Tag Archives: Enthusiastic Consent

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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Dear Captain Awkward,

Due to a current organizing position I hold I have been asked to deliver brief presentations to each of the Greek chapters on my campus discussing the importance of women’s reproductive health issues in the upcoming election and subsequently registering people to vote while perhaps even sneaking in tidbits about safe sex and healthy relationships. I have no reservations talking to the sororities because I figure they have more reason to be receptive to the message. I am, however, quite nervous to present to the fraternities. Standing alone in front of a room of fraternity guys is scary in and of itself. Trying to convince them to care about women’s reproductive health issues seems tricky, as does talking about consent to a group that is particularly sensitive/defensive about consent issues. How can I give my presentation in a compelling and convincing manner?

Some things I have thought of:

1.  The men and women’s sexual health on campus depend on one another. The men’s health is compromised if the women don’t have access to STD screenings/contraceptives etc and vice versa. And these dudes definitely aren’t looking to become dads anytime soon so like, SUPPORT BIRTH CONTROL HEY!

2.     The “these are your girlfriends, your friends, sisters & mothers” ploy. But that comes off to me as “PROTECT YOUR WOMEN” and that is a weird message that I don’t want to deliver.

3.     It’s just the right thing to do…

Any script ideas or talking points you can think of?


Fraternizing with the Male Vote

Dear Fraternizing:

What a cool project. I understand why it feels daunting. But it is cool and important.

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Racist AND Sexist. Gross.

You guys, sorry to go all serious and unfunny on you, but I am incredibly creeped out at the news reports of what happened to the CBS News reporter* and her crew in Egypt, especially the ones that need to mention that she was an “attractive blonde” so that you can really, really picture it.  Gross. Unfortunately, as you an see from our handy visual aid, the “Swarthy Foreigners Are Defiling Our Women” meme is nothing new.

If you’ve got a strong stomach and a nice padded place for when you give up on humanity and start banging your head against the walls, Manboobz has the scoop here and here.

This incident, plus the semesterly reading of Freshman creative writing where I have to explain that “Hey, the part of your story where your female character said she didn’t want to have sex and then the male character got her really, really drunk and had sex with her anyway?  Yeah, I think that your character just raped that lady,” told me that it was a time for a little bit of schooling around this extremely awkward topic.

Here’s what happens when you get raped:

1.  A person or people carry out a serious invasion of your personal space.

2.  You risk a whole bunch of shitty complications afterwards, including but not limited to:  STDs, pregnancy (which you might be forced to carry to term thanks to religious zealots), physical pain and emotional trauma, bad dreams, flashbacks, plus every asshat in the world second-guessing everything you’ve ever done in your life in an effort to explain what you did that led to you getting attacked, possibly for the rest of your life.

Here’s how you got raped:

1.  You went about your life and used your liberty to pursue happiness.

2. You encountered a rapist who decided to rape you.


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I mostly liked Prudence’s answer to the woman whose boyfriend is pressuring her to have Teh Butt Secks, but I think her answer (“Don’t date someone who requires that one thing when you don’t like that thing”) focused too much on the act itself and not on the other red flags in the letter. She’s trying really hard not to be judgmental about the act by invoking the gays and the fetish community, but her language choices – and “Surely he’s aware that it’s the kind of thing that could make someone want to turn tail and run” – (Ha ha, hilarious!  Turn tail!  Get it?  Get it?) betray that she shares the letter writer’s distaste.

Repeat with me:  It’s not the kink, it’s the pressure. If you’re in love with someone and having a great relationship in the bedroom and out of it, you don’t make one act a “make-or-break” factor in your relationship.  You don’t pressure people into having sex- any kind of sex – with you.  It’s manipulative and crappy.

Okay, let’s say that these two really are in love and this guy is not normally manipulative and crappy and doesn’t mean to be that way.  He just really wants what he wants.  But at what cost?   Would he be okay with having sex with someone who wasn’t enjoying herself in order to satisfy this need?   It sounds like she likes him enough and is adventurous enough to gamely try it out a couple of times.  There are a million possible reasons that she didn’t enjoy it, from “Eh, just not into it” to “Ow!  Ow!  OW! OW! OW!”   The possibility that he is just not good at it is….extremely high, especially if he’s trying to recreate something he saw in porn for his own pleasure instead of trying to create a good experience for his partner.  There’s this whole gross other layer going on about entitlement and about sex as something that women “give up” to men instead of participating in enthusiastically (which may also point to why she’s not enjoying his pee-pee in her no-no), but I’ll leave that to better qualified bloggers.

It can be scary and vulnerable to ask for That Weird Thing You Like In Bed, and in a good relationship both partners will be GGG and try things out, or, at least not ridicule each other’s desires.  But the way to talk someone into getting a-little-freakier-than-usual is not by demanding, cajoling, manipulating, or threatening to break up with them if they won’t.  The Freakier Partner (TFP) has a duty to make things really, really, really, extraordinarily pleasurable so that the Less Freaky (For Now) Partner (LFFNP) will enthusiastically give it a go,  to monitor the response of the LFFNP, and to stop immediately if the other person is not enjoying it.  The LFFNP really has only one job:  To communicate honestly, especially if that means saying “I’m sorry, I’m not enjoying this, please stop.”

Listen up, Freakier Partner.  With Great Kink comes Great Responsibility.  If the LFFNP enjoyed your little trip to Freakytown the other night, he or she will let you know.  And bring it up.  And maybe do it again. Without a lot of pressure from you.  Because sexy people having good sex try to make each other happy.  If things don’t go well, your partner is just not into whatever it is, and you decide you really need whatever it is, maybe the answer is to break up and find someone who is more compatible.  You get to break up.  But you don’t get to threaten to break up in order to manipulate someone into doing something they don’t enjoy. It’s not the kink, it’s the pressure.

If your boyfriend threatens to break up with you over your refusal to do something you don’t enjoy in bed, take him up on the offer.  Someone who makes one sex act out of 1,000 more important than literally everything else about you can’t be trusted as your Partner In Freaky Exploration.