I was babbling with a good male friend recently and he said something that made me blink fast. We were talking about sex, and his frustration with his current girlfriend whose sex drive doesn’t match his. He could have sex every day, she’s only interested 3 to 4 times per seven day cycle.

“So what do you want her to do? Do you when she doesn’t want to?” I asked my friend, jokingly.

It’s an idea that’s beyond me. I’ve had sex before when I didn’t want to. It wasn’t rape. I didn’t offer a “no” to be ignored. But didn’t offer an enthusiastic “yes!” either to give consent. Just kind of gave in to his persistence with a meek “okay” and laid there counting the pumps until he was done and hoping I didn’t dry out in the process. I felt about like Shug Avery once deduced from Cellie’s story about Mister:

A: You make it sound like he was going to the toilet on you.
B. That’s what it feel like.

After that night, I promised myself that going forward unless I was 100% “yes!” the answer was “no.” I’d deal with the fallout when it came — the guilt tripping, his relationship re-evaluation, his convert threats of “you know what you don’t do someone else will.” Okay. Whatever it was, couldn’t be worse than the way I felt laying there waiting for him to finish.

“Well yeah,” my friend answered. “That’s what every other woman does.”

He didn’t get his new girl. She was the first woman that had ever told him “no,” had not even attempted to pacify him by offering oral or a hand job when she wasn’t in the mood and he was. The women before her had all been “Cater to You” types. He made his wants known either verbally or with a tap on the shoulder so she’d roll over. And when she wasn’t in the mood, she initially rebuffed him, but then he persisted, and after a bit of back and forth, she just gave in. Never said no, never said yes, but she spread her legs so he did what he wanted and never thought about what she really wanted. She didn’t say no, so she must have meant yes.

He went on to tell me that he felt rejected when his girl said no. Not a surface type, but a bone deep ache that messed with his head until he couldn’t get to sleep some nights long after she was snoring beside him.

He sat across from me rolling around all the shortcomings that would make her say no. He’d internalized it to be about something he was doing. At the same time, I was sitting there respecting the hell out of her for respecting her body enough not to allow it to be used for someone else’s pleasure when she didn’t feel like participating. And too, I was wondering why so many women say “okay” when what we really want to say is “no.”

Demetria Lucas is the Relationship Editor at Essence Magazine and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to-Girl for Advice on Living the Single Life (Atria) which will be published in June.  

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