In a revealing essay by Abigail Matson Phippard called ‘Staring at the Ceiling’ from the book ‘I Call Myself a Feminist’, she talks about her experience of working with victims of sexual violence and how she linked them back to the violence of her past. She shares about how heartbreaking it would be for her to listen to some atrocious stories. What she interestingly points out is that it was a common thing in women to be confused about violence. Abigail says,
I didn’t always want to do it everytime he wanted it. I found it difficult to tell him because he would get angry and upset and take it on his ego. Instead, I would just lie there, stare at the ceiling, I would disengage, offering myself as a hole for them to use.
Women often wonder if it is okay to say ‘no’ when in bed with their partners. This confusion comes from the fact that we are never empowered to make sexual decisions. Whether it is seeking love or giving, we are to be the ones who are ‘shy’ and ‘can’t speak’ or ’emote’ our feelings about sex. It goes to such greater extent that we forget; that it’s our decision in the end. Cases are worse when it is with your husband because, in a patriarchal society, husbands own the wives, and she should be ready anytime she wants it.
Sexual abuse is very common pre-marital relationships too, where the person manipulates the other to have sex against their wish. Especially complex in this day and age where having sex equals to ‘scoring’, in individual social circles of guys. College guys or newbies are many a time in the pressure of getting a girl to sleep with them.
In a sexually liberated society, this would happen to men too. A woman would seek sex and the man wouldn’t want at that time. In our society, it generally happens to women because it is such a taboo. We are humans, not machines. Two people, howmuchever in love, can feel differently about sex. This has nothing to get one’s ego hurt on.
The pressure of saying no- in an otherwise consenting relationship- is on the girl. Some people might say that there was no way a person would know that you are not interested. In reality, it is not that difficult. There are easy cues: The person looks disengaged, passive, unresponsive, not emoting as much, is crying, etc. Even if these cues are not 100% right all the time. It at least means to stop and ask. The whole idea could also be about seeking consent. Abigail admits,
“Some years after this I entered into a relationship with someone who consistently and actively sought to establish not just my consent, but that I really wanted to, every single time. This was new to me…”
When is it Okay to Say No to Sex: All the Time
- Even when you not having the mood has nothing to do with him. It is okay.
- When you are upset because of him. It is okay.
- If your period hurts. If your period doesn’t hurt but you find it disgusting.
- If you are in two minds about the relationship itself. It is okay.
- If you initiated it in the first place but something ticked you off. It is okay.
- Even if it means a breakup, it is okay. (If he can’t respect you in the bed. He doesn’t respect you at all.)
- Even when you are unable to put it in words or rationalise it but you know that you don’t want it. It is okay.
- You love the person but don’t enjoy having sex with them. (In this case, you MUST try to talk about it in a delicate manner but yes, it is okay.)
These and all other reasons are fine. One thing the girls have to remember that it is okay to feel anything. And repressed feelings about sex can create extreme complications in the future. It is not okay to stare at the ceiling or faking an orgasm, just to avoid a confrontation. At times, it’s only the language to communicate that you lack. Your partner could be absolutely understanding. However awkward, you must make that conversation. because otherwise, it is not worth it. Not even in the name of love.