She Tried to Tell Him She Didn't Want to Have Sex and He Somehow Didn't Get It squib
Savage Love Letter of the Day
by Dan Savage
I'm a late 30s cis female and I've been dating a man in his early 50s for about nine months. Last December, about four months into our relationship, something happened and I can't figure out if I am blowing it out of proportion. Basically, he got wasted and I made the poor decision to spend the night with him instead of politely excusing myself and going home. When we got in bed he started initiating sexual contact, something I would normally invite. I didn't want to have sex with him that night though because he was drunk and he had been rude and pushy earlier in the evening. Anyway, he started kissing me and touching me and instead of just saying "no" I tried to show my lack of enthusiasm through body language. Basically, I just didn't reciprocate. It got to a point that he was kind of laying partly on me and kissing me in this way that really kind of grossed me out. I had an urge to tell him to leave me alone. I kind of wanted to scream because he was grossing me out. I wanted to get up and leave but it was late and I didn't have my car with me. Eventually he stopped trying, rolled over, and fell asleep. The next morning when we got up he was upset that I "rejected" him. To smooth things over I basically lied and told him I didn't mean to reject him and I was just tired and wanted to sleep. I even apologized that I made him feel bad.
Ever since then things have gone downhill. I never directly addressed my feelings about that night and he didn't bring it up until today, actually, when I wrote him about it. I don't think he remembers it very clearly because he was drunk. I haven't seen him since the virus struck, but we are not officially broken up yet. I started treating him worse after the thing happened in December and I think I maybe should have left him after that night. I guess my ultimate question for you is whether or not what happened is "a big deal." I need to know if I am making a big deal out of something insignificant. Was it just miscommunication? We normally had sex when we slept in the same bed and perhaps he was just acting as he normally would? Can you please tell me if this behavior was not a big deal and perhaps forgivable?
Heavy And Rude Sex Happenings
Before I say anything else: Your boyfriend behaved badly that night. But the sex—or his attempt to initiate sex—went on a lot longer than it would've if you had used your words, HARSH. I recognize that you were socialized to defer to men and to prioritize a male sex partner's feelings over your own. And I recognize that for their own safety women often err on the side deflecting unwanted male attention rather than rejecting it. But when you know that—and if you didn't know it before, HARSH, you know it now—you have to make a conscious effort to correct for it.
That moment when you wanted to excuse yourself? You should've excused yourself. That moment you wanted to say no? You should've said no. That moment when you wanted to scream? You should've screamed. That moment you wanted to leave? You should've left.
He shouldn't have gotten drunk, he shouldn't have been an asshole, he shouldn't have kept trying to initiate sex while you laid there unresponsive. And while his judgement was very likely impaired by the alcohol, the next morning he remembered enough about what happened to know you didn't wanna have sex with him and that was the reason he didn't get laid. But because you relied on body language to communicate your "lack of enthusiasm" and not your words—not spoken language—it took him longer to "hear" what you were trying to say than it would've otherwise. (And for the record: that he thought he was the wronged party is a classic example of male entitlement and male denseness; that you wound up apologizing to him is a classic example of a woman prioritizing a man's feelings over her own.)
Here's your homework assignment: "I don't want to have sex." I want you to practice saying that out loud. Don't mime it. Say it. And while you don't have to give a reason, HARSH, you're free to tack, "...right now," or, "...because you're drunk," or, "...because I'm not horny," onto the end of that statement. But it's a statement. It's not a request. You aren't asking a man for his permission to not have sex with him. You're telling him—for reasons you aren't obligated to get into—that you don't wanna have sex with him and, as consequence of your not wanting to have sex with him, he will not be having sex with you. Which means if he's trying to initiate sex, he has to stop.
This happened in December and you're still upset about it, HARSH, so by definition it seems like a big deal. And while it sounds to me like this relationship is over—you haven't seen him for months and you've been "treating him worse" since it happened*—you need to have a conversation with him about affirmative consent if you do decide to see him again. Explain to him that the absence of a "no" is not the presence of a "yes." But you should also acknowledge that, since you'd had sex with him every other time you got into bed together, there was nothing unreasonable about his attempt to initiate sex that night. If he can promise not to get drunk, not to be an asshole, and not to press you for sex when you're not feeling enthused, you should promise him that you'll say no—using your words—when you don't want to have sex, HARSH, instead of relying on him, impaired or not, to read your mind.
* You say "you've been treating him worse" since this happened more than five months ago but you only wrote him about it—you only said something to him about it—today. So just like that night you used your body language and hoped he would figure out what you meant, you've been treating him badly—or not as nicely as you had been treating him—in the hopes that he would somehow figure out that you were upset about that event. Maybe that should've been easy for him to figure out, HARSH, but the dude is clearly and self-servingly dense. You're an adult and you need to learn how to communicate how you feel and what you want clearly.