One of the top reasons communication skills matter, particularly in college, is that it's pretty easy to get in sexual situations where one or more of the people involved is feeling ambivalent. In other words, they're having mixed feelings. For instance, they may want to go all the way because it feels good, but also want to stop because they're scared, or they don't know you well enough, or they had just told themselves they would wait, and so on.
Men and women often experience different pressures about sex and, in a way, these pressures can actually set the stage for sexual assault. Check out this breakdown of "expectations" and pressures:
Men are "Expected" to:
Women are "Expected" to:
|want sex all the time
||be sexy but not think about sex
|be confident in the bedroom
||not be prude, but not be "slutty"
|always know what to do
||not know too much
||let the guy lead
|never say no to sex
||always say no even if they want to say yes
|not be vulnerable
||be compliant, not make the guy feel bad
No wonder men and women get in the bedroom and notice that things often get a little weird. We often get caught up in these expectations even when they are unrealistic. As a result of all these confusing and competing messages, mixed feelings about sex are probably more often the norm than the exception.
A person may feel ambivalent for any number of reasons, all of which are legitimate, even if they might not make sense to you (as the person on the other end) in the moment. Sex should always be something both people willingly participate in and enjoy.
From time to time we all feel unsure about what we want from a sexual experience. But being able to talk about it in the moment is an invaluable skill, because it may protect you from having your ambivalence exploited by another person, or from taking advantage of a person who is simply not sure what they want.
The Benefits of Checking In
Real life situations, of course, are often more complicated than clear. Sometimes you think you know what you want until you're actually in a situation. Sometimes a person seems a lot different with their clothes off, and a situation that might have been totally comfortable before seems less so. This is okay, and it's perfectly legitimate to:
- take time to check in with yourself
- stop and talk to the other person
- articulate your boundaries before moving forward
- change your mind
- leave the situation
If you are in a situation and notice yourself or the other person seeming unsure, you need to pay attention. You don't want to get in a danger zone and, if you press beyond your or your partner's limits, you will. Again: consensual sex requires an active yes, not simply silence from the other person.
If you feel ambivalent about what's going on, stop and address your instincts and feelings. This may mean checking in with yourself, stating your boundaries and/or leaving the situation.
If you notice your partner acting unsure at all, stop. Signs of ambivalence are not your cue to keep going, but your cue to ask.
From: http://www.whynotask.org. Produced by the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.