Saying No: It’s Not Just for the Bedroom

Consent in our Daily Lives

Ask Before Touching

After publishing my latest piece on consent via Medium, a horrible thought struck me.  Are we reaching a saturation point, whereby we are overusing the word consent?  Are we perhaps beating a dead horse and losing the momentum?  The sex positive community knows what it means, and employs it regularly, whereas the primarily monogamous part of our society is ignoring the importance of what this actually means.  When I talk about consent with people in person, I get the impression that people just don’t care about the word or it’s implications.  It feels like it is reserved for situations such as rape, sexual harassment, etc.  Not something that the average person really needs to think about. 

We read in the news all about the extreme situations whereby a coach used their position of power to sexually abuse their athletes, or the serial rapist who drugged their victims then took advantage of them.  We as a society see these actions as morally and criminally wrong, and leave it at that.  We don’t think about, or want to think about everything that lead up to these extreme situations.  We don’t want to acknowledge that in our day to day lives there are countless moments where we just go with the flow.  We do not say no, or even yes with authenticity.

How many times in the past 24 hours have you been tasked with something that you did not want to do?  How many times in the last month were you asked to do something that you morally felt uncomfortable with?  Did it even cross your mind to say something?  Or, did you just go with the flow, and choose not to ruffle feathers.  To trust your superior, with blind faith?  I for one, do it all the time, or at least I know I used to.  I relied on a stable income, so I chose to not speak up when I felt uncomfortable with an assigned task.  I chose to just do my job, and that would be the end of it. 

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There is an added element to this, that I would be amyss not bringing up.  I was raised, as female, and to always be the peacemaker.  To try and find common ground, compromise, and above all, do not stand out or be bitchy.  I know, I have written about this before, but, it is necessary to repeat.  If you are raised, as I was, to be calm, level headed, always smiling person that people can count on, you are not in the same breath taught to assert yourself.  You are not taught how to say yes or no.  You are not raised to understand that your voice will be taken seriously, respected, or to have any impact whatsoever.  Your role is to keep things even and balanced.  But speaking up, and saying you are not OK with a situation is just, wrong.  This in short is not your place.

Obviously, this mentality, is part of the reason so many of us struggle with consent.  For my male counterparts, they were not raised to hear the word no.  And I was not raised to say the word no. So therefore, giving this whole consent topic anything more than a passing glance would be a waste of time.  This is a them problem.  This is something that outliers need to deal with.  No rational or normal person would take advantage of a situation or a person beneath them.  Well, if you haven’t figured it out already, that is a complete farce. We all, are faced with choices, on a daily basis, and especially us, easy going Canadians, will not speak our minds. We do not utilize the yes or no in our verbiage unless it is an extreme situation.  We choose not to offend within our families, or stand up for what’s right in our careers. 

Saying yes or no is still taboo, and this needs to change.  My voice matters, and your voice matters.  My ability to assert myself is a fundamental part of who I am.  Your ability to have autonomy over your body and actions are what make you… you!  We must start talking about consent, and how we can start using these words with authenticity, and how we can teach it to the next generation. 

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The Continuing Saga of The Nice Guy

Workplace Edition

Only puppy kisses are allowed in the workplace!

When two people spend a lot of time together, for instance, working together, it is common for a few lines to get blurry.  People in close connection to each other develop a rhythm, a way of speaking, joshing around, and often times a set of inside jokes that perplex the outsiders.  Human’s make connections, it’s what we do.  We bond, and create social order out of chaos, which if any of you are currently working have had experience with at least one job that needed a sane shoulder to lean on to get you through your days.  As a result, the bond you create with this comrade in arms, often grows beyond the friendly co-worker stage and into this hazy, maybe not quite on the up and up territory. 

Now here is the thing about this, if this type of relationship is mutual, then by all means, you do you and love it.  I personally know a great many people with whom this pair bonding extended far beyond the workplace and into lifelong friendships, and in a few cases, incredibly strong, full on, relationships.  While many may judge a sexual relationship developing in the workplace, the reality is, it happens, and let me tell you first hand, the majority of them work so well that you have no idea they are even happening.  However, that is not what this post is about.  I want to discuss what happens when one party is not on board with anything happening outside of the workplace, and in fact, wants to put the brakes on the intensity of the workplace bond.

It took me years to learn how to be my assertive, and defined self.  It was not how I was raised, and I fought hard to find the balance between being a bitch, knowing what I want, and finally figuring out to say no, in a way that made me comfortable.  If you read my post about The Nice Guy, you already know that this type of dynamic really throws me for a loop.  Having an adult man cry because I asserted myself is a feeling that can leave me feeling drained, and horrible.  It also makes me question if I am borderline bitchy, which is not a sensation I enjoy.  As a result, I have more than once, been in a position where I have to walk this fine line because I have a co-worker who is crossing that line.

In regards to this post, the so called Nice Guy, is showing the true colours that I knew were going to come out.  Since my last post, I have told him no.  I have texted him (so he has in writing in case he forgets) that talking about personal stuff, touching me, or sharing feelings at work is completely out of question and I do not want any part of it.  And yet, he reverts back to the same behaviour after only a few days of “trying” not to be that creepy, touchy, feely dude.

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How do you explain to a boss, that someone just makes you uncomfortable?  How do you get through to an individual who has a lifetime of feeding off the negative feedback loop of rejection, poor me, and ultimately tears?  How do I ensure that I am worth keeping at the job, and not just one of those troublemakers who is complaining about feelings, rather than tangible violations of policy or procedure?  Why am I writing this post?  Because it is something that I have faced at every single job I have ever had, even when working with an all female staff (Yup, this is not a gender specific problem, but for the sake of clarity in this post I have written it that way).  It is something that countless women have faced in their workplaces.  It is a question that we all ask, and more often than not, choose to keep our feelings to ourselves, and try to find ways to work around the uncomfortable situation.  In short, we enable the problem.  We do not call the individuals to task, and we get creative in how to avoid the person, overcome our emotional discomfort, or worse, our denial hacks away at our self worth because if there is no evidence maybe it is all about perception and just in our heads.

Men, if you are reading this, and you feel like a female co-worker is avoiding you, I want you to pause a minute.  Or if you have notice a co-worker that you used to feel close to has changed the dynamic and frequency of being near you, breath, and reflect.  Could it be possible that you have made them uncomfortable?  Have you perhaps over stepped your boundaries?  Have you at some point made a personal question there financial security at work?  By that, I mean, are you aware of processes and procedures that a personal can comfortably use if they felt that something was making them uncomfortable?  If you were ever called into HR, how would you react?  Would you be in shock?  Defensive?  Would you lash out, and destroy that person’s career?  For you see, that is what I have feared in the past.  Losing my livelihood over something without tangible proof.  Something that made me not want to even go into work, and yet, I couldn’t prove happened.  Could it be merely a misunderstanding?  Did that invite for drinks, or brush of my butt, or lingering look that just squicked me out be all in my head?  Was it all accidental?

If I say no, to anything sexual happening in the workplace, or even discussing my personal life while on the clock, I want that to be the end of it.  Graciously accept my assertiveness and NEVER cross the line again.  Don’t plot, how to get me alone, or plan ways for us to hang out after work.  Just be a co-worker, who respects your job, and much as you respect your fellow employees.  If you have a cutie in the workplace, just appreciate that you have a little eye candy on the job, and move on.  Do not obsess over the fact, because I guarantee that the person on the other end can tell!  As someone who frequently crushes over co-workers, I assure you, it can be done in a healthy, sex positive way, that does NOT turn you into a creep.  

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A Post About Reason

Harmful Comment or Compliment: You Decide

After nearly a decade of living, researching, and blogging about non-monogamy, I decided it was high time to share a little bit of what I have learnt with the masses.  And thus, I am creating a series on Medium.com whereby I am writing a how to “non-monogamy” guide.  It is an exciting endeavour and so far, the responses have been overwhelmingly positive.  And, if you’re thinking that I am going to rant about a negative review, have I got a surprise for you!  No, this post is about something that surfaced when I queried a local Facebook group for input on future articles. (Which if you would like to add some suggestions I would love to read them!)  And after I go off on my side of things, I am going to show a completely different perspective of the same events, and then I am going ask you to decide where you sit on the issue. No, it’s not a test, and you don’t have to publicly share your answer.  Instead, I want you think about how your intentions are coming across on social media, especially in light of the #metoo movement, because for better or worse, it has changed the tone of how we relate to each other, and more importantly our ability to reason. 

So without further ado, I present harmful comment, or compliment: You Decide!

Yesterday, I was asking a group of lifestyle people on Facebook for their suggestions on future articles in my non-monogamous how to series.  A female member of the group requested that I write a piece for a male audience, and when I asked further what she meant, it turns out that she has troubles opening or even saying hi to a person in the lifestyle.  In short, she explained that she was looking for more of a how to guide with starting conversations with other people in non-monogamy, and agreed this would be beneficial for both sexes.  I graciously thanked her, as this was exactly the sort of thing that should be included in a series like this.  Now, here is the point of contention, a male commented with the following using our thread:

I think all you would need to do is say “hi”. Pretty sure it would get your point across if he’s from a LS group.

My Side

While I kept my reply fairly mundane, in my head I was reeling, and I rushed to type out all of my thoughts. Firstly, a female asked me for help.  It was specific to my article, and yes, although it was a public forum and everyone is welcome to add their input, we were in the middle of a question and answer thread.  In short, a guy butted into a place that added zero value.

Second, she specifically said she was having troubles just saying hi.  So random guy ignores that, and just suggests that she say hi anyways?  What point does saying “hi” ubiquitously get across, even on a lifestyle site?  Hi, is not consent, negotiation, or really anything other than a pleasantry.  And listen, if a “hi” on a LS club is like some secret handshake, then honestly, there needs to be a very bright neon warning sign for all of us who were unaware of this fact.

Third, this woman was a very good looking brunette, and my Spidey senses went off in a flash of an objectifying nature. She asked for help, and the guy turned around saying, no, you don’t need to do anything but show up and all is good.

This in general, is why, I reasoned that women have difficulty asking for help publicly where men are, and why so many of us have private groups for sharing our thoughts and expressing ourselves.  I hate writing pieces with such a strong gender bias, but in the social media realm world this exists all the time and the word mansplaining had to be coined. 

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Flip Side

But now, let’s flip perspective. Let’s remove my biases, and just try and put ourselves into the male writers, or readers shoes.

Firstly, the guy was just trying to give a compliment.  He saw a woman asking for help, thought to himself, nah, she doesn’t need that, look at her! She is already amazing, and he wants to tell her so.  Completely benign, harmless, and ripe with good intent.

Second, he honestly thought offering her words of encouragement would make her feel better, and boost her ego.  Ergo, he was being helpful, and thoughtful.  At the end of the day, he is a really great guy, and wanted to tell her that in a way that has worked for decades, the negging method. 

Third, he is being completely honest in that he imagined receiving a message from her, and was expressing that truthfully, no further work was needed beyond the initial interaction.  He would take it from there. A woman just saying hi, is hot, confident, and should be encouraged.  That’s just what he was trying to do.  No ill intent meant, and he would be happy to take the lead, after her initial interest.

In summary, he is doing what he has always done on social media.  He has typed a comment based on his gut reaction and impulse.  Perhaps he cares little for how it is interpreted because he is just being himself.  That freedom to do, say, or type whatever you want is what makes online interaction so fun and easy.  He doesn’t see her body language, reaction, or any idicators to show whether it worked or didn’t and this he is going to continue acting in the same manor until he is told otherwise. And if she does respond, but not in the way he wants, no sweat, she doesn’t get him and will move right onto the next person.

Takeaway

I hope you have made it to the end of this post.  Because what I am about to say gets to the real heart of this two perspective issue.  Times have changed.  Our online social interaction is, impacted by the #metoo movement.  We have all felt it, in one way or another.  We have seen even the most innocuous comment get blown way out of proportion, as some of you may think I have done.  We have also seen the flip side, of people using humour, or negging, or just saying absolutely anything to get noticed in an interweb where it often feels like you have no voice and have to shout incredibly loudly to be heard or stand out.  Any attention is good attention right?  Type as fast as you can, and do not spend even a moment to think about how your words will come across because we only have a 3 second attention span, and you need to be noticed above all, good, bad, ugly, it doesn’t matter.  Trolls seem to have more followers and interaction than anyone right?

Wherever you initially were sitting on this little choose your own perspective piece, the main thing I hope you takeaway is, right now, everything you put online is being interpreted from different biases.  We are not in a place where we are just getting along, and existing in bliss amongst a multitude of diversity and opinions. Instead we are clashing, clamoring, and crying out foul whenever our biases are superseded by that which makes humans so unique, our ability to reason. We keep asking How Should We Behave, but we are not actually doing anything to listen to the answers.

So, pause, and think about how your words are going to be viewed and interpreted online.  Decide what your intent is when you type those words on a page, and if they are not received the way you intended, tweak them next time.  Change your tone.  Find a new way to stand out in this new world of social interaction.  Don’t waste the ability to reason and think.  There is more to life than just being right.

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A Rant: Respecting the Word No

No means no!

I’m feeling raw and vulnerable, because it happened again.  It always seems to happen.  Here I am, trying to be open, fun, and authentic and then boom, some jackass takes it too far.  They stop respecting when I say no.  And they try… wait… they do push my boundaries, simply because they believe something inherently false, that women do not know what they want.  That I, do not know what I want.  Why?  Because they have their best intentions at heart and I can trust them.  I have heard this argument so many times in my life, that it really has done a mind fuck on me.  And yes, there is a time and a place when this may be true.  I.e. when you are in a committed relationship and your partner knows you better than you know yourself.  Or when there is an established, vocalized, and consent based trust that they will not ever push you into a place that would harm either of you.  Then, of course, there is an exception, and perhaps the good intentions hold true.  But even then, if I or anyone else says no, the demand is that it be heard.

Good Intentions VS Perceptions

But that’s not where I find myself right now.  I have numerous people in my life with whom I have to keep re-iterating my boundaries.  How many times can I say, “no, I don’t want a hug” or “no, I don’t want to have sexualized conversations with you, because we don’t have that type of relationship”.  It becomes exhausting steering the conversation away from sex or relationship topics or even something as simple as talking about my personal life.  That nice guy adage of talking about your feelings will make you feel better is bullshit.  I’m not playing those games or letting you into my mind!  It makes you feel better to see someone hurt or vulnerable, not me!  How many times do certain men need to be shot down before I have to up the ante, and get really mad or worse, cut them out of my life completely?

There is a huge difference between being playful, flirty, and fun, versus just pulling out all the stops and ignoring the word no.  If I say, no, I demand that to be respected.  I know myself.  I know my body, and I know my comfort levels.  On and on this note, body language plays a huge role in this too.  If you reach out to touch someone, and they do not reciprocate the touching, it’s time you took a pause and ask them if they are OK with it.  I think we all know what that uncomfortable hug from someone you don’t want touching you feels like, and when you’re in an emotionally vulnerable place it is so much worse.  You begin to dread having to ever see them again.  You need to get consent before you touch someone, and crush that part of you that thinks your touch someone is more important than their answer.  And no, it not OK to look crushed and hurt or make them feel guilty for whatever their answer is.

Why Do I Feel Raw?

Now you may ask why I opened with feeling raw and vulnerable because I seem to have a very clear picture of what I want.  But the truth is I am getting very tired of feeling that this is my fault.  That writing this blog, sharing sexy pictures on Patreon, or posing for Instagram with my beer and boobs, somehow means I deserve to be ignored.  Or that I must be open with everyone.  Or that I identify as a sex positive individual and therefore, I want to talk sex all the time, and be touched by everyone.  Or worse, that you think you are special because you read my work, understand me, and now feel that you somehow are a part of my intimate life.  Let me be very clear, I share what I want to share, and I want to be free to continue doing so.  I do not owe you anything, and I do not have to expand on topics for your own delight.  And again, if I say I don’t want to talk about it, respect that.  Do not give me your puppy dog eyes, and put your hand on my thigh, telling me that you’re always here if I need you.

A Little Math to Help Clarify

Let’s put some math into this to help me explain.  Let’s say you have read 10 of my blog posts, and we have had 1 conversation in person that lasted about 10 minutes.  Do you think that in that short amount of time what you know of me, versus what I know of you is now equal?  Do you honestly think that somehow, magically, you have put enough work into building trust and a relationship that we are on equal footing and you can ignore when I say no?  Or to ignore when I blatantly brush you off, and do not reciprocate to a single one of your advancements?  If you’re wondering, each one of my posts takes at minimum of an hour of my time (keeping the math simple here as some take days).  So, from a simple algebraic formula can you get this to balance?  Remember, I have already put in 10 hours of my life, to your 10 minutes.  Are you seeing the inequality here?   

And let me tell you, I am sick and tired of men taking advantage of that and thinking they don’t have to put in any effort with me.  More to the fact, I am exhausted from working so hard to let me guard down, and then boom, feeling like I am faced with blatant sexual harassment that some how I feel is my fault.  Because I was open, sex positive, and shared my vulnerabilities publicly. 

In Short, Respect the No!

The world is changing.  The #metoo movement is real.  It is no longer acceptable for men to just keep pushing until they get slapped or the woman changes her mind, mind you that was never a great tactic but if you lived through the 80’s and 90’s you’ll remember that being pretty common.  Remember those days are over.  Wake up!  If you have ever had a woman claim that you crossed the line, you are the problem.  You need to change your tactics and never do that again.  Respect the no.  Do not push it.  And here’s the thing, even if a woman has been uncomfortable even one time, I have to re-iterate that you have done something wrong.  Woman should never feel uncomfortable.  It means you have not put in the time required to build trust, you are ignoring clearly established boundaries, and/or you are not respecting the person you are interacting with.  I don’t care how “good” your intentions may be in your head, your actions are clearly in violation of your intentions, you are not the nice guy that you think you are, and you need to stop that behaviour immediately!

End rant!

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The Friendzone is Bullshit!

Body language matters and the friendzone is bullshit!

I have toyed with a post explaining why I believe the word friendzone is bullshit for over 5 years.  I have outlines, ideas, and just random thoughts peppering my work in progress document and nothing I wrote ever could quite get past the whole “I don’t like the label and it’s implications”.  Until recently, I felt writing this post would be irresponsible and give people the wrong impression about me (by that I mean, I didn’t want men who felt they were in the friendzone to start pushing boundaries). But I write this now because there is something bubbling beneath the surface of the word that I think needs to be addressed here.  With a few beers in me, I wrote this in reply to a comment on my Predators blog post: I have tried numerous times to write a post on the friendzone, however I stop myself in light of this very context. Until there is a clear understanding of consent, and boundaries, there are certain men that should just stay believing in the friendzone for the sake of the women they are in essence pushing boundaries with…. OK, maybe this should turn into a post.

Any guesses where I am going with this yet?  The friendzone is a word, that I have always felt, was a copout.  We use it to place a person who we may or make not actually like, but definitely do not want anything physical to happen with (at that particular moment).  And as we are still trying to figure out what role they play in our lives, we relegate them into this so called “friendzone”.  The implications of that zone, are that the person will take the hint, and therefor understand that they are to stop being flirty, or expect that the person who placed them there will ever sleep with them.  Basically, it’s code for “just give up already”. 

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So, there are two parts that I will touch on here to explain why I think the friendzone is bullshit

The first, is why do we allow, or even encourage people to place labels like this on other human beings.  It’s often cruel.  If a person likes you, man up, and have the conversation that says you are tired of them doing such and such behaviour, and would like it to stop for the friendship to continue.  Then set a clear expectation, for example, this is what will happen if you don’t.  Off the top of my head you could threaten that the friendship will be over if they continue to push your boundaries.  Of you could simply state where you are at in the moment and call out the persons bad behaviour as it happens.

Perhaps you would like an example from my colourful past?  Ok, here is a little story time…Once upon a time when I was in a long term monogamous relationship, I had a friend who would constantly try to buy me drinks, text me cute pet names, and when he got drunk he would meow at me.  I really appreciated all the free stuff I was getting, and when we texted it was playful, it was fun, and quite flattering being on someone’s mind like that.  However, when he got drunk, he repeatedly tried to cross the line, would hold his hugs just a little too long, and the weird meowing turned into this creepy cat-like howl. To be clear I had zero attraction for him, and was in a completely monogamous relationship that he was fully aware of.  He was a teddy bear in the day time with whom I always hugged when I saw him, was a great listener, and overall I loved the boost he gave my ego.  So, I, without realizing it, was letting him ride in that weird friendzone territory, while I sorted out my feelings and tried to rationalize where he was in my life. 

But then, I grew up.  Ok, the truth was, I got sick and tired of his drunken behaviour and watched it start to spill into our sober text messages.  So, I gave him a choice.  Either stop crossing the line with me when you’re drunk and allow me to trust you 100% of the time, or you will not be in my life.  And guess what?  After two strikes, he was no longer in my life.  I won’t lie, I missed the attention, but ultimately, the ego boost just wasn’t worth having someone like that in my life.

Ok, so now let’s talk about the other side of it.  Why people find themselves in the friendzone.  I’m not going to mince words here, if you have ever found yourself in the friendzone it is because you do not have the social skills to handle the situation that you are in and you are the problem.  See what I did there?  I told you what was wrong in a direct manor.  Let me explain, if you’re sitting there, shell shocked, or feeling like you want to start defending yourself, take pause and hear me out.  If you are attracted to someone, and the feelings are not returned in the same manor that you are wishing they would, there are a few things going on.  First, you have picked a target way out of your league and you are either too shy, under confident, or socially awkward to overcome that hurdle so you tell yourself, just being close to this person is enough.  Guess what? It’s not, it’s weird, and you need to start learning how to build your confidence. 

Second, you have this person in your life who keeps telling you no, but you have decided, that they are wrong, and you are going to keep trying.  Guess what?  That makes you an asshole and you have violated the whole consent thing.  Maybe this person is just being too nice, doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, or is just genuinely trying to figure things out.  That shouldn’t matter to you though. If you hear the word no, it’s time to back off immediately.  Perhaps they will miss you, and come around.  Or more likely, they will realize their gut was right, and they just were one of those genuinely amazing souls who are nice to everyone, and are so relieved that they don’t have to feel awkward around you anymore.  Either way, respect the word no, and back off!

The friendzone is not healthy, for anyone.  The friendzone is a bullshit place to be, and equally to put someone in while you figure things out.  I propose that we remove this silly label from our vocabulary and start actually communicating with people.  You don’t have to use black and white labels.  We are blessed with a whole range of words, body language, and clear methods of expressing ourselves.  So, start building those skills.  And did you know that you can always change your mind about a person too?  If you tell a person you aren’t into them, and then realize you were wrong you can go and talk to them and share your feelings?  Crazy, I know!  But it’s far better than playing this whole in the friendzone, out of the friendzone charade.  So take these new and improved communication skills you have learned here, and go have meaningful conversations with people you like.  And always remember, if they say no, for the love of everything, respect that, and do NOT keep trying!

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