How Do I Help Her Understand Consent?

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 07:21
Submitted by Betty Dodson

Dear Dr Betty

I found your website about a year ago and have tried writing many times. (None of which I have sent). You and everyone who contributed there has helped me accept myself in so many ways and I cannot thank you enough for the wonderful work you do.

I actually have two questions for you. The first one is concerning something my friend did that I have mixed feelings about and another is about the new BDSM lifestyle my partner and I are trying out.

So for my first question there's going to be a little bit of a back story. I'm a 19 year old female from New Zealand and I have always been a little out spoken and blunt. Before I found you're website I was still ashamed of my sexual feelings and the fact that I masturbated regularly. But I was known among my friends as the open minded person who would listen, not judge until I had all the facts and then try to give unbiased advice on what ever the topic was. So as you can imagine there was a lot of questions about relationships and sex.

Recently a friend of mine, Vivian (who I knew from high school) started talking to me about being "sexually frustrated". She had broken up with her boyfriend of over a year and she was embarrassed that the only thing she missed was the sex. I sent her to your website and told her that was totally normal and not to be ashamed by that.

Fast forward she comes to visit Auckland (that's where I live) and that's kind of where the trouble started.

We have a friend group from high school and we are all still pretty tight. There are certain people in that group that hold it together. I am one of them and Cody is another. But I will get back to him soon.

One day she told me that she had hooked up with another guy from our group. It raised red flags for me as I have had a personal rule of not hooking up with people in that particular circle. Even though I like to think I am open minded there are certain things that I wouldn't do and when other people do them sometimes I feel a little uncomfortable. Its something I'm learning to accept as my boundaries and that they don't necessarily apply to anyone else.

With that mindset I pushed the thoughts aside and listened to her story. But the more I heard the more uncomfortable I felt about it. She mentioned that he had been reluctant to let her give him a blow job. At the time I think I rationalized it by thinking that he was one of her good friends ex boyfriend or maybe he could've have felt like she was forcing herself. I can't remember the details but a little bit of dirty talk from her and he accepted. Once again I ignored the little warning voice in my head and congratulated her. She had after all come a long way and had embraced her sexual side. I thought that was a good thing.

Hindsight really is a bitch, I know now I should have sat her down and talked to her a little more on consent. Later I heard from her that she had had sex with Cody. They had dated back in high school and I figured "oh maybe they still had some attraction to each other".


I heard her side of the story first and was happy for her. And then me being his good friend and the "sex guru" of the group Cody told me his side of the story. The sex didn't feel good, he didn't orgasm and he was wondering why I had lied to him about sex being amazing. I was shocked. All my sexual experiences had been wonderful. Sure it could get super awkward sometimes but nothing a cheeky smile or laughter couldn't fix. So I sat him down and we had a talk. I figured maybe because it was his first time and Vivian had never had to lead before that it was just a little weird and awkward or something like that. But no. He said that he felt pressured and couldn't say no to her advances. He never explicitly said no. But we both know that consent isn't the absences of no and a pressured yes doesn't count either. So that made it rape.

I was fuming. I was angry at Vivian and I was angry at myself. When ever I talk about sex I always say that "the most important thing about sex is consent and communication." I haven't confronted Vivian about this yet and at the moment I am unable to as I am overseas. I've talked to a few people who I trust about this and have gotten a wide variety of responses. I would like your take on this situation and on men being raped in general. I'm not really satisfied with the responses I've gotten so far as I feel most of them never took into account Cody's feelings. I have kept an eye on him and the experience doesn't seem to have taken much of a toll on him but I've told his friends to keep an eye out for any signs of depression and self destructive behaviour as he does have a history of it.

Dr Betty, in my shoes what would you have done? I feel partially responsible for it as I am the one who helped Vivian gain the confidence to initiate sex. I just never thought she would push for it. Part of me knows its stupid and that I shouldn't blame myself as I didn't do it but I wonder if there was a flaw in "teachings", is there something I missed? Could I have done something different? Is there a way to prevent myself from making this mistake again?

That was the first question, this one is significantly shorter but the answer is probably going to be just as long. My primary partner (Male 22) and I are experimenting with pet play at the moment. More specifically, kitten play. I am an independent kitten and I come and go as I please, but I am still the submissive and he is still the dom. From a feminist's view point, is that degrading to me? I don't feel like it is. I am free to do what I want, when I want. But I was reading up on gender roles recently and I saw an argument addressing that the submissive tendencies of women are nothing more than societies way of trying to keep women demure and subservient. For me it is a role I play. Its just a fantasy which allows me to give, to love and to please my partner. But this fantasy doesn't last just a few hours its becoming part of my life style. This discussion peaked my interest and I would like your take on this.

Once again thank you for the amazing things you have done for sex and feminism. I have learnt a lot over the past year and I intend to continue doing so. You and Carlin are one of the most influential role models in my life and I can't wait to read your memoirs and Carlin, congratulations on becoming a mother. I wish you all the best.

I'm sorry this was such a long email.

Much love

Dear N,

The heart of your problem is your following statement: "I feel partially responsible for it as I am the one who helped Vivian gain the confidence to initiate sex. I just never thought she would push for it. Part of me knows its stupid and that I shouldn't blame myself as I didn't do it but I wonder if there was a flaw in my "teachings" is there something I missed?"

You are not responsible for another persons bad (or good) sexual experiences. The truth is we learn by our mistakes so chill out. If I felt responsible for how my information was used or abused, I could never offer any experiences or share sex information again. It's not a perfect world and there's no such thing as making absolutely sure everyone is consensual even though that's their intention. Next time Cody will hopefully be able to state a more convincing "No thanks. I don't want a blow job."

I totally disagree with your following statement. "But we both know that consent isn't the absences of no and a pressured yes doesn't count either. So that made it rape." To my way of thinking, whatever kind of sex that takes place in the absence of a yes or no is how we learn what we want and don't want. That is NOT rape. It's simply how we discover if we do or don't like that paticular kind of sex. Then we can make up our mind.

As for your role play, that's all it is. Playing a consensual role for fun and hopefully better orgasms. I'm glad to know that there are girls like you who are giving serious thought to sex and pleasure. Just don't take it all too seriously. We have to laugh a few things off from time to time.

Dr. Betty

Liberating women one orgasm at a time

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Wed, 04/29/2015 - 16:31

Dear N,
I introduced my best friend to an ex of mine a couple of months after the break-up of her marriage with the words "Good for a laugh, great fun but basically an amoral bastard who you can't rely on" She ofcourse fell deeply in lust and love with him. The sex was great.

Two years later, a couple of affairs forgiven and a six week old baby boy just born, he walked out. She coped. I felt guilty. We both got over it and got on with our lives. Nearly twenty years later, she's still my bestfriend with a wonderful son and a wonderful life.

It's difficult not to feel responsible for our friends but they are at least as grown up as we are and able to make decisions for themselves.

For me, part of growing up has been learning when to step back and not get involved. Do you want to be a friend or a therapist? To one or both? We all believe ourselves to be the heroes in our own narratives and tell our stories accordingly as you've found with your two friends. I would suggest that you either pick a side or stay well away, unless you want to enter into a messy emotional threesome.

PS. Sex is only degrading if you are left feeling degraded (and don't like it). Role play allows us to explore and have fun and sex should definitely be fun!