Sex Tips For Men: How to Ask For Sex
The fabulous Clarisse Thorn wrote a great article in which she asks why men who are honest about their sexual desires get written off as creepy (among other things). It was originally posted on Alternet and it’s interesting to read through the comments and compare them to the comments on the Jezebel repost.
This is really good timing for me, since I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately (see my posts here and here). In my experience, most of the people who talk and write about male sexual energy and how men act upon it are women. While I owe a huge debt to the many women who helped me shape my understanding and practices, I would love to see more men taking a lead around this. Thomas at Yes Means Yes is one of the few other men I see talking about it.
I’m going to leave aside the men who are deliberately intrusive, obnoxious, or predatory. I think that dealing with them is a different issue than what I want to focus on at the moment because I think that different strategies are needed. Instead, I want to focus on the guys who have good intentions, in the sense that they don’t want to be creepy or invasive, but still end up being perceived that way.
Now, I want to be very clear that I get that men tend to throw their sexual attention around, without understanding how that can be intrusive, invasive and triggering. Most men have no idea how tedious (or worse) it can be. So one part of not coming across as creepy is getting a better understanding of that and its impact on women. That’s a topic for a different day. (Update: this post explains it better than I ever could. Read it and pass it on.)
I also want to be clear that this isn’t limited to male-female interactions. But it is a much more common issue in those contexts, both due to the ways that sexism shapes male-female relationships differently from male-male relationships, and because men flirting with or cruising men often do it differently. In non-gay spaces, for example, they are usually more subtle about it since there’s a chance that the guy you’re cruising might be one of those straight guys who responds with anger or violence. Of course, there are other complexities there, but I don’t want to get sidetracked. Similarly, when women flirt with or cruise anyone of any gender, the dynamics are different. And at the moment, I’m talking about how men interact with women.
One of the biggest reasons that some men come across as creepy is that most of us never learn good ways to ask for sex. We hear messages that tell us that it’s important to communicate about sex, or that we need to ask our partners (or our potential partners) in order to get consent, but there is very little guidance on how to make that work. So is it any surprise that there have been so many men seeking advice from pick up artists and the seduction community? Yes, a lot of them are looking for ways to manipulate women. And many others are simply looking for the social interaction skills that they haven’t learned yet.
So in that light, here’s one way to do it that doesn’t depend on misdirection or manipulation. It won’t work in all situations- it’s probably best for men in pre-existing relationships, although it can work in some flirting contexts.
1) Let go of your attachment to the outcome of your desire.
If you go into the situation with a specific goal in mind (i.e. getting laid, or getting laid in a specific way), you’re attached to a particular outcome. That tends to skew your actions because you’re trying to push things in a that direction. The more you can leave things open to possibilities, the more room you can give you partner. In a world in which women’s sexual agency tends to be taken away, this simple (although admittedly often difficult) step can go a long way to increasing her safety with you. And that makes it much more likely that you’ll get something that you want.
Bear in mind that there is a huge range of sexual activities that can be lots and lots of fun. Stop focusing on intercourse and discover how many other possibilities you have. They’re not lesser options. They’re different options, and they all count.
And as part of that, let go of the idea that anyone other than you is responsible for your pleasure or orgasm. Nobody owes you sex. Nobody owes you an orgasm. You, and you alone, are responsible for it. If someone else chooses to participate in that process, that’s up to them. And conversely, you don’t owe anyone else sex or orgasms. You have just as much agency around their desires as they have around yours.
2) Start off with making it clear that you’re asking for her consent.
Asking someone “do you want to have sex?” may sound like you’re making room for consent. But you need to remember that we live in a world that tells many women that they can’t say no. If you genuinely want to have her consent, and you want her to believe that, try starting off with something like:
If you’re in the mood…
If it would turn you on…
If you’re into it…
If you’re feeling horny…
These kinds of phrases do two things. First, they let her know that you’re offering her a possibility rather than making a demand. They invite and require her to make a positive statement, while making room for her to say no. Second, they remind you that she has just as much room to say yes or no as you do. This will can help you manage and contain your sexual energy until you get a clear statement of consent from her. And that is a good thing to practice.
3) Follow up with a statement of your desire.
I would like to have sex with you.
I’m in the mood for a blowjob.
I’d love to tie you up.
it would turn me on if we tried that new vibrator.
I’d enjoy kissing you.
By making a clear statement of your interests or desires in that moment, you’re giving her an idea of what you want. Be honest and direct- don’t ask for something you think she’ll say yes to, while hoping you can take it further once things get started. If you have difficulty asking for what you want, practice it when you’re alone sometime. Find the words that are authentic to you and come up with phrases that feel more natural when you say them.
When you directly and clearly state your desires, when you can own them, you are speaking from a place of power and strength. This is a major shift because most of us actually feel powerless around sex. We’re taught that women are the gatekeepers and men have to beg, bribe, convince, or coerce them into doing what we want. When we feel powerless, we often slip into patterns of passivity (which can lead to passive aggression) or violence. When we discover our power, we can let go of either of those and be strong.
4) Be ready to talk about what comes next.
Since you’ve let go of your attachment to the outcome, you’ll be able to let this start a conversation about what you each want to do. If she’s not in the mood for A, what about B, C, D, or E? And if she’s just not into having sex right then, you could decide to wait until later, jack off, or (if it fits within your relationship agreements) find someone else to ask. All perfectly fine options.
Learning new ways to talk about sex can seem really difficult at first. We don’t have many role models for it and a lot of men have internalized shame around sexual desires and/or talking about them. You could practice with each other sometime, which gives you the opportunity to tell each other if any phrases are especially good or particularly challenging for you. And of course, you could ask her to practice asking you for sex, using this framework or something else. It would give you each some deeper insight into the other’s experiences. (This works really well with yes/no/maybe lists.)
You can also practice this in non-sexual settings.
If you’re in the mood for it, I’d like to get Chinese food tonight.
If you’re up for it, I want to go see a movie.
If you’re interested, I’m feeling like going climbing at the gym
Nobody is born knowing how to do this. Some of us are fortunate to have been taught or to have figured it out. But until we start creating and sharing useful and realistic tools, it doesn’t matter how much we complain about the problem. People need solutions in order to let go of behaviors that don’t work.
So I invite you to give this a shot and see how it goes. After all, if there’s a chance that it’ll make talking with your partner about sex easier, if it might lead to your getting what you want, isn’t that a marvelous incentive? If you try this out, I’d love to hear how it goes for you. Feel free to comment below or send me a note.
And lastly, Clarisse is interested in unpacking the word creep as it applies to this topic. Here’s what she’s looking for:
If you’re male: I’d like stories about times you (or a friend) were called a creep, why you believe it happened, and how it felt.
If you’re female: I’d like stories about specific things that guys have done that you thought were “stereotypically creepy”. Why were those things creepy? What was it about the man, his behavior, or the situation that made you feel that way? Would you have seen that behavior as creepy if it came from another man or occurred in another context? And, finally, what made you sure that the man in question had bad intent?
You can contact her here.
I started to say this on Twitter, and realized I had too much for 140 characters.
I think applying your tips for seeking consent to a lot more than sex and sexual acts can really benefit men. In a way, a relationship is built on multiple consents, from the small and mundane (can I borrow your lighter?) to the big and potentially scarier (care to have sex?). It’s important to recognize that some (many) women can feel helpless before the possibility of rape, and feel even more helpless before the possibility of having to smile and listen to some really boring guy for an hour. The consequences of boredom are a lot less life-altering, but that powerless passive aggressive feeling is built fast or even faster in areas outside sex. The guy who can make a woman feel like an equal in an interaction before the sex question comes up is at a huge advantage by the time the sex question does come up.
I also think exploring the differences between “near stranger” and “stranger” and “long term relationship” would be useful to many of the men I’ve known. Many of my “creepy” vibes have come from men jumping to the sex question much too early for me, or even to actions that would be verbalized more like “can I look and be turned on by you?” Even when considering the most casual hook-up I think a man who can get consent to do less potentially threatening actions, then coming through on their side of the bargain, can be very effective. IE. “Okay, I have a new joke. Can I try to make you laugh with it?”. If she laughs, great start, and even if she doesn’t laugh, still a good start. There are very few situations where “If you’re feeling horny…” is a good opening line.
On the other side, in long term relationships, how to ask for sex is also a complex topic. The whole structure of dating and marriage seem to be a long term consent. I know perfectly reasonable men who would stop at a direct “no” but still think of consent as something they have with their gf/wife unless it’s taken away, especially when it comes to “little things” like groping or suggestive comments. I think resetting that expectation so consent is always something you’re seeking from the other person is very important. It’s the difference between “I’ve been horny all day and she’ll say no if she doesn’t want to” and “She just got home from work four hours late and looks like she’s in a bad mood, do I think she really wants a grope?”. Same situation, but one goes a lot further toward keeping a marriage. 😉
Yeah- there are a lot of interrelated issues here. The nature of the relationship, the belief that consent is there unless someone says no, the shifts that happen in long-term relationships, experiences around sexual intrusion & trauma, those all add complexity.
I’d love for men to have more and different models for ways to manage sexual energy. As you say, some guys go too fast for comfort. Others assume that their sexual energy is welcome unless told otherwise. It sometimes reminds me of big dogs who mean well, but haven’t learned that sticking their noses everywhere isn’t welcome. And just like any other animal, people need to learn better ways to behave. I don’t think that this model is always useful, but I hope that it’s a start, at least for some men, some of the time.
I got to here:
“In a world in which women’s sexual agency tends to be taken away, this simple (although admittedly often difficult) step can go a long way to increasing her safety with you.”
Before I had to tune out.
I’m sorry, this is patronizing crap IMHO.
Men are sexually vulnerable too, quite possibly just as vulnerable as women and vulnerable in different ways. This means women have just as much responsibility to make ‘men feel safe’ as men have to make women feel safe. That’s the nature of sex. Vulnerability.
The big elephant in the living room is that, in our society we:
1) assume men are never vulnerable (traditional gender norms anyone?)
2) assume men have to take responsibility for women’s emotions but that the reverse never holds true.(again, those pesky traditional gender norms.)
Screw that. I prefer my version which includes consequences for women’s actions that can impact men in drastic and traumatic ways.
I want responsibility, I want consequence because from both come emotional growth.
And I want people to stop lying to me about how little impact I have on them because I’m a fainty dainty and expecting to take responsibility for my emotional landscape.
* Piss off to people who want to take away my agency or ignore the consequences of my actions towards men.
What is it that made you think that this is an either/or? I don’t think that anything I said suggested that men need to coddle women or that women can’t hurt men. All I’m saying is that men need better ways to ask for what they want and that those tools need to take into account the different ways that sexism and sexual intrusion affect women. Yes, there are certainly ways in which men are vulnerable, especially around sex. Nothing in this post suggested otherwise.
Also, I’m not saying that men are responsible for women’s emotions. Just as nobody is responsible for anyone else’s sexual pleasure, nobody in adult relationships is responsible for any one else’s emotions. I’m not responsible for your anger, either.
While I’d agree with you that traditional gender roles assume that men are never vulnerable, I disagree that they also assume that women never take responsibility for men’s emotions. I see a lot of relationships in which men blame women for “making them angry,” which is often an excuse for abuse. I see relationships in which men never learn to express their feelings and let the women in their lives explain to their kids (for example) what Dad feels. It’s a different dynamic, but it’s still there. Women are often seen as the mediators or gatekeeper’s of men’s emotions.
When you say that you prefer your “version which includes consequences for women’s actions that can impact men in drastic and traumatic ways”, what is it that you’re talking about? I’m curious to know more about that. Send me a link.
And yes, I also want responsibility. If you’ll notice, I suggested that this approach “invite[s] and require[s] her to make a positive statement.” What more can someone do to make room for responsibility than create space for it and make it part of the conversation?
“I’m not responsible for your anger, either.”
“I see a lot of relationships in which men blame women for “making them angry,” which is often an excuse for abuse.”
And I see a lot of the reverse. That’s a common tactic of an abuser, but does not reflect a social expectation. Social expectations are that men make women ‘feel safe’ while approaching them and during their relationships. ‘Feeling safe’ is an emotion, ergo men are responsible for women’s emotions. And they’re responsible in ways that women aren’t expected to be.
Look at courtship. A man is expected by the socially approved courtship script to provide women with a positive emotional experience in order to ‘woo’ her. And in relationships. If a woman is angry at a man, social attitudes often posit it as his fault.
When we say women are ‘responsible for men’s emotions’ it’s actually a form of abdicating responsibility. The funny little dance goes like this:
Woman 1: It’s my fault he doesn’t _fill in blank_.
Woman 2: It’s not your fault he doesn’t _fill in blank_, you can’t take responsibility for his feelings, that’s out of your control. It’s actually his fault because he’s a _fill in blank_.
“I see relationships in which men never learn to express their feelings and let the women in their lives explain to their kids (for example) what Dad feels.”
Maybe that’s because the woman has never earned her mate’s trust. BTW, just so you know that’s not his fault, it’s hers. That doesn’t mean she’s taking responsibility for his emotions, that means she’s substituting her own for his.
“It’s a different dynamic, but it’s still there. Women are often seen as the mediators or gatekeeper’s of men’s emotions.”
I know they are. They often seem to decide what emotions are acceptable for men to have. That doesn’t mean they’re taking responsibility for men’s emotions as in, ‘my action X causes his emotional response Y’. The ultimate outcome seems more like ‘you are allowed to have the following emotions during the following times, all others are verboten. Most importantly, you are not allowed any emotions related to vulnerability or insecurity, further you will never allude to feeling vulnerable or insecure due to my actions’ And, often, women will function as the ‘gatekeepers or mediators’ of men’s emotions and then blame men when they’re withdrawn and distant.
Found close to parity in men forcing sex on women and women forcing sex on men in heterosexual relationships. Other studies using the dreaded CST and CST2 have also found close to parity.
If you’re someone like me who isn’t emotionally invested in the traditional gender roles woman!victim, man!aggressor, then that’s enough to seriously call into question the idea that there isn’t anything but symmetry in men and women’s vulnerability in sexual relationships.
However if your are emotionally invested in seeing women as vulnerable and men as invulnerable…
…perhaps you have invested your manhood in invulnerability and if men are vulnerable that makes them sissies(women) and if they’re vulnerable to women(thus women’s sexuality isn’t complete positive absolute bliss for men forever always) that’s sort of faggy…
…or, alternatively, you have invested your femininity in vulnerability. In other words if a woman is strong thus capable of damage, she is obviously less feminine…
…then I doubt it will persuade you otherwise.
I’m not talking about making someone “feel safe.” I’m talking about creating actual safety. There’s a difference between the two. A lot of people want to create feelings of safety, without creating the conditions that allow for genuine safety. You’re talking about the former (and I think you’d agree with me that it’s often a form of manipulation) and I’m talking about the latter.
Creating tools that help people ask for what they want in ways that create more safety for their partners is important. And there’s nothing that I wrote that limits that to men using them with women. I think it’d be fantastic if more people used better sexual communication tools in general.
I don’t think it has to be an either/or. I’m not especially invested in traditional gender roles, either. And I don’t think that there is symmetry. There are some similarities and there are some differences. I do agree with you that there are vulnerabilities on both sides, and I disagree with you when you say that they are the same.
Also, thank you for that link. I’ve read other research that found that men were more likely to use physical violence than women and that women were more likely to use emotional violence than men. I suspect that you’d agree with me that emotional violence can be devastating and that it is often ignored or minimized, especially when women do it.
Rather than attacking me, I suggest you offer concrete tools that people can use to ask for what they want, to state their boundaries, to explore their desires, and to cope with their needs. Offer an improvement on my suggestion, or put something else out there. I’d love to hear what you’d suggest.
“I do agree with you that there are vulnerabilities on both sides, and I disagree with you when you say that they are the same.”
Same is a loaded word. When I say symmetry I don’t mean same. However,
“I’ve read other research that found that men were more likely to use physical violence than women and that women were more likely to use emotional violence than men.”
The study I linked to found similar rates of forced sex among men and women. On the other hand, 20% of men and 25% of women experienced verbal coercion.
“I’m not talking about making someone “feel safe.” I’m talking about creating actual safety.”
Here’s the thing. I don’t think I’m less responsible then my male partner for ‘creating safety’. It’s a situation of vulnerability all around and it would be better for everyone if we started acknowledging that.
I’m a commenter in Clarisse’s mega manliness thread and I’d like to share my thoughts on your post. First off, I couldn’t quite put it into words what I felt reading your post, and I wouldn’t go as far as typhonblue calling it “patronizing crap”, but there was something in your advice that comes across as a little condescending, and I think I know why. Most of the advice men get about this topic completely ignores the matter of scarcity – you say at some point – ask, and if you don’t like the reply, go ask someone else. You explicitly say that you wrote this article for guys in relationships, but guys in relationships aren’t those most likely to encounter the kind of problems we’re talking about – neither creepwise, nor scarcity wise. The better you know someone, as is hopefully the case in a relationship, the less behavioural advice supposed to work for “women” or “men” will matter, as opposed to people’s idiosyncrasies, but you’ll probably have learnt about those by then.
So, the things you say seem to make more sense for casual encounters, flirting environments. But in those environments, scarcity is an important issue that is, in my opinion, consisently ignored by people offering their advice. If there weren’t scarcity, most of the “if she doesn’t like you, you should just drop it and go elsewhere”-advice wouldn’t be necessary, because people would just do it naturally. The fact that there is scarcity and there are several ways to respond to it, some of which are more appropriate than others, is the real reason behind the need for advice. Strangely, most people giving advice seem to be unaware thereof, particularly those giving advice about how to get consent.
Wow, that was a long prologue 😉
Ok, you say –
“When you directly and clearly state your desires, when you can own them, you are speaking from a place of power and strength. This is a major shift because most of us actually feel powerless around sex.”
I totally agree. In fact, check out the following part of the conversation from June, in which I announce, that, in order to help myself with my still apparent inability to initiate kissing, I’m going to do something along the lines of what you suggest. These are direct links to the comments, if you scroll down after the first one, you should get them all… (http removed to get around the WP spam filter).
But there is at least two problems with this. First, the general one: In order to do this, to *honestly* speak from a position of power and strength about your desires, you need to be able to believe that your desires are not about *taking* but about creating something together. And I believe that most men are living with the idea that sex equals taking more than giving, which is responsible for things like slut shaming and the whole creep-problem, in my opinion.
I’ve outlined this theory about female and male double binds in Clarisse’s thread, but expanded it a bit more in a comment here –
The second and specific problem is based on the argument and relates specifically to this part of your statement –
“They invite and require her to make a positive statement, while making room for her to say no.”
This sounds wonderful in theory, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not as easy in practice. See, I’ve become rather good with women after being way behind in my psycho-sexual development due to feminism, religion, and my personality. Now and my best friend, a woman, tells me that I’m unfair by talking women wet and then leave them standing there, because I’m too afraid to initiate. So if the women doesn’t initiate (and they rarely do), usually nothing will happen, however wonderful the interaction was up to that point. So, as explained above, being explicit seemed like a great idea once I had – at least theoretically – accepted the value of my own sexuality to the women, once I had at least theoretically accepted that I had something to give and that she may want it/me/us (the joint experience).
But it’s really not that easy. And while it might still be a “performance issue”, and my still present uncertainty at that point may be less than optimal, as in not as “confident” as before, but after a couple of months and a couple of attempts, my preliminary report is not enthusiastic.
While it would be great *for me* to have a positive statement of consent before moving in for the kiss, it seems to me that adding this explicit element into the usually very – also physically – playful interaction, adds a layer of gravity that doesn’t seem to help, in fact, it does seem to hurt. It removes playfulness by making things “serious”.
My guess at this point is that most women don’t want to make their desires explicit at this point, that – for slut shaming or whatever reasons – don’t want to take the explicit responsibility for what they would like to happen, or that they actually don’t know until they have been confronted with the possibility.
I currently believe that those women who directly and affirmatively reply to that question are the same women who would have initiated the kiss themselves, which means that, for me, being explicit about my desire doesn’t really help a lot for the interactions in which *my* initiation would actually welcomed (and is necessary for the interaction to move forward).
Does that make sense to you?
Well first off, a lot of men in LTRs do, in fact, experience scarcity when it comes to sex. There are a lot of reasons that couples get into situations of sexual disconnection and the fact that one has a partner is never a guarantee of sexual availability. In fact, one of the common reasons that people have sexual difficulties in their relationships is that they don’t know how to talk about their interests or desires. Believe me- I talk with people in these sorts of situations all the time (and it’s not always the men in M/F relationships who want sex more than their partners, either).
I think that you & I are mostly in agreement about the ways that believing that one’s desires are not about taking but about creating something together has a lot to do with some of the ways that men act around sex.
And yet, I’m curious what you mean when you say that you’re good at “talking women wet”. I’m guessing that you mean that in your interactions with them, you’re saying or doing things that are arousing to them. I would suggest to you that even if you haven’t touched them at that point, you’re already in a sexual situation with them. So it’s not really a surprise that they’re confused if you stop to ask for consent at that point unless you find ways to do it that maintain the sexual energy. it sounds like the difficulty (if I understand your situation) isn’t so much that you’re stopping to ask, as much as you’re losing the flow. There are plenty of ways to keep the sexual energy flowing while also pausing for consent. Much like pausing to put on a condom, it’s only an interruption if you make it one. Make it part of your flirting. Tell your partner to tell you what she wants to do. Ask her if she wants to take it further. Learning how to check in and reaffirm interest and consent is a big part of making sure that things are working for everyone.
As another option, you could ask a potential partner for her consent before you “talk her wet.” Sure, you don’t want to start off the entire conversation with that, but what if you made it part of the interaction earlier on? Once you know you’re interested in sex and you think she might be, that seems like a much better place to integrate the question. I’m willing to bet that some women will respond positively to that.
You may be right- there may be a correlation between women who are willing to initiate sex and women who are willing to respond positively to your asking. There could be any of a number of reasons. Slut shaming, not having had much practice at asking for sex, not having much experience at having someone ask them (as opposed to just going for it), among other possibilities. But I still suggest to you that even if you’re with someone who might initiate a kiss herself, you very well may have a more relaxed and more fun experience if you step up and make it clear that you want her consent.
Just as an experiment, try the technique I described in my post. See how it works. Does it help you ask for what you want with more confidence? Does it make it easier for your partner? Does it create an opportunity to get more of what you both want? If you’re more comfortable with it, try it in a non-sexual context. Try it with your best friend. Give it a shot- after all, by your own words, your experience so far with asking for consent hasn’t what you want. So before you decide that my suggestion isn’t useful, why don’t you give it a try?
I really, really appreciate this post. Often when I read of rape “prevention,” (I resent that crap, BTW, like a person “petals in the wind,” said in the “It totally divorces them from the responsibility of ending their heterosexism and cissexism in the first place.
It’s why victim-blaming exists. If it’s about women doing shit to prevent their own rapes, then it’s not about everyone participating in rape culture, it’s not about how people see sex as conquest, it’s not about what we can do to stop rapists, to stop sexism and misogyny, in the first place.” (from http://neo-prodigy.livejournal.com/870386.html) I often bitch to the high heavens that men SERIOUSLY need to hold each other accountable for their shit. You do just that.
I’m not saying that men don’t get raped by other women, and women are not predators, and men have no vulnerabilities. However, men (in general) do not have to worry about being raped by women on dates, and other gatherings. They also don’t have to worry about somebody using their “bad judgement,” as an excuse if/when that woman violates him. She’s rightfully viewed as crazy. I have to worry not only about strangers, but about possible acquaintances, as well. I have to watch what I do on dates, lest I worry about the actual judgement (God forbid!) after I am (possibly) raped. Yes, I know that not all men are rapists, but most of the time, there is some excuse (“concerns” of safety, what “kind” of woman was she, etc.). A man does not. I do.
“To I’m not talking about making someone “feel safe.” I’m talking about creating actual safety. There’s a difference between the two. A lot of people want to create feelings of safety, without creating the conditions that allow for genuine safety. You’re talking about the former (and I think you’d agree with me that it’s often a form of manipulation) and I’m talking about the latter.
Creating tools that help people ask for what they want in ways that create more safety for their partners is important. And there’s nothing that I wrote that limits that to men using them with women. I think it’d be fantastic if more people used better sexual communication tools in general.”
I think you were talking about everybody in the very last sentence of the quote.
Men are sexually vulnerable too, quite possibly just as vulnerable as women and vulnerable in different ways. This means women have just as much responsibility to make ‘men feel safe’ as men have to make women feel safe. That’s the nature of sex. Vulnerability.
I agree with you to a certain point, but there is the difference between the vulnerabily to feeling nervous and having jitters for performance, and vulnerability to actual, physical violence. The latter is not ‘just the nature of sex.’ The earlier is. I don’t need the latter, but the earlier.
But anyway, thank you for both of your comments, and the article.
I get that you’re writing for men (the title ‘Sex Tips for Men’ is what tipped me off) but you’re underestimating the scope of how this applies.
Maybe in general women-initiating dynamics are different; you’re probably largely right, because generalisations must come from somewhere.
Still as a woman in a relationship this applied pretty closely to me. I don’t think it’s patronising to say ‘women feel pressured’ etc., but it can also apply to the man if he’s the lower-libido half of the relationship. Awkwardly dancing around the topic makes us both unhappy, and so thanks. This was a cool article.
Thanks for the feedback.
Actually, I think that this sort of thing isn’t limited to any particular gender combination or sexual orientation. Nor is it limited to a sexual proposal- in my view, issues of consent are relevant to much more than sex. But I chose that title and my main target specifically because most men aren’t ever offered effective ways to ask for sex and that is often at the root of sexual miscommunications. And while many of the same interpersonal dynamics can exist in any kind of relationship, there are some overall patterns among m/f dynamics that haven’t yet been sorted out. I’d really like to see that change.
This was exactly what I needed to read. I’m in an open relationship with my fiancee, and I have another woman I date regularly. It all works great except I run into a wall over this all the time, almost entirely on my end. That seems especially messed up because both relationships are very sexually charged, and the point of the second girlfriend is for the 2 (or 3, sometimes) of us have sex with each other!
I’ve had the paralysis over how to even bring up the topic, since it’s somehow in my conditioning to feel like I’m imposing my will on either of them – yes, even as rational adult human beings with their own agency and abilities. I know other men in my circle of friends who are in the same boat, and we’re in a pretty sexually liberated group…in theory.
And it’s crazy-making.
It’s not that sex never happens, but times – even weeks – might slip by with opportunities that could have happened (sometimes confirmed after the fact in shame), but for not knowing what to say, and as time passes, sometimes how long it’s been since having sex then ~that~ becomes the issue. Throw in frustrations, pettiness that arises from that (from any of the 3 people in my particular story) and well…it’s stupid, but we’ve a lifetime of habitual guilt and confusion coming together over this, and this is all in the midst of otherwise wonderful relationships, and when we do have sex in whatever configuration – it’s spectacular, and that makes it even more of a shame.
I’m pretty baffled by the comments apparently interpreting the article as being condescending, exclusionary or what have you. Are we supposed to react as if we know everything and every blog post on the interwebs is supposed to be all audiences in all situations?
Anyway, thanks for this, and I’ll be interested in seeing how you might explore these ideas further, as well as other angles that might be helpful for other people. I’ve not even looked at the rest of your site yet – just came in by way of Violet Blue.
[…] And at this point, I note where Clarisse Thorn points to some more advice. Finally, Charlie Glickman, fabulous feminist sex educator, had a recent post with some advice for men on how best to ask for sex, but it focuses on how to do so within an existing relationship. http://www.charlieglickman.com/2010/10/sex-tips-for-men-how-to-ask-for -sex/ […]
I always find it interesting, in a train-wreck sort of way, that when men are offered suggestions on how some women might be feeling in response to their behaviour, some men feel the need to jump in with “but what about MY feelings?” Although this post *could* apply to any gender in any sort of orientation relation, we can really only address a limited number of points or perspectives in any given blog post, so there is value in limiting the pronoun usage to address a particular problem at a time that is common enough to have generated a slew of catch-phrases, such as “what do women want?” and “where are all the women?” and “creepy-vibe”, etc.
I guess this is my long-winded way of thanking you for addressing this topic, and to let you know that at least *someone* understands that you were not excluding men or ignoring alternative orientation pairings or being condescending or any of the other accusations you seem to have received.
As a woman who is most certainly not interested in being coddled, and who is rather belligerantly self-sufficient, I appreciate it when men stand up to other men and explain why their approach is insulting, threatening, offensive, or “creepy”.
Recently, I was asked “what women want”, and when my answer did not match the guy’s preconception of what women want, he said “forget it, I’m not asking you about women anymore, I’m going back to asking guys advice about girls.” Seriously. And then these same men don’t seem to ever figure out why they can’t “figure out women” or what the “trick” is to not being “the creepy guy”.
The single most important thing someone can do to increase his chances with any given woman, is to let go of his attachment to an expected outcome. Since we are not all the same person, there is no magic formula to use that will work on “women”. But removing that attachment simultaneously makes someone less desperate/needy/threatening/pushy/demanding and makes it not a big deal if she doesn’t return the interest, making it easier to move on and approach someone else. Yet I can’t seem to get this concept through to people, even when they come to me and ask what they’re doing “wrong”.
I’m always dubious when I see things titled “How To … For Men”, so I came to this already primed to disagree, to point out logical fallacies, and to rant about stereotypes and generalities. But really, as a woman who has to put up with those “creepy guys”, even though I am generally vehemently opposed to gender stereotypes and role-enforcing, I found little here to take exception to, and pretty much any of the generalizing seemed to be for simplicity’s sake, not because you are oblivious to the exceptions (it gets REALLY tedious having to qualify every single sentence just in case someone was unable to figure out from the disclaimer at the top that you don’t actually mean ALL or EVERY or NONE).
@Joreth- thanks for the kind words. I’m really glad that this post didn’t meet your expectations. 🙂
I don’t know if you’ve seen this article by SF Poly blogger Pep-O-Mint, but I think he does a fantastic job of exploring why men run into problems with getting laid so often (and I think it applies to both monogamous and non-monogamous men). Of particular interest is the Valley of the Dolls syndrome, a pervasive cultural fantasy that there are women out there who will jump into bed with men five minutes after meeting them.
Thanks for adding to this conversation; it needs to be had more often.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you extremely interesting and was wondering if you would like to come to my room for some coffee.”
Apparantly, if you say this to a feminist at a skeptic conference, you will get smashed for ‘sexually objectifying’ her and create an internet blogwar.
luke123, that’s a rather disingenuous way of describing that event. Most of the issue around “Elevatorgate” came in response to the men who replied to Rebecca Watson’s video. Many of them said things like:
The escalation was the direct result of the ways in which various men responded to Watson’s video, but the way you left that out and minimized the role that their actions contributed to the situation. Instead, you’re making it sound like it was just an overreaction from women.
Further, IMO, if someone is going to start a pick-up line with “Don’t take this the wrong way…”, then odds are that they know that there’s a reasonable chance that the recipient won’t want to receive it. In those situations, a more delicate touch would work better, as would making it clear that there’s an awareness of the issues of safety that could easily crop up.
“Want to come back to my room?”, said by a stranger at 4 AM when nobody else is around and when someone is in a strange city is likely to evoke feelings of danger and fear. Is it really so hard to understand how that would not be received in the way it was intended?
Yeah the whole blowup was completely unnessary, but the way the feminists reacted to the trolls only escalated the situation, and they are most definately are to blame it running out of hand, and they seemed top enjoy the round of male-bashing a bit too much for my taste.
But the moral of the story is really, that no matter what you do to express your sexuality as a man, there is always a chance that it will piss off a feminist somewhere. So I think looking for a ‘feminist approved’ way like you did is really futile. In the end, I say use your own judgement and stop worrying that you might offend someone.
luke123, what makes it the women’s fault that they reacted to a bunch of guys who said some pretty outrageous stuff? Why do you blame them for that, instead of holding any accountability for the trolls? It’s pretty typical for people to blame women for reacting instead of the people who say things that are either clueless or purposefully incendiary.
You also seem to be projecting quite a bit when you say that the various women enjoyed it. That’s not at all the sense I got from what I saw.
I wasn’t trying to come up with anything that’s “feminist approved” so that’s your characterization of it. My experience has been that this sort of approach works a lot better, that’s all.
Charlie, I agree completely with what you wrote. I do want to comment though on the use of the word “creepy.” I think that this word is inherently sexist since it’s always applied to men, and sort of participates in what I’d call the current moral panic around sexuality. What I’d call normal, considerate, and compassionate behavior can now be labled creepy, and worse the epithet can be reported to others, labling the man as a creep when he isn’t. It’s like the word “slut.” For a few years in the 70s, I never heard anyone say this word. Now it’s back. It probably comes from use by both men (of a certain type) and women.
I have a similar issue with part of the sexual harrassment discourse. Many in the younger generation think that ANY flirting or normal sexual behavior is “sexual harrassment.” So I think these words (which represent repression and sexual overkill) are good examples of pervasive sex negativity.
So, I’m a man having the issues described in the article. Seems a lot of the initial comments were overly concerned with the words used, but seemed to miss that the article was for men in relationships who are having a specific issue, not every single human being. Chances are, if you don’t know how to ask for sex, it’s for the reasons you specified. It is for me. And, I’m going to use this advice, and I’ll post back with results. Not like anything else has been working…
Charlie, this is an awesome article. Men need to be more direct in their communication. I noticed you read Clarrise. Have you ever read Mark Manson from http://www.postmasculine.com? I think you’d like his work after checking out your blog.
I just had to come back to express gratitude. Thank you so much for publishing this. It has helped me a lot in my relationships and helped me to grow emotionally. Seriously, thank you T_T
With Gratitude and Thanks,
This is an interesting strategy, practicing in non-sexual contexts, good idea. Like the phrasing suggestions.
Only complaint might be lack of examples. More permutations than 5 would probably be good, otherwise we’d get repetetive.
That was just…. like lava out of a volcano, I love it.
For me it all boils down to having the confidence and practice … Fear of rejection is always what ruins everything before anything even begins. If you’re afraid of rejection, you’ll be out of practice… and get even more nervous when you really want to go for it. … It leads to the vicious cycle of failures.
Every one talks about being confident. For me, what I did in the beginning to get confidence with talking to girls was to do small steps each day. I mostly asked them on what time it is when I was on the bus stations until I felt no anxiety while I was asking…
typhonblue, I know I’m coming into this discussion a bit late, but I think the reason there’s so few of these conversations (how to ask women for sex) is because there’s no right way to do it. Another article at https://www.slixa.com/late-night/438-ms-dykefire-queer-answers-for-straight points out some very interesting things that I think relate very well to this conversation. It’s just not this black and white.
Well i think that item #4 to folow up the statement of your desire is the most interesting, we have to feel our partner, but we have to knok how to do it.
some advice is here blog.shagaholic.com
How about we start talking about men and women in a gender neutral fashion, not assuming that all men are azzholes and that all women have been to a left-wing college to learn victimhood?
How about we realize that we all feel fear in talking to strangers, let alone in asking them for sex?
The person who does the asking – male OR female – is the one who can come off as creepy, and the one being asked – male or female – is the one who can feel creeped out or threatened.
The reason it APPEARS that men are the creeps is because men are generally expected to be the one who asks.
Apart from that asymmetry, we are all basically the same. We are all just frightened little kids learning how to get what we want in a big bad world, and we all play different games to get over it.
Some play the pick-up artist, some play the shy wallflower, some play the granola-eating sensitive type, its ALL one form of manipulation or another.
If you dont like slut shaming – and I dont – then please also leave off guy-slut shaming. We all just want a hug. To be loved and to love. But its scary letting a stranger in. It isnt the stranger that scares, it is us that is scared (generally, of all strangers except practiced con-artists who know how to make us instantly comfortable).
I learned this and am still learning in a different context.
I was recently introduced to the fetish community and was privvy to almost the exact process you describe.
You meet people and become well known, establishing a good reputation.
You interact with people you are interested in, touch on regular subjects.
Ask if they would like to play sometime or negotiate a scene.
Safe sane and consensual negotiation (what do you want to do? What limits? Any triggers/injuries/medical conditions I should know about?) Etc.
Play within the boundaries of the negotiation. Building up the trust.
Later. renegotiate and ask if they would like to throw in sex (what kind of sex? Etc)
If they say no, you don’t haul off and run away crying.
you say okay and KEEP talking to them as people
because they are, and you should be interested in them as such, and not just as a collection of orifices.
people change their minds, a no can become a yes out of nowhere.
ofcourse a yes can become a no as well.
don’t be an animal.