowering to say something as small as “no, I don’t want to sit with you.”  “No, you can’t have my phone number.”  “I love hugs, but please ask me first.”  It’s good practice for the big stuff.  Simply learning to put your mind in the frame of “this person does not want me to say no to them, and they will resist me doing it, but I’m doing it anyway” is a big, important deal.

Go read the whole thing, obviously. She lays out a beautiful case that boundaries make life better and sex better, and that there are a lot of small things we can do to make the world better for each other. She also sets us up beautifully for today’s question.

El Capitan!

I hope perhaps you might have some advice — or the crowd might — on how to stop being obnoxious. See, I’m pretty laid-back up until someone does something crummy to me. For instance! Once a dude forgot about a date with me, and when he remembered, went snowboarding anyway. Objectively douchey, but that’s not the problem — the problem is that once someone does a thing like that I WILL NEVER FORGET. I will obsess over it, picking at what happened like it’s a scab. I will quite likely resent them and want them to suffer, up till I forget who they are. Which does happen — bad memory — but takes too long to achieve. Leaving scorched earth behind doesn’t work that well in a smaller community as I’m likely going to have to interact with these people in the future. Or at least I’d like to interact, in a nice blasé way, and with none of the perpetual RAWWWWWWWWWWWWR that goes on in my head (and sometimes escapes my lips). It’s embarrassing to feel so strongly about stupid things from the past. I don’t want to lose the Dignity Game. Also, it’s tiring to keep the perpetual motion hamster wheel of resentment going in my head. It takes up so much space in there, which could be better used by remembering fun sex or something.

So! The question is: How the hell do I stop my brain from going over this stuff? How do I turn it off, or retrain myself? I’d like to keep my feathers unruffled, and stop embarrassing myself.

Yours sincerely,
Shut Up, Brain

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