8

I would like to preface this question by noting that it contains some very specific details that I think are necessary to make the question clear and not overly broad (and thus more easily answerable).

I'm a bit of an overthinker, and I apparently ask too many questions while having sex with my girlfriend, but to my mind, communication and consent are really important. For instance if we're making out and mutually touching each other, she gets mad when I ask her if she can perform orally on me. She literally says "don't ask it!" and then proceeds to do it anyway. And similarly when I'm going down on her, I like to check whether things are going ok and that she's enjoying it, so I ask her "how does that feel?", to which she again replies "don't ask!"

So I'm clearly having issues with communicating during coitus. My girlfriend thinks it's too much communication while I think that making sure she's ok during the act (by asking her explicitly whether she is or not) is really important.

How can I tell her that it's just my way of making sure she feels safe during intimacy? She gets so mad that I ask questions while engaging in sexual acts with her, but at the same time consent is always in the back of my mind.

35

Consent conversations are usually better had before sex...

Don't get me wrong, it's always good to be aware of how your partner is feeling during sex, and checking in is a good thing to do, particularly if you're unsure, but stopping to ask for specific permissions and feedback in the middle of things can kill the mood for some people.

This may be a bit of a stretch for the more traditional/vanilla crowd, but talking to your partner about what you're comfortable with and what they're comfortable with, before things get moving, is generally a good idea. With practice and confidence it becomes less clinical and more like pillow talk, and/or foreplay.

There's a lot to be said for learning to read your partner's reactions too. This varies considerably from person to person, so I won't dwell on it, but learning your partner's facial expressions and body language is important here. Basically, do they look like they're having a good time?

If you need to check in during things, try to make it sound natural in the moment. Open communication during sex is a good thing, once you get the hang of it. Rather than halting completely and having a side bar to sort things out, you can ask how they like "it" in a fun way. Again talking openly with your partner about what a "fun way" sounds like to you all is worthwhile.

In my opinion people have a lot of hang-ups when it comes to talking about sex. Some people have such a hard time talking openly about it that they have a hard time talking about it even when they really need to and/or should be.

  • 5
    Just a quick comment: maybe it's just me, but people are very different one from another, especially when it comes to sex. "Do they look like they're having a good time" can very much be mistaken for "are they feeling mild pain". – Noldor130884 Jan 19 '18 at 6:47
  • 2
    @Noldor130884 Or even "they're having a good time feeling mild pain" :-) Just one thing to add IMHO: get feedback too, not only communication before the action. – yo' Feb 1 '18 at 0:41
20

Communication is about 15% words.

This applies during sex too. If you cannot tell the difference between a pleasurable and unpleasurable response, ask her to help.

Have her do something pleasurable, then switch to the opposite. What is your body language? How tense are you? What cues are your girlfriend picking up on that tells her you don't like it?

Learn this aspect of wordless communication. It'll help in all areas of your life.

  • 4
    "Learn this aspect of wordless communication. It'll help in all areas of your life." +1 , clever and important advice – Rolexel Jan 5 '18 at 15:21
16

It's great that you are concerned with her consent to sexual activities. Too few care about that sort of thing. But I don't think you have a communication problem. Instead, you are ignoring the information your girlfriend is communicating to you. As I see it, you have two related problems:

  1. Your approach to sex involves things that your girlfriend does not like.

Regardless of what it does for you, these frequent checks are clearly making the experience worse for her. That's not necessarily a critical problem (unless people are exactly in sync, there will be some give and take at least some of the time). But I want to frame it a bit differently, just for you to consider: your girlfriend does not want these questions. I can't really guess at her reasons. Maybe you should talk to her about why she dislikes the questions so much.

If you asked her to perform some sexual act for you, and she said no, I assume that you would not then force her to do it anyways. Well, she doesn't want these questions, and yet you impose them on her, possibly as often as every time. I wouldn't classify those questions as anything like sexual coercion, but it's a bit off that you are 100% committed to making sure she is an eager participant in these activities except for specific cases that are important to you, in which case you are disregarding her feelings completely so that you can have things the way you would like them to be. Even though your intentions are good, this is an odd dynamic.

  1. You are fixated on a specific manner of determining consent in a situation where other methods may be reasonable.

I wouldn't suggest this for people in something other than an existing relationship which has already featured conversations about consent and activities of interest to everyone. But if she is your steady girlfriend you might talk about things and conclude that, at least for activities you've already done, you can assume that she's open to doing it again. And she can commit to telling you, in the moment, if she doesn't want to.

This might be an awkward adjustment for you, and I would NEVER advocate assuming consent to be given. But again, she specifically does not want these questions from you. Instead, if you explicitly discuss it, you can avoid the thing she doesn't like (the question coming with every activity) while also feeling confident that she is consenting to each activity (with her commitment to refuse things she doesn't want to do).

7

You want to make sure you don't cross any lines and do something she doesn't want. She doesn't want to discuss it "in the moment". You probably can't anticipate every possible situation and negotiate it in advance.

I agree with this answer that consent conversations are best held at a different time. The two of you should try to have discussions about what you each generally like and don't like. She might say "it's always ok to do X", giving you blanket consent, or she might say that X depends on other stuff (which is why you have a problem -- you don't know in any given case).

An approach to this uncertainty that I've heard friends describe is the safeword. Instead of discussing things or guessing, the two of you agree on some word -- one that would not otherwise come up, like "armadillo" -- that means "stop".1 If either of you says it, the other stops what they're doing. To this some people add a "yellow light" signal, a word that means "back off" or "slow down" but stops short of "stop". Use this if you're concerned that either of you would be afraid to initiate a "stop". The two of you negotiate the safeword(s) and that by default each of you consents to the continuation of whatever's happening right now. Combine this with easing into "escalations"; your partner needs the opportunity to object to some new thing you do.

Why use a safeword instead of just saying "stop"? Because sometimes mock-resistance is part of the play for some couples. If that's not true for you, if she is actually willing to say "stop" or "slow" and you are actually willing to heed it at all times, then just do that.

1 Choose words that are easy to say and remember in the heat of the moment. "Red", "yellow", and "green" are reportedly common. (Thanks apaul for this addition.)

  • 4
    Red, yellow, and green are fairly common signal/safe words. Try to avoid complicated safe words that may be forgotten in the heat of the moment. – apaul Jan 8 '18 at 2:56
3

During a play, the actors don't ask the crowd whether they like their performance or not or if they would like to do something differently. This would ruin the performance. They may talk about it after the play. I believe that it is something similar with sex. Although some communication is essential (your partner might hurt or not like to do something at all), too many questions ruin the whole feeling.

It's nice to have a conversation after sex and ask your partner if she liked a specific thing that you did and if you could try something else the next time.

Again, I would not advise asking general questions like 'did you like it?' because they might seem insecure but I would stick to specific questions like 'did you enjoy that specific thing that I did?'

2

I actually disagree with the other answers here... I think it is extremely important to check in during sex. It is important for the communication to be open and for partners to trust each other, but also to verify how the other person is feeling! Nobody is a mind reader!
I’ve been sexually assaulted before and the person thought he was making me happy and reading my body language, but he sucked at it and I was frozen in fear on autopilot. He never got my consent and he kept going anyways. He was relying on “reading my signals” - which isn’t reliable! Open communication is key.

It is definitely not enough to talk about it beforehand only and not check in during the act itself because person A can say they will be alright doing a certain act, but then maybe during the act something unexpected or painful happens and they need the ability to change their mind on a moments notice. Consent is not a “yes” or “no” at the beginning and then the person has to stick with that answer for any act after that- the answer can change! And the answer can even change if it is something you both have previously done together many times before (And it can be due to many reasons including health- for example I had a UTI infection once that I didn’t find out about until having sex with my partner that was painful- and you best believe I wasn’t going to stick with the “yes” I had given my partner at the beginning - I changed my answer! And we switched to doing something else that was comfortable for me)

So I wholeheartedly think you need to continue to make sure your partner is okay during the entire sexual encounter. This is especially important when exploring new sex ideas- because the very fact that they are new means you or your partner won’t know exactly how it will feel.

Now that being said, there are ways you can phrase the question to make consent questions a sexy turn on. For example, instead of asking in a clinical, dry manner, you could say something like “do you like that baby?” And “tell me what you’d like me to do next” “what do you want to feel more of?” And “how can I make you feel the best?”

You can also try letting her be “in charge” and direct the sexual encounter with her choosing what to do next and showing you what she likes and dislikes. She can take your hand and put it on her body in a way that she likes and this way you can learn more of what she likes and doesn’t like.

You could also discuss with your partner the option of setting up a safe word or body language signal which, if she or you ever say (or do in the case of a body language signal) then The other stops the act immediately.

I believe that open communication is the key to mind blowing sex- because again, nobody is a mind reader! And there are ways for you to get communication from her both with body language and verbal communication- I think both are important and not to rely exclusively on body language alone.

If she continues to constantly want to shut down all verbal communication from you, then I say that is her problem.

2

Consent is basically about communicating in a way that lets you avoid doing things that make your partner feel bad. It's about being open for what the other person wants and not about getting the other person to do what you want.

In this case, you can ask yourself whether she consents to you asking those questions during sex. Being good at communication means that you listen to another person in a way that you will do things you otherwise wouldn't have preferred.

Some girls like to be asked a lot and others don't. Being good at communication means that you talk with your girl about what she likes and come to an agreement about how you two interact that's pleasureable for both of you.

From what you are saying your communication problems also exist outside of coitus. She prefers that you don't ask her during coitus and you don't seem to really understand why she has that preference. Talk to her about it outside of sex and try to understand her side of the story.

After you talked to her to understand her preferences and found an agreement about how you interact with each other the question of consent becomes a question of whether or not you stick to the agreement you have.

-4

(This turned out to be a lengthy answer but, a few minor deviations aside, it is on topic.)

There is an ambiguity in OP's post that jumped out at me (all highlights mine):

she gets mad when I ask her if she can perform orally on me. She literally says "don't ask it!" and then proceeds to do it anyway. And similarly when I'm going down on her, I like to check whether things are going ok and that she's enjoying it, so I ask her "how does that feel?", to which she again replies "don't ask!"

It is clear from OP's interpretation that he feels his questions are the source of his girlfriend's frustration. Going by the words he wrote in his post (e.g. "She literally says "don't ask it!" and then proceeds to do it anyway) it is also possible that there is something else going on. Without his girlfriend here to clear that up it is impossible to say with any certainty what that might be. But it is not a stretch to infer that this couple's awkward communication style makes their sex sessions pretty awkward also. Which brings me to my next point.

Information sheets and pamphlets published by the public health authority and sexual assault prevention groups in my area routinely state that explicitly asking for, and obtaining, unambiguous consent are a must before engaging in sex. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, they warn, and it is important to communicate with your partner before engaging in oral or anal sex or any other act that may require additional consent.

It seems OP is doing exactly that...and yet. A problem with the explicit approach to consent is that Anglo-American cultural is not sex-positive (to say the least) and talking directly about sex still makes people uncomfortable. Imagine a guy asking a potential female partner..."So hey, do you want to have sex with me?" Yeah, no. It's more like "Do you want to come to my place and watch some Netflix and chill?"

Also, explicit asking is just not very erotic or romantic. And although it is almost a thought crime to say so in 2018 girls (i.e. young women) tend to like their male sex partners to be dominant and in control in the bedroom. (Why this is the case is an open debate...but it is the case and pretending otherwise won't change that. Don't shoot the messenger please.)

So what can we do to improve communication between the genders?

A few things: a) Teach men from a young age to be more in tune with people's emotions, body language and non-verbal communication cues, b) teach women from a young age to be more assertive and feel comfortable expressing their needs and desires...and c) teach and discuss honestly and from multiple perspectives the role of power in sexual desire and gender roles/expectations and how these manifest themselves in the context of human sexuality and western society.

Sadly, this is not going to happen any time soon as a cursory glance at the quality of public discourse around these issues shows. Dark times ahead indeed, but I digress.

The good news, OP, is you as an individual are free to learn whatever you want whenever you want, time permitting. If you want to better understand what women are communicating to you I suggest learning how to read non-verbal cues and body language...it takes time and practice but it can be done. There are lots of books, podcasts and websites that can help you get started. I would also think about how you and your girlfriend communicate...not just during, or about, sex but generally. Is it easy for you to understand each others needs or are there frequent misunderstandings? Talk to your GF about this (but not necessarily during sex!) and always try to communicate your points clearly and unambiguously. Let your GF know when you are unsure what she is trying to convey.

Given that males and females in our society have somewhat different base communication styles, direct and intuitive respectively, some compromise is necessary. If you learn to become more intuitive by practicing the skills mentioned above, and she becomes more comfortable asking directly for what she needs you'll balance each other out and live happily ever after. Well, maybe not but you will be a happier couple and happier couples have better sex. And I almost forgot...listening. If you learn how to listen not just to what a person says but how they say it, you can pick up a lot of information about their mood, state of mind and the subtext beneath their words.

One does not have to spend much time in our society before realizing that a significant number of women (particularly young women, particularly when men are involved) do not feel comfortable asserting themselves. In dangerous or traumatizing situations "freezing" is a common reaction. The socialization process and fear of violence at the hands of an abusive male are the commonly accepted reasons for this. The former is slowly changing but there is nonetheless still enormous pressure on women to be quiet and demure.

Many men still have a "I'm a dude, I can't read body language or indirect hints" attitude. Women have an edge here but, using myself as an example, reading non-verbal cues and practicing active listening came naturally to me (perhaps because I grew up with sisters). Admittedly I am a rarity among men, at least in my circles, but I've known a few guys who took the initiative and learned these skills for themselves.

It is obvious to non-partisan observers (both women and men) that the current discourse on gender roles and expectations has become bogged down and...a bit unruly. Those eagerly awaiting the ushering in of a new era of enlightened man, woman and Jedi are going to be waiting for a while yet. But nothing is stopping us as individuals from observing how our opposites communicate and learning some of those skills for ourselves. This helps us be more effective and empathic communicators (and better partners and lovers) and as a side benefit loosens the gender straitjackets we wear just a tiny bit.

Thank you for reading.

PS - Don't have 50 points yet and can't leave a comment but this needs to said.

@Upper_Case (replying to OP) writes:

I wouldn't classify those questions as anything like sexual coercion, but it's a bit off that you are 100% committed to making sure she is an eager participant in these activities except for specific cases that are important to you, in which case you are disregarding her feelings completely...

You take the guy to task quite harshly considering it is impossible from his words alone to infer a serious breech of sexual etiquette, let alone anything worse. And then you pull a classic "I'm not at all accusing you of X BUT..." move. That is so underhanded and uncalled for. If you had no intention of mentioning something, you would not have mentioned it. But you did mention it. That's kind of like me saying "I'm not calling you an asshole or anything, but there's something really distasteful and sleazy about your attitude." No, technically I am not calling you an asshole, but effectively that is exactly what I'm doing. Hypothetically of course.

  • 5
    This reads more like editorializing than answering... Or at least burying the lead... You may want to edit it down a bit to highlight the answer to the question. – apaul Jan 7 '18 at 19:52
  • You seem to have misinterpreted. I wouldn't classify asking if she's comfortable with [activity x] before trying to engage in [activity x] as coercive. However, he is clearly ignoring her expressed preference to not be asked these questions (even though those questions are intended to determine what she wants). That's a bit of a mismatch, and one that the OP might want to resolve. That was the entirety of my point in that part of my answer, not to imply that he was sexually assaulting anyone. – Upper_Case Jan 19 '18 at 14:01
  • Thanks for clearing that up. Apologies if I came across unreasonably harsh. – Sinewave Surfer Apr 9 '18 at 7:15
  • @apaul I agree. It’s not the most concise blurb I’ve written. Will let it stand as is to serve as a helpful example for newcomers :-) – Sinewave Surfer Apr 9 '18 at 7:18

protected by NVZ Jan 8 '18 at 4:35

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