Wedding Woes

1st step, you're not responsible for anyone else's feelings.

Dear Prudence,
I have more than once had sex, or gone further than I was really comfortable going with men, for the sake of preserving their feelings, or because I felt I had already taken things too far to back out. Almost all of my female friends have a similar story. How do I convince myself that I don’t need to have sex with someone to protect their feelings? And how do I find the words to politely end a sexual encounter after I become uncomfortable?
—Opting Out

Re: 1st step, you're not responsible for anyone else's feelings.

  • Unfortunately, I think some of this falls into the category of "society setting women up to fail".  Women are supposed to be "people pleasers".  Oh!  But not when it comes to sex.  Then you're just a "slut" for saying yes.  Except it's tough to turn off that "people pleasing" programming, smh.

    More specifically to the LW, she needs to realize that it is OKAY to say no.  It is OKAY to explain HER feelings.  I think a good place to start is to determine ahead of time what is off the table, sexually.  When things start becoming amorous, she can either explain the parameters up front so everyone is on the same page.  Or if things start to go too far, briefly pause to explain, "I really like you, but I'm not comfortable with ABC yet."

    This is a strategy I used when I was in college and first dating someone.  If I wasn't ready the first time a guy wanted to have sex, I'd tell him, "I'm not ready yet.  But I PROMISE, as soon as I am, I will tell you!"  Said with a big, flirty smile.  Guys LOVED it and were actually relieved.   I think a lot of men feel the pressure to be the one making all the moves (more social programming), but don't want to pressure someone either.  My "I'll tell you" statement solved that dilemma for them.

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    charlotte989875VarunaTTSTARMOON44InLoveInQueens
  • "Use your words" is an awful way to put it. I totally understand where she's coming from. I've been on both ends of the spectrum. Its really about putting you first and not thinking about the other person's feelings. I feel like we're conditioned to make others happy before we do it for ourselves. You might need to start over. Maybe take a pause from dating. It might be nice to take a breather. I used to be the person that let things get too out of my comfort zone-- whether it was to make a person happy or for fear of retaliation of some sort. Now, I'm the person who puts a hand up between myself and the person making me uncomfortable. I'm currently of the mindset that if they don't get the picture when I nicely say back off, then they're about to get full blown bitch. I'm at a point where I feel confident enough with my responses where I feel safe enough with my responses to do that. I've actually shooed men away from me before. I think its easy to do this in public places, it'll definitely feel harder in private, but this is about you and only you. 
    VarunaTTsparklepants41
  • Take the "Welcome Shirt" off!  Install a phobia of all activities getting pregnant such that LW personally decides hold off on anything with another person until she's found "the one" who takes HER feelings into account and she takes the mutual lead and there's at least the path to the long-term.  

    Yes - WORDS!!!  
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    MobKaz
  • I stand by "use your words."  Yes, women have been conditioned to be pleasers.  However,  the more often we tell women, "just say what you are thinking" the more it will become the norm.  There is no need to politely tell someone you are uncomfortable.  Just use your words and say, "I am uncomfortable and don't want to do this anymore."  Using words.  

    Aside - did I miss the pregnancy phobia in the letter?  

    OliveOilsMom
  • Ro041 said:
    I stand by "use your words."  Yes, women have been conditioned to be pleasers.  However,  the more often we tell women, "just say what you are thinking" the more it will become the norm.  There is no need to politely tell someone you are uncomfortable.  Just use your words and say, "I am uncomfortable and don't want to do this anymore."  Using words.  

    Aside - did I miss the pregnancy phobia in the letter?  

    You didn't miss the phobia stuff, but it ties in to WORDS.  Think for a moment how many rape victims beat themselves up, sometimes for decades, over "Why didn't you/I scream?" on repeat inside their heads.  My point with saying "create a phobia of sex when LW doesn't want it" is, it has to be a line in the sand action step on LW's part.  This LW will eventually start to have the "why didn't you say no when you clearly didn't want to" guilt on herself before long if not already.  Why I mentioned the phobia thing is because this was actually something I had in a class this past summer "there's times to rapidly destroy a phobia and there are times to create one!".  The idea being how to equip a person in LW's situation with the skills to keep herself from bigger issues the path she's on.  "What's the most likely (not the right word) worst that can happen in a consensual yet reluctant casual sex situation?"  Until she's ready for  that outcome, it really may be a viable "what do you want to do instead?" And I can guarantee you, people with a phobia use their words to GTFO of those situations, and it is a spectrum response usually starting out mild ("let's take the stairs" in the case of someone a fear of elevators for example, super mild no one would know) to there ain't nothing on this earth that's going to prevent an A&E run.  A phobic trusts their feelings and acts on it no matter how irrational and has parameters about the thing they're phobic of.  Even if done in a metaphorical sense it'd still get the point across that getting out of those situations when LW feels that way is 100% o.k. and the reaction on a spectrum until she's out of the situation.  Treat those uncomfortable situations like a phobia because what LW's doing now isn't working for her!
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  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    member
    Protect your own feelings of self worth.  Don't worry about what he will think of YOU. 

    Perhaps my age is showing.  Perhaps it is simply my personality.  I was not raised to be a "pleaser" or that saying "yes" was a requirement, or that I should put myself before others. 

    Too many things are overthought.  With a few qualifiers, I agree that using words, coupled with common sense, needs to be practiced.
    eileenrobshort+sassy
  • I think suggesting creating a phobia as a way to use your words is just shockingly bad advice. 
    charlotte989875InLoveInQueensMyNameIsNot

  • Again, I think this is terrible advice. We're talking about a sex; a healthy, natural part of life. Creating a phobia where there isn't one, and adding more potential psychological issues to the feelings she's already experiencing is dangerous to someone's mental health. 

    Also, using pregnancy as the worst case scenario to sex will potentially set her up for years of additional stress regarding deciding when and if children are part of her life. 

    Rather than telling a woman to develop even more unhealthy practices regarding sex, how about recommending that she work on her own self-esteem and finding ways to own what she does and doesn't want to happen in a sexual encounter. 

    This type of advice shames women into having hang-ups and unhealthy attitudes toward sex and her body. 
    No - we're talking about a LW who is having sex SHE DOES NOT WANT because she feels GUILTY saying NO when she clearly DOES NOT WANT SEX and is becoming a problem!  One does not need confidence to get the heck out of a situation they don't want to be in, they just need a resourceful state of action (do anything else!) in whatever it takes in that moment to get out when she doesn't want to engage in sex whether that's someone she's casually dating or married to, give her the power back.  That's not to say she can't have sex when she wants to, or even have kids, but when someone she's partnered with is creating a powerful response in her to feel guilty if LW doesn't have sex with them you're saying because sex is natural she isn't entitled to feel her feelings of not wanting to have sex any time for any reason, and act upon them - NO!  Creating victims is not healthy, she WILL be a victim if she doesn't come up with a different reaction when she's in those situations she feels uncomfortable in and does not want to have intercourse with someone.  Giving her the autonomy, choice, and control of her own feelings is not a terrible thing.  
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  • MesmrEwe said:

    Again, I think this is terrible advice. We're talking about a sex; a healthy, natural part of life. Creating a phobia where there isn't one, and adding more potential psychological issues to the feelings she's already experiencing is dangerous to someone's mental health. 

    Also, using pregnancy as the worst case scenario to sex will potentially set her up for years of additional stress regarding deciding when and if children are part of her life. 

    Rather than telling a woman to develop even more unhealthy practices regarding sex, how about recommending that she work on her own self-esteem and finding ways to own what she does and doesn't want to happen in a sexual encounter. 

    This type of advice shames women into having hang-ups and unhealthy attitudes toward sex and her body. 
    No - we're talking about a LW who is having sex SHE DOES NOT WANT because she feels GUILTY saying NO when she clearly DOES NOT WANT SEX and is becoming a problem!  One does not need confidence to get the heck out of a situation they don't want to be in, they just need a resourceful state of action (do anything else!) in whatever it takes in that moment to get out when she doesn't want to engage in sex whether that's someone she's casually dating or married to, give her the power back.  That's not to say she can't have sex when she wants to, or even have kids, but when someone she's partnered with is creating a powerful response in her to feel guilty if LW doesn't have sex with them you're saying because sex is natural she isn't entitled to feel her feelings of not wanting to have sex any time for any reason, and act upon them - NO!  Creating victims is not healthy, she WILL be a victim if she doesn't come up with a different reaction when she's in those situations she feels uncomfortable in and does not want to have intercourse with someone.  Giving her the autonomy, choice, and control of her own feelings is not a terrible thing.  
    This is absolutely not what I'm saying. And suggesting people develop phobias is, as @STARMOON44, says above is shockingly bad (and IMO, dangerous) advice. 

    She is having sex with people to protect their feelings at the expense of her own. She needs to find ways to value her feelings about what she wants over the people she is with. Maybe it's self-esteem, maybe its confidence, maybe it's she's embarrassed about what she does/doesn't want, maybe it's the way women are socialized into believing they can't speak up about what they want, that they have to be people pleasers, or they have to protect men's feelings; whatever the reasons she's having sex when she doesn't fully want to, she needs to deal with these issues and find a way to communicating what she does want. But that absolutely should not involve developing even more negative feelings surrounding sex. 

    Seriously, I can't believe you would defend developing a phobia as a response to asking how to be more assertive about needs. 
    STARMOON44InLoveInQueensMyNameIsNot
  • Ro041 said:
    MesmrEwe said:
    Ro041 said:
    I stand by "use your words."  Yes, women have been conditioned to be pleasers.  However,  the more often we tell women, "just say what you are thinking" the more it will become the norm.  There is no need to politely tell someone you are uncomfortable.  Just use your words and say, "I am uncomfortable and don't want to do this anymore."  Using words.  

    Aside - did I miss the pregnancy phobia in the letter?  

    You didn't miss the phobia stuff, but it ties in to WORDS.  Think for a moment how many rape victims beat themselves up, sometimes for decades, over "Why didn't you/I scream?" on repeat inside their heads.  My point with saying "create a phobia of sex when LW doesn't want it" is, it has to be a line in the sand action step on LW's part.  This LW will eventually start to have the "why didn't you say no when you clearly didn't want to" guilt on herself before long if not already.  Why I mentioned the phobia thing is because this was actually something I had in a class this past summer "there's times to rapidly destroy a phobia and there are times to create one!".  The idea being how to equip a person in LW's situation with the skills to keep herself from bigger issues the path she's on.  "What's the most likely (not the right word) worst that can happen in a consensual yet reluctant casual sex situation?"  Until she's ready for  that outcome, it really may be a viable "what do you want to do instead?" And I can guarantee you, people with a phobia use their words to GTFO of those situations, and it is a spectrum response usually starting out mild ("let's take the stairs" in the case of someone a fear of elevators for example, super mild no one would know) to there ain't nothing on this earth that's going to prevent an A&E run.  A phobic trusts their feelings and acts on it no matter how irrational and has parameters about the thing they're phobic of.  Even if done in a metaphorical sense it'd still get the point across that getting out of those situations when LW feels that way is 100% o.k. and the reaction on a spectrum until she's out of the situation.  Treat those uncomfortable situations like a phobia because what LW's doing now isn't working for her!
    I actually don't have to think of how many rape victims have been in that position because I was in that position almost 20 years ago....so yeah.  

    ETA - and those thoughts I have last much more than "a moment".  Please don't ask women to put themselves in a rape victim's shoes because you don't know their past.  And now I am hella triggered by this entire comment and pissed that you took a class one time and now you think that this gives you any space to ask me to put myself in a rape victim's shoes.
    That's exactly how I felt as I am also a survivor, @Ro041 but you articulated it much better than I could have. 
    charlotte989875Ro041OliveOilsMom
  • If one woman is independent economically, she would dare to say no to man or vise versa. Why should woman be the one who must stand by man's rudeness.
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