I Started Saying No To Sex

Written by Michelle Elizabeth

How the #MeToo Movement changed my life.

I have never been the victim of a rape, but I have been a victim of sexual abuse and misconduct. When women found the courage to speak up about their experiences, it made me think about mine. When I recalled my life as a woman, or even as a little girl growing into a woman, I have always been at the mercy of little boys taking out their aggressions. I have always been on the receiving end of unwanted affection that I had to accept or make excuses for.

When does it stop being okay?

As a young girl, I was kicked and bullied, thrown into dumpsters for sport because I was smaller than they were. I was told, “he must like you,” when I asked an adult to make a boy stop kicking me and trying to trip me as I returned to my desk from the blackboard.

Every time I was harassed or abused, there was always some excuse for their behavior. I was told boys would be boys, or he has a crush on you, but it never got to the point where any adult ever found their behavior unacceptable. Eventually, I would snap in eighth grade and kick that boy square in the nuts. He stopped bothering me, but I wound up in the office because my behavior was inexcusable.

The hell I went through year after year at the hands of a group of boys taught me many things about the world and how they saw me.

My voice wasn’t important.

No one in a position of power was willing to help me.

And most importantly, those boys were allowed to do anything they wanted to me, and I just had to get over it.

It was never something I consciously thought, but by college, I had internalized that message to such an extent that I became whatever men wanted of me because that’s what I thought I had to do.

I dated boys I wasn’t interested in physically or romantically because I thought if a boy asked you out, you had to go. I had sex with men I didn’t love or care about because I thought if a man wanted to have sex with you, you had to do it.

This is why the idea of consent is such a tangled web of misunderstandings.

I’m sure I’m not the only woman who has ever consented to have sex with a man because she thought she had to and not because she wanted to.

As a man reading this, you might think, why would a woman do this?

The answer is a simple one, power.

Men tend to think that women hold all the power in relationships, and that may be true at the start. Men are told that if a woman says no, they have to back off, and they should. But what about after? What happens when they start dating or even get married? Is consent just assumed?

Why does a woman lose her power?

My grandparents were the only example I had of marriage growing up. As I got older and started dating myself, my grandmother began to tell me what it was like being married to a man. I wouldn’t go so far as to say she hated my grandfather. I think she just hated who she had become with him.

She had to internalize a lot of what she felt to have financial security. That meant looking the other way when he was unfaithful and sucking it up when he was abusive. I could never understand why she chose to have a bedroom for herself until I was older. She didn’t feel as though she had a voice, the power to tell him no. The locked door did it for her.

When I got married, it was because I loved my partner, and I wanted to build a life with him. When I made a list of all the reasons I married my partner, sex didn’t even enter in on the list at all. It’s not because I’m uninterested. It’s because sex isn’t even a deciding factor for me. It’s just something that you do.

Lately, I get the feeling that the only reason why men get married is so they can throw away their condoms and not have to worry about catching anything for the rest of their lives. I know how foul that seems to lump all men in as these sex seeking fiends that snatch up whatever woman is willing to commit to them for the rest of their lives. But that’s what it feels like when all of your fights seem to center in on the lack of sex in your relationship when you finally dare to start saying no.

I know all men aren’t like that.

I know that some men do marry for love, and all of the things that I put on my list and sex is just the cherry on top of the proverbial sundae. If the sex stopped, they would be just as happy cuddling on the couch or going for a walk holding hands. I’m talking about the men who aren’t satisfied with just that and make you feel like you have to do it to keep them interested.

Some men make you feel like your vagina is just a hole for them to masturbate in, and you are merely a vessel. So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise to men like that when their partners start lying there to get it over with.

But we shouldn’t feel as though we have to get it over with.

Just lying there isn’t consent, it’s submission. We’re submitting our bodies to the person we believe holds power in our relationship. It’s not out of love. It’s out of fear of an eventual consequence. That if we say no too many times, they might leave us or have an affair. It’s that fear that makes me say yes when I want to say no. It’s the reason I always lied there.

Is all of that, “if you love him, you would” or “you’re married, you’re supposed to have sex” just more sexist propaganda? Is it any different from the things I heard as a child, “when the little boy kicks you, it means he likes you.”

In what situation is it okay for a woman to have control over her body?

Under what circumstances are we allowed to say no?

I started saying no. I said no more than I said yes not because I could but because there were other issues that weren’t being addressed that led me to a place of disinterest. All of that eventually led to a separation in our marriage.

Men have treated me like my sole purpose on this planet was to have babies, make a home, and submit to their wishes, and that’s not a life I want to live anymore. That was the life of my grandmother, but it doesn’t have to be mine.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask to want affection that doesn’t have an end goal of my bedroom in mind. Marriage can be a partnership of equals where no one feels like they have to give up parts of themselves or their bodies to keep the other one engaged or happy. That happiness should come from the fact that both parties involved are equally fulfilled.

The mentality that a woman should lie there and take it needs to end. Sex isn’t something a man is owed because he married someone. It’s something that’s shared out of love.

About the author

Michelle Elizabeth

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