I was responding to a comment from my post yesterday about elevatorgate, just now, and realized part of what put a twist in my panties about this issue originally. And while I think that I am in agreement with Rebecca Watson almost completely, and thank her for her consciousness raising (assuming she won’t mind the continual use of that term associated with her new BFF Richard Dawkins), I also think that there is a tangential issue that all of these conversations touch on that have been meaningful for me for a long time.
So, while trying to slowly put behind us the specific issue of Rebecca Watson and her elevator friend, I want to address the general issue of being creepy in a sex-positive world full of happy, horny, sluts.
It is essentially this: There is nothing wrong with asking for sex.
I have read, in the last few days, so many comments about proper ways to hit on women that don’t sexualize them, that respect them, and that will not creep them out. I get it; make sure you are in a safe context, speak to them respectfully, and and don’t just proposition them, but talk to them first. The last part throws me off a little. There is nothing inherently wrong with asking a person, in a safe environment and with appropriate words, to have sex with you. You just have to be prepared to hear and accept a no, because that is likely what will happen in most (but not all) cases.
Before this issue arose, I would have not done what elevator guy did, but mostly for pragmatic reasons. Whether this makes me privileged, insensitive, or whatever, the fact is that I realize that it just would not work, and is therefore a waste of my time. I would have not understood the fear that many women would feel in that situation because I, as has been pointed out, have some blinders on.
Fair enough. Blinders partially removed, trying to understand better, but I still have concerns for how this privilege of mine interacts with a world of happy, horny, sluts.
The world I want to live in; a slut-friendly world.
Many commenters, on Pharyngula and elsewhere, pointed out that men do not have the right to assume that any interaction with a woman gives them the right to assume the possibility of sexual encounters. That’s right, we should not assume anything. But this is different than saying they don’t have the right to ask, so long as they are willing to accept a no without feeling rejected. This distinction is critical, because it highlights where he rub here is. Asking is not assuming. In fact, it is perfectly flush with skepticism; you don’t know something so you investigate. I think that many so-called “elevator guy apologists” are probably trying to articulate this, while still often missing the factor of context. People talking past one-another on the internet, once again.
The issue is this; what would be acceptable for one woman would be creepy for another. In other words, just like with the Schroedinger’s rapist issue, we have what I call the similar problem of Schroedinger’s slut; we don’t know (in most cases) when the proposition will be acceptable or creepy for another person. So, once you find the appropriate place and time, it’s carpe diem time. Life is too short to live life in fear. So, if you meet a girl or a guy (or both) at a party, a bar, a club, or elsewhere where they are not physically trapped, then ask what you desire! If you are respectful, open, honest, and so forth and are still seen as creepy, there is nothing you could have done to not be creepy. That person might just have issues with their sexuality, if you did in fact ask respectfully and in a safe space.
I’m extending this issue into the realm of sex-positivity and sluthood, not common bar/party meetings of people where the normal vanilla rules apply. In my ideal world, a proposition of sex between relative strangers is morally and socially acceptable, even if it is unlikely to succeed. I still don’t do it often, because I am often in vanilla circles and realize that many people are sex negative and view sluthood as a bad thing. But at a kink club, polyamory meetup, or a swing club?
But creepiness is still an issue, and that is what I am curious about. See for us, one thing we have to learn is how to hear “no.” And how to say no without feeling bad about it. That is difficult as well.
A Memorable Lesson from Polyamory 101
A few years back I was at a polyamory meeting where had this exercise which has stuck with me ever since. We stood up and walked around the room asking anyone and everyone for permission to kiss them. Male, female, old, young, etc. Everyone had to say “no” (even if you wanted to say “yes!”) so that we could get accustomed to hearing and saying no. The reason for this is that we learn that there is no harm in asking. Hearing no is not so bad, and neither is saying it. Some people may think there is harm in asking, and others feel bad saying no. That’s just immaturity and prudishness. By all means be a prude if that makes you happy. But even in that case you can still say no without it being an issue.
I have been to a few conferences over the years. Financial struggles make it hard to do so more, especially now. And while at a conference among godless heathens and (often) libertines, I sometimes meet more freaky people, and the only way I found this out was by asking. Just not while in an elevator and alone. But I will not be shamed by my admitted privilege into not asking at all, as some voices in the last few days seem to imply. That is a form of sex-negativity, and is not a step towards health for our community or for any individuals.
Bottom line: We all need to try and be aware of contexts that present potential dangers and violations of respect, but there is a distinction between the context and the request for sex. We all, as a culture, need to be able to ask for what we want, be prepared to hear a no (or a yes), and we need to remember that people have different boundaries that we cannot predict upon sight. When we cross other people’s boundaries, we can apologize; and when someone crosses ours we can realize that they may have meant no disrespect.
And when people do act disrespectfully without concern for our discomfort or boundaries, we have the right to call them out on it. I am in full support of people who cross boundaries being educated, especially if they display no concern for having done so. Let’s hope that Rebecca Watson’s education of us will be a prevention of potential harm that could happen. Let’s hope that nothing more serious than what she experienced ever happens at a conference.
And let’s also hope that the sluts in our community have some hot sex with each-other.