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Because She’s “Up For It.”

December 4, 2008

When I was twenty-one years old I spent the night at the apartment of the boy I was madly in love with. He wasn’t my boyfriend and we weren’t dating, but I was certainly plotting—I wanted desperately to be in his bed and a night of drunken debauchery seemed like the best way to get myself there. I admit that I had it for him bad, afflicted with the kind of first love that makes you think of song lyrics and feel sick to your stomach, and just sitting across from him at a table at a dirty dive bar made my heart explode. That particular Saturday night we drank about a thousand tequila shots between us, clumsily and hilariously held each other up while we stumbled back to his apartment, and in realizing that sex was out of the question (neither of us could see straight, let alone fuck straight) I borrowed a pair of pyjamas and went to bed. About an hour later I woke up with him on top of me.

I relay this story not so we can have a debate about whether or not this is rape, because, despite all of my love and desire for this boy at the time, it clearly is, no shades of grey about it. I relay it instead because of the conversation I had with him the following day, fully clothed and reasonably rational, over breakfast. When I asked him why in his mind he felt it was okay to pull off my pyjama bottoms, put a condom on, and fuck me while I was sound asleep, his response was one that has stuck with me for years.

“Because you always seemed like the kind of girl who was up for it.”

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion of a girl being “up for it.” I am certainly out as “pro-sex” (whatever that means,) and occasionally out as a sub (depending on the circle), and yes, I write and speak a lot about sexuality in general. The result of all this sex talk is that when I’m having a pint at the bar acquaintances seem to think I always want to have sex. Not only that, they assume that I want to have sex with anyone and everyone at any time, that I have no criteria for who I would want to bed, and when I would want to bed them.

In Jenny Block‘s brilliant and courageous book on her personal experiences with sexual openess, Open, she writes a lot about how people make these same misguided assumptions about her because of her particular situation—that because she is open to sex with someone other than her husband, then she must be bedding everyone. I think the same assumptions are made of a woman who has the audacity to even mention she enjoys sex.

For me personally, when you couple these assumptions with the fact that I write a lot about submissive sexuality, a lot of people get more than a little bossy about bedding me. You know, cause I’m “up for it.” I’ve had people give my email address out to other people with the intent of coordinating a hook-up, I’ve had people try to kiss and grope me because they “just assumed,” I’ve had people slip their phone numbers into my pockets, I’ve had people invite me back to their places without a single sentence exchanged between us, I’ve had people graphically talk to me about the things they’d like “to do” to me without even a thought that I might not want to be “done to.” I don’t think that this experience is unique to the fact that I am open about my sexuality, but it’s certainly the excuse that’s used when I call people on it.

Recently a friend of mine was talking to me about a new girl he was interested in. When I made an admittedly lewd comment about him fucking her, he responded, horrified, “No, she’s not like that. She’s totally sweet.” This notion that there are girls that you fuck and girls that are sweet and nothing inbetween is, of course, ridiculous. Not only does it mean that the sweet girls never get fucked and the fuckable girls never get sweetness, it means that there’s no way for a woman to talk about sexuality in a healthy, honest, and real way.

At least not without assuming she’s “up for it.”

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2008 2:47 pm

    Yes!!

    First, because it sadly never goes without saying, what happened was not your fault.

    Second, I’ve been a BDSMer, and around various communities … well, since before people knew Madonna was BDSMer. And I’ve heard some variant of the stories about people assuming she’s “up for it” from almost every woman I know who ever reveals she’s kinky or poly or bi, but especially women subs. In patriarchy, women are coded as sex, and anything they say about their sexuality is too often read as overwhelming every other aspect.

    Third, I think the “whore/madonna” complex is alive and well among people we would think would be better than that. I think there’s plenty of assumptions and slut shaming even among kinksters, who should know better.

    How, indeed, can we expect women to communicate openly about sexuality, when just broaching the subject makes them lightning rods for all sorts of harassment?

    And as I so often do, I come back to our sons. This is a problem for women, but a problem of men. If we want to fix it, then we have to raise a next generation of boys to know that talking about sex or identifying as a kinkster or sex radical or anything else is not consent to anything but communication.

  2. December 15, 2008 12:41 pm

    First, let me thank abysstohope for sending me here.

    This article was absolutely excellent and I can relate to it 100%. We must come “out of the closet” with these conversations about sex. I’m so damn tired of dealing with male privilege and entitlement to my sex and I hate that the young generation of females will not be educated to be in a position of power over their sexuality.

  3. December 15, 2008 2:01 pm

    Hallelujah! I have actually had to resort to physical violence when people who found out I subbed to my husband, decided that if I sub for one I must sub for all.

    Hell no! Hell, I don’t always sub for him.

  4. December 15, 2008 3:08 pm

    When I say I desperately want to hook up with a man, it has never occurred to me to qualify that statement with, “Of course I want to be conscious for it.” I’d think this should be taken for granted, but I’ve been proven wrong. God, your story is depressing.
    Sex with someone who’s not awake, well, isn’t. It’s rape. Even if that person is overeager to have sex with you when they’re conscious. I can’t believe that last sentence is so hard to grasp for some people.

  5. December 15, 2008 3:31 pm

    I am so glad I’ve found this blog. (I’ve been accused of being a consent fetishist by a couple of lovers.)

    The whole “she’s a sub, so therefore I should just order her into my bed” is something I find downright creepy and all-too-common. I find there’s a weird tendency in lots of pro-sex, pro-kink circles to declare somewhere “safe space” and what they mean by it is “it is safe for me to assume you are sexually available to me”, which drives me crazy.

  6. December 16, 2008 2:03 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this. It so desperately needs to be said, and said, and said again until more people start to listen.

    As a non-monogamous and sexually adventurous women, I’ve been in a frightening lot of situations where someone felt entitled to kiss, grope, harass, or fuck me. Most of the time, that “someone” was a person I had trusted and considered a friend, and who had therefore seen how deliberately, carefully, and consent-sensitively I entered into any encounter; had heard me talk about the Antioch System; knew I volunteered at a rape crisis center; and felt that my sexual history rendered the idea that I might want or even expect equivalent considerations moot.

    Another dimension to this that I think bears examination is how it relates to how our culture interprets queer sexuality: a lot of the shit I described above has come from straight or casually bicurious women who assumed my consent based primarily on the fact that I’m openly queer.

  7. akahn permalink
    January 28, 2009 8:45 am

    Wow, this is an excellent post.

  8. perrybc permalink
    January 29, 2009 4:47 pm

    I echo all of the compliments expressed above…a stellar post. Thank you!

  9. John permalink
    March 8, 2009 11:18 am

    Hey,

    “About an hour later I woke up with him on top of me. I relay this story not so we can have a debate about whether or not this is rape, because, despite all of my love and desire for this boy at the time, it clearly is, no shades of grey about it.”

    reading (and agreeing with) this I’m wondering about something – waking up your partner sexually. I have never done it yet, but I’ve heard women (and men) express their desire to be woken up by, eg, oral sex. What if a woman tells her partner that she really likes this but she is still asleep and cannot give specific consent until after the oral sex has been initiated and she is waking up. How general can consent be, how specific does it have to be?

    • Aviva permalink
      March 26, 2009 6:13 pm

      John —

      I can only answer for myself, and I have absolutely no idea what the law might be in such cases, but it seems pretty clear to me that sex with a sleeping person is rape unless you and that person have clearly and specifically negotiated their consent in advance. My girlfriend, for example, has my explicit consent (and encouragement) to wake me that way. If anyone else tried it I’d consider it rape, even if it was someone I’d recently consented to sex with while awake.
      Of course, it’s always a good idea to think about the situation you’re in. If your lover hasn’t been interested in sex lately for any reason, or went to sleep angry with you, or something like that, this is not your best bet, and ze could very well feel violated by it. But in general, if it’s something you partner has specifically asked for and consented to, you should be good.

  10. Maggie permalink
    December 3, 2009 7:19 pm

    I just found this now…

    “Not only that, they assume that I want to have sex with anyone and everyone at any time, that I have no criteria for who I would want to bed, and when I would want to bed them.”

    This is about to make me cry. People who I thought were friends have decided that about me.

  11. January 10, 2012 6:50 pm

    this begs the question—why are so many men into fucking unconscious women? this truly mystifies me—does anybody have a possible answer?

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