I got a lot of responses to Navigating to No. There was an avalanche of messages from women telling me their rape and violation stories. The women were Ph.D.s or stay-at-home moms, college students or older women who had never said a word. I got emails from both men and women chastising me for mixing up two different issues. They argued that I was confusing rape with consensual sex. One woman was incensed that I would suggest that women are victims in these sexual situations. I got a long group letter from four people who had decided that I wanted the sexual situation described in the essay but couldn’t stand by my desire, so I changed my mind and told a different story about it afterward. One young man wrote me a detailed response of unclear sex from the male perspective. I found his honest response invaluable. If more women understood that there was no negotiating, that they were being steamrolled, I hope more of them would push harder and be louder with their “no”s. Of course, women changing their behavior does not 1) keep them safe; 2) ensure they will not be raped; 3) stop sexual aggression from happening. The only people who can stop it are the aggressors and the culture that supports them.
Response to: Navigating to No
I’d like to start by saying that you did a great job in shedding some light on this touchy and secretive subject. I consider it secretive because it is much more common than most people would believe. It serves as a definite benefit for women, by providing their opinions and feelings on the matter, especially from those women that have experienced it first hand. With the situation being so common, I don’t think men, as a whole, understand just how detrimental an effect it has on women. I say this because I found a few similarities between the re-telling of experiences within the article, and my own personal experiences. This reply is not a half-hearted attempt at confession or repent, it’s just something that I felt was not covered, but needs to be. It’s the man’s view of ‘Navigating to No’.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I have played the role of the aggressive and determined male a few times in my life. I feel that by providing the man’s view on this topic, women can learn some things to help avoid future incidents. I know that any man that has played the role before should have learned something from reading this article, I know I did.
My experiences were not violent, or even forceful, in my opinion. There have been times when she said that she “doesn’t want to do anything,” and I simply ignored her and followed my own horny little agenda. Once things progressed to a certain point, I would pause and try to judge her response. If she was in that “frozen” stage where she’s totally unresponsive and won’t even make eye contact, then I would stop, because that really bothers me and usually turns me off. What women need to realize is that giving in is not the best action to take. I understand wanting to avoid violence, but I think if the woman puts up enough resistance, she will get her point across without things resulting in violence. If she thinks that a man will get violent with her for not wanting to have sex, then she really should not have put herself in such a compromising position with him in the first place. Sure he may get up and leave, never speak to her again, and even go as far as trashing her name, but if she’s mature and at least somewhat intelligent, those things are fairly easy to overcome.
The most important thing is that a woman needs to be clear with her message/intent. That whole no/yes thing is too open to interpretation. It should not be up to the man to interpret whether the woman wants to go all the way. A woman needs to know that if she is thinking ‘No’ and she says ‘No’, her actions need to be consistent with that message. Saying ‘No’ and following it up with kisses, while letting him unbutton your blouse or pants, kind of defeats the purpose. When you decide that things have gone far enough, you can’t just draw the line in the sand. You have got to paint it on the concrete. You don’t have to turn into wonder woman, just fasten your clothing, pull his hand out from under your blouse, and sit up. Sitting up is equally as important. Position plays a major role in how far the man will try to go. The closer he gets you to a submissive position, the harder it will likely be to get him to stop, especially if you have a skirt on. Sitting up usually brings thing back in prospective. Once you sit up, if he is still persistent, stand up. These are simple steps you can take that do not necessarily have to ruin the evening, but can prevent ‘Navigating to No’.
My next statements will probably make any female reader vomit, but, in my opinion, it’s the truth. Women have played a significant role in this whole situation. It’s the women that “Freeze” and give in, that are NEXT TO the heart of the problem. A man is usually naturally aggressive when it comes to sex. He has to learn that aggression pays off. I learned. The first time I “Muscled it” (that’s the common term males use for ‘Navigating to No’), I was scared to death afterward. It was a situation where she and I were together and things were getting heavy. We were kissing and she was in a submissive position. I proceeded to remove her pants and she asked me what I was doing. I told her nothing and proceeded kissing her and removing her pants. She was still very responsive, returning the kisses and not providing much resistance to me removing her pants. When she got back into a submissive position, she said that she didn’t want to do anything, but she was still kissing me in the process. Once I got in position, she said no, and I paused. I recited the usual rhetoric men use at this point. I then continued kissing her and she occasionally returned the kisses. The rest is self-explanatory. At no time did she ever try to get up, or force me off of her. At no time did I use any force or threat of violence towards her. After it was over, while I was on my way home, I started to wonder. What had I just done? I began to worry that I may have just raped her and that if she called the police, I would go to jail. I was sick to my stomach. The weird thing was that when I saw her the next day in school, she acted like everything was fine. We never had sex again, but I figured everything was OK.
The previous situation occurred while I was in high school. Another incident occurred while I was in college. She was an old girlfriend (that didn’t go to the school) and she agreed to let me come and pick her up so she could spend the night with me in my dorm room. It was a co-ed dorm, and I had my own room. We never had sex with each other before, but I figured that she was not coming to spend the night just to talk and cuddle. We took a shower together and there was a lot of hugging, rubbing, and kissing going on. She got out first and I finished taking a shower. When I got out, she was laying in my bed with a T-Shirt and panties on. Mind you it was about midnight when we got to my room. The lights were off, and only the TV was on. I climbed in next to her and watched TV for a minute. I began kissing her on her neck and back. I asked her if she would mind if I turned the TV off and turned the radio on. She said she didn’t mind, and I put on a ‘Slow Jam’ CD. The room was completely dark, with the only light coming from my stereo. We began kissing, and she got into a submissive position. As I slid her panties down, she grabbed a hold of them and asked me what I was doing. Again, I repeated the usual rhetoric. I resumed kissing her and proceeded under her shirt. After licking her breasts and navel, I was able to slide her panties down. Once back into position, she again stopped me. She said that she didn’t want to do anything. We resumed kissing and I penetrated. After a few thrusts, she asked me to stop, but her request was followed by a moan. Throughout the situation, she asked me to stop a few times, yet she still let out occasional moans, and I felt her hands grip my back with each moan. The next morning she mentioned that she didn’t want to do anything and that I forced myself on her. We talked about it more over the phone after I took her home. She was still going on about how she didn’t want to do anything. Upon changing my sheets, I noticed stains that lead me to believe she climaxed. When I asked her about it, she confirmed that she did climax, multiple times. I felt really guilty about my aggressiveness, but upon confirmation that she did indeed climaxed, I felt that she was just putting up a front about not wanting to do anything. Another older woman told me, a few years later, that she may have been claiming that I forced myself on her, to avoid admitting to herself that she was just a one night stand. That was totally new to me, but it did come from woman’s mouth. I figured that a woman would not climax unless she was really comfortable and enjoying herself. I considered it a successful sexual experience for both of us because she climaxed multiple times. Talk about a mixed message.
That is how the aggressive behavior grows. When a woman gives in and lets the man have his way, how is he supposed to know it’s wrong if she never says anything? Let him know exactly how you feel. I truly believe that men, myself included, don’t have a clue how this effects women. Men that are successful with even the slightest aggression, will keep doing it. Why wouldn’t they, it works! The problem is that the more successful he is with it, the more aggressive he is willing to become before he gives up. If aggression has worked for him ten times, then on number eleven he will go even farther with it. By then, he may even become forceful. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way, shape, or form saying that his behavior is acceptable, I’m just providing the male’s view. Women are usually the physically weaker sex. That is just the plain and simple truth. Now, people can sit and play point the finger all day and that’s fine, because the male is completely wrong in every one of these situations. What I’m saying is that pointing the finger isn’t changing anything. Until we figure out how to control the hormones and aggressiveness of the male gender, something needs to be done.
Now that I have shed some light on the other side of this subject, I’m going to provide some simple pointers for women to keep in mind. 1. When you know you’re going to be alone with a man, keep in mind that he may try to get some. 2. You need to decide before you get there, or at least before things get too heated up, whether or not you’re going to give it to him. 3. If you decide no, then try to dress and/or act accordingly. If you think there will be some kissing and touching going on, then avoid “Easy Access” clothing (ie., skirts, loose fitting and/or stretchable shorts). Wear jeans, because they have to be taken off before anything can happen, and that provides an opportunity to slow things down. Besides, it’s really easy for a woman to resist having her jeans removed non-forcibly. 4. If you’re not sure and things get heated, then you need to stop things when they start. For me, when a woman lets the kissing go on, but resists getting into a submissive/sexual position, that’s a clear sign that she only wants to go so far. 5. If you want to stop things, be clear with your message (i.e. sit up and stop kissing). 6. If he’s aggressive, whatever you do, don’ t give in. Don’t you think your body is worth fighting for? Generally, if a woman puts up a clear and unmistakable message that she is not going all the way, the man gives up.
I am very confident that if women follow these simple steps along with using a little common sense, they can avoid being victimized. There are, and will always be, brothers that just won’t take ‘No’ for an answer, but most of us are not like that. Generally, if a woman puts up enough resistance, it becomes a turnoff. Oh yeah ladies, don’t be afraid to cry if you need to. I have never had an experience where a woman began to cry, but if she did, I think it would completely freak me out. I’d probably get so sick to my stomach, that sex wouldn’t even be a thought anymore. Women should already know by now that most men are suckers for tears anyway. Now, my steps and advice are not foolproof, nothing is. The main point I am trying to stress is that a woman needs to be clear with her message or intent. Don’t leave the interpretation up to the man, because chances are, he’s going to misinterpret things in his favor. That’s usually the easiest way to avoid these situations. Remember this information is coming from a young, educated, African American male, and former athlete who feels that women could really benefit from knowing this.