Posted on October 15, 2003 Posted by John Scalzi
I, like all right-thinking men should, love Dahlia Lithwick. What’s more, I’ve loved her for a long time. I have no special reason for pointing this out at this particular moment, excepting that her comments regarding the word “no” as it relates to sexual activity are exactly right and stand in stark contrast to the beef-witted promulgations of others on the subject. Fact is, were I not already married to the perfect woman for me (and she were not otherwise available to be married), and I was given a choice of women to bond myself to forever, it’d probably be a toss-up between Lithwick and Emma Thompson. This no doubt to the surprise of their respective spouses/significant others. But let’s not go into that now.
While we are on the subject of “no” and sex, why is it apparently so hard to understand the concept of “no means no”? As Ms. Lithwick rightly points out, it’s not as if we’re confused in other situations what “no” means. Yes, sex is a complicated mesh of desire, guilt and trying to decide if that thing we saw once in a porn film might actually work on someone who is not a professional porn actress. However, were I ever confronted with a situation in which a sex partner said “no,” I would stop. Seductive ambiguity is all very nice, but I think “no” is the ultimate “safe word,” and if you don’t want me to stop, you very simply should not say no. Call me parochial and square, but I like positive reinforcement with my sexual attempts. You could say it’s one of my kinks.
And for that matter, every time someone suggests that men can’t understand what no means in a sexual context, I get insulted. I’m a man; I have no problem with the concept. I’m willing to entertain the idea I might be somewhere on the right side of the intelligence bell curve when it comes to men, but it doesn’t take that many brains to encompass the concept of “no means no.” I’d like to believe that the vast majority of those with Y chromosomes are intellectually capable of handling such a minor tautology. Guys who can remember every single set list of every single concert of an entire Metallica World Tour, or can tell you the batting average of every person who ever wore a Rex Sox uniform, have the intellectual wherewithal to process the word “no.” To suggest otherwise offends the entire gender. Which is why I have no problem tossing guys who persist in attempting sex after the word “no” into the slammer. They know better.
Whatever Everyone Else is Saying