The Accidental Rapist

Just because your partner isn’t saying “no,” Hugo Schwyzer writes, it doesn’t mean it’s a “yes.”


Note: As with many articles about sexual violence, particularly those that include anecdotes, this may prove triggering for some.

“Sometimes I say ‘yes’ when I’d rather say ‘no.’”

It’s been nearly 25 years, but I can still remember the beautiful Berkeley fall afternoon when I heard those shattering words. Katie and I were sitting in a coffee shop just off campus. What had started as a “friends with benefits” situation had blossomed into a sophomore year romance with this dark-eyed dance-and-philosophy double-major. Katie and I had been sleeping together for more than two months—and saying “I love you” for about a week—when she summoned up the courage to bring up this one very painful truth.

At first, I didn’t know what she meant. She spoke so softly I had to lean across the table to hear her. “I don’t want to hurt your feelings,” she said, “but sometimes I really don’t want to have sex. Sometimes I do, but not as often as you want it. And sometimes I want to tell you ‘no,’ but I can’t bring myself to do it. So I try and send you signals, hoping you can just tell how I’m feeling. But that doesn’t work, so it’s… it’s just easier to say ‘yes’ or just say nothing at all.”

My face flushed. I felt nauseated. I thought instantly of the previous night, where we’d grabbed what I thought was a hot half-hour when my roommates were both gone. Katie had seemed so passionate when we’d been making out, but then gotten very quiet once all our clothes were off. I’d told myself she wanted to have one ear cocked for the sound of a key in the door. I hadn’t considered—or hadn’t wanted to consider—the more obvious possibility: she was trying to tell me that she didn’t want to have sex.

I looked out the window. I couldn’t meet Katie’s eyes. My gaze fixed in the distance, my voice trembling, I asked what seemed the only possible question: “Are you trying to tell me I raped you?”

I was in my first women’s studies course, and just the previous week we’d been reading about sexual violence and the law. In class, where I was one of only three men, I’d felt rage thinking about all of those cruel assholes who didn’t understand that “no means no.” But now a dark and unseen possibility was opening up: not every “no” could be spoken. Maybe, I realized, sometimes even a quiet “OK” could be a “no” in disguise.

Katie started to cry. “Oh God, Hugo. No. Not rape. It’s just… I wish you could tell the difference between when I really want you and when I’d just rather be held.” She began to cry harder. “Fuck. It’s all my fault,” she wept. “I can’t expect you to be a mindreader. I’m so sorry.”

I begged Katie not to apologize; the responsibility was all mine, I insisted. I came around to her side of the table and held her. But something had changed for both of us, and the relationship was never the same. The one time we tried to have sex after that conversation, we were both so tentative (and I had, not surprisingly, a difficult time getting hard) that we gave up halfway through. We broke up two weeks before Christmas.


Most “good guys” take a woman’s firm “No!” for an answer. (Those who don’t are best left to the ministrations of our criminal justice system.) But lots of men are like the guy I was at 19—assuming that while “no means no” anything short of a firm “no” is either a “yes” or a “keep at it, boy, because you just might get a ‘yes’ soon.” Call it male sexual legalism, the first rule of which is “All that is not expressly prohibited is assumed to be permitted.” That legalism can turn many men into accidental rapists.

While the legal standard of rape is increasingly well-defined (and what happened with Katie fell well short of that legal definition), common sense suggests that at its most basic, rape is nonconsensual sex. Too many of us, men and women alike, define consent as the absence of a clear “no,” rather than the presence of a clear, unmistakable, eager “yes.” The opposite of rape, in other words, is mutual enthusiasm.

The root of consent is the Latin consentire, which means “with feeling.” Consent is not just about words “no” or “yes”—it’s about the unambiguous presence of desire. That’s a very different and challenging standard. No, I didn’t legally rape Katie. But her reticence and my sexual legalism conspired to leave us having sex that at least some of the time fell well short of the standard of consent we should all want in our intimate lives.

I’m not putting all the blame on myself, or on men alone. It’s not fair to expect men to read minds, or even to perfectly intuit subtle body language. As I tell the teens with whom I work, a precondition for being ready for a sexual relationship is having the courage to say a firm “No” to the people you love. Overcoming the training to be an acquiescent people-pleaser is hard-but-necessary work, and because of the way we socialize girls, difficulty with saying “no” tends to be much more common among young women.

But guys have work to do also. Too many play what I call the stoplight game. Traffic signals, of course, have three colors: red for stop, yellow for caution, green for go. Good drivers are taught to stop on “red,” which functions as a “no.” But of course, even at the busiest urban intersections, no light stays red indefinitely. If you wait long enough at a stoplight, every red will become green. And when all we do is teach young men that “no means stop” when it comes to sexual boundaries, we often send them the message that if they just wait long enough (or pester, push, nag, beg, play passive-aggressive games) they’ll get the “green light” they’re so hungry for.

In both traffic and the bedroom, the most misunderstood light is yellow. Though driver’s ed classes teach that yellow means “slow down,” most of us see it as a warning to speed up to get through the intersection before the light turns red. Sexually speaking, the yellow means what it ought to mean on the road: “slow down, son.”


Most of us are good at saying “no” to something or someone we don’t like. Most (sadly, not all) find it easy to flash the red light at a creepy guy who doesn’t interest them at all. But it’s tougher to say “not yet, I’m not quite ready” or “slow down” or “maybe later” to someone to whom you’re genuinely attracted. Reflecting on the sex Katie and I had so often, I realized that she often felt rushed and pressured to go to intercourse every time. She knew how to tell me when she wasn’t in the mood to do anything sexual at all, which was when she could “flash the red light.” But on those not-infrequent occasions when she wanted to make out and “fool around” but nothing more—she had no vocabulary for that. And over and over again, I took her reticence as a sign to “try harder” rather than to slow down. The blame for that rested on both of us.

Determining what another person really wants isn’t as easy as it should be. It’s further complicated by the reality that many women (and more than a few men) want to make their partners feel good—even if they don’t desire sex itself. Distinguishing between the desire to be desired, the desire to please a partner, and the desire for sex itself isn’t easy for any of us. Sometimes we need to do more than talk about what we want—we also need to clarify for ourselves and our lovers why we want it. That’s not easy, but it’s essential. We deserve that clarity.

Katie and I lived on different sides of campus; we each walked home separately from that devastating conversation in the café. I remember the guilt and the sadness I felt on that walk, but I also remember the determination I felt. I liked sex—I loved sex—but I knew I’d rather never have it again than have it with someone who was only doing it to soothe me, to please me, or because she couldn’t find the words to say “no” or “not now.” To the best of my imperfect ability, even at my most promiscuous, I have sought to live up to that promise I made to myself on the long walk home through the Berkeley streets.

I knew I hadn’t committed any crime. But the sense of sadness—tinged with disgust—at what Katie and I had conspired to allow to happen made me feel very much like an accidental rapist. Years of working with other men around issues of consent and sexuality have taught me I’m not the only one to have felt those feelings.

We all deserve better.

—Photo kainr/Flickr

About Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo Schwyzer has taught history and gender studies at Pasadena City College since 1993, where he developed the college's first courses on Men and Masculinity and Beauty and Body Image. He serves as co-director of the Perfectly Unperfected Project, a campaign to transform young people's attitudes around body image and fashion. Hugo lives with his wife, daughter, and six chinchillas in Los Angeles. Hugo blogs at his website


  1. “he in retrospect — either while talking to her in the coffee shop or in that article here — ‘rapes’ her for making that explicit to him…”

    I disagree with this. The author seemed deeply shocked and aghast, sick in the pit of his stomach, to learn that his partner had not only not been enjoying but not wanting sex. Going back through the whole catalogue of sexual memories with a person and having to ask, “What about then? What about then? Should I have noticed this or taken that as a sign?” to me would warrant a sort of knee-jerk question of “Are you saying I raped you?” as a gut reaction to a very haunting possibility.

    I also disagree with the commenters saying that sex is a “grin and bear it” sort of thing. I can’t really explain it on a more distanced objective level, but sex is certainly tied to our deepest selves both in carnal and “prototypical” senses and also in a way very tied to our ego, sense of self-worth, but also our sense of being violated or voided. Sex is just…different! Hence the “Special” Victims Unit, requiring unique approaches. I don’t really know what I’m saying at this point, haha. Perhaps sex within the context of a loving marriage, sex that’s usually “with feeling,” is free of some of these conditions and ramifications. But not all of us have had the right of such an unfettered and fortunate sexual past, and that informs our “sexual future,” and our ability to trust others. Sex is a thing weaved into a delicate interconnected fabric with other emotional factors, it is certainly not isolated or meaningless, which to me troubles the idea that one should do it less than whole-heartedly.

  2. Yeah, well, there were times when my wife wanted to visit her family and I didn’t really feel like it, but I did it anyway. There have been times a girlfriend has wanted to go shopping while we were together and I didn’t really feel like it, but I did it anyway. Likewise, I know there have been things I’ve nonsexual things I’ve wanted to do that my wife or subsequent girlfriends didn’t want to do, but they did them anyway.

    A relationship–or, at least, a healthy or healthy enough relationship–is, in part, about compromising and occasionally giving in to the other partner on some things, even if you’re not absolutely cartwheels thrilled about it every single time. Hopefully this is done on a more or less equal basis, but no, not always. Deal with it or get a sex doll or a vibrator.

  3. I just had to chime in and give a male perspective here. There have been plenty of times that I haven’t been in the mood for sex when a girlfriend did. What did I do? I’d have sex anyway, of course. Why? Well, if I love the woman, I want to give her pleasure. But there’s a second very important reason…..I don’t want to look like an emasculated wimp who can’t sexually please his partner There’s a ton of social pressure on men to be DTF 24/7 robotic f*ck machines. Don’t get me wrong…. I’m not complaining because I do enjoy sex a great deal but painting this topic as “ONLY women have pressured sex” is BS.

  4. I agree with smilingpistachio… it was rape, but only in his imagination or wishful thinking…

    She clearly wasn’t hot for him (at least at that time and place and in that situation) and he in retrospect — either while talking to her in the coffee shop or in that article here — “rapes” her for making that explicit to him…

    “maybe”, “ok” or no protest from a receptive partner often means just what it says: well, it wouldn’t be my greatest desire or fulfilment, but there is that natural or social pressure that sex is supposed to be fun etc. if I waited until I find a partner who really arouses me I’d have almost no sex at all anymore etc…

    Also I’d like to comment on that point that she is allegedly a people-pleaser and weak and that a “strong”, “emancipated” woman would have said “Honey, please, I’m not in the mood!” To me, this seems to affirm this lack of male understanding or detecting of non-horniness in their partner. If I even utter that pretty obvious message in explicit words, I am already a man-pleaser… Quite the opposite, emancipation starts by realizing and stating that one is being victimized, not justifying it or denying it. And I think she was brave because she explained to him that she was unhappy with the situation. Emancipation is a process not a static thing where some women are “fatale” and “fragile” by nature already…

  5. Smilingpistachio says:

    This article is yet another example of male-female rape being mansplained.
    She: ‘No, I didn’t mean “rape”. What I’m trying to say is…’
    He: ‘Darling, you don’t understand. Let me ‘splain to you: you were RAPED by me, although accidentally.’
    Oh well.

  6. bananaslugs says:

    Of course men should be more considerate of women and what they want. That being said however, this ex-girlfriend sounds like a very PATHETIC and WEAK people pleaser. A strong woman would be able to say to her partner (assuming he’s not threatening or coercing her), “Honey I’m not in the mood now.”

  7. Rossana says:

    I take an issue with the part of the article that talks about men not being able to read body language-the fact to the matter is, that some men, for whatever reasons or scenarios, are desensitized to body language, NOT clueless or poor readers of body language: huge huge difference. If a woman tries to push a man off or cover herself and never says no or does not verbailize a no, it’s still rape, and this is something rape victims have to face. Women are raised in ways that bind them with invisible chains, very frequently emotionally abused and personal boundaries not regarded even in ‘good’ homes and they shut down. Accidental rape is possible yes, but do not put the onus on ‘oh, just bad body language reading-woops’ because that is exactly what excuse intentional rapists are using. The article is great for men, to show them how a woman can feel violated, and I generally respect the writers efforts and motion, but it is sugar coating it and spreading blame on women who already blame themselves that lead to that issue to begin with

  8. “The root of consent is the Latin consentire, which means “with feeling.” Consent is not just about words “no” or “yes”—it’s about the unambiguous presence of desire”

    1. “consentire” is a verb, not an adverb, silly!
    2. “consentio” and “consent” share a definition that “feeling” and “desire” are entirely absent from
    3. “consentio” has another meaning which the english didn’t espouse: to plot, conspire. food for thought.
    4. etymologically speaking, “consentio/ire” is of “con” (with) and “sentio/ire” (to hear, feel, or smell, ie. to sense). consentio does not mean “with feeling”, “with smelling” or “with hearing”.
    5. if you don’t know enough about latin grammar to identify a fourth conjugation suffix, don’t pretend you do, because you will look like an idiot more often than not.

    I stopped reading your article when I got to this point because this annoyed me so much.

  9. Powerful writing; thank you for sharing.

  10. Why people still make use of to read news papers when in this technological world the whole thing is presented on net?


  11. I’ve always told people that direct communication was way more practical than hints and body language.
    And I was always met with the argument that people just should learn to read people better. And even though that is valid a LOT of misunderstandings could be avoided if we as people in relationships were more supportive of bluntly saying what is on your mind or heart.

    • @d’artagnan, also a lot of misunderstandings can be avoided if you *ask* what is on someone’s mind/heart.

    • One more thing. Responsibility for communication aside, there is still the subtle discourse operating that women are default people-pleasers, or should be. This makes it more difficult for them (us) to assert ourselves, whether that’s by enthusiastically engaging in sex (whore) or choosing to refuse it (prude, or cold). This seems to me to be the backdrop for this conversation. Once at least for myself I’ve addressed this tendency or expectation, I can feel freer to act as others have called for “woman” to do, with respect to speaking up.

  12. Lora Hughes says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I was raped by man who was and still is my best friend and I plan to this show him. My hope is that he might find some comfort and closure in realizing that he’s not the only person out there who has “accidentally raped” someone they cared about.

    I’d like to make clear that legitimizing a category of rape under the title-veil of “Accidental Rape” is not okay. Attempting to legitimize what really is and isnt rape is to go forth with the underlying assumption that women and their experiences are not to be trusted (Eve Ensler). Hugo, that doesn’t seem like something you would do on purpose, so perhaps you are only accidentally adding to our problems.

    Regardless of our differences, I’d still like to thank you for writing this piece so honestly. We’ll never move forward unless we can ALL start talking to each other calmly, respectfully, and honestly. So, thank you Hugo.

    • Not buying it says:

      @ Lora Hughes

      You were & still are best friend with a man you believe that had raped you.!!!
      There is something wrong with that, specially when you are able to talk & show him this article to inform him that he raped you & hopefully he will find some comfort & closure in this article since he is not the only rapist. !!!hmmm.

      There is something wrong with that & if you can’t see it then understanding what constitute the definition of rape is the least of your problems.

      • Hey, not buying it: language is messy. I think what Lora was saying is in her case it was accidental rape, i.e. nonconsensual but also somehow at the time unclear.
        Also, please, no need to attack. Especially in this sort of conversation.

      • People stick by others n forgive them for all sorts of crimes n wrongs. Cheating, rape, abuse, it’s up to the victim to decide for themselves who they want to know. Rape is a serious crime but from the sounds of it the rapist had no intention of raping, a fuckup in communication? I class people like that far different to people who willingly know they are raping. You can accidentally rape someone if you’ve both been drinking and the alcohol kicks in during sex for your partner past the point they’re able to consent, and reading various blogs there seems to be quite a lot of people who’ve had sex n had their partner fall asleep during it without realizing for a few seconds (which means they are now an accidental rapist). Would you hate your partner if you passed out during sex and you both were very drunk and it takes a few moments to realize wtf is going on? Some people probably like to be woken with sex and communicate this with their partner the night before, but it’s still technically rape so should they automatically hate them for it?

        The acts are wrong but the intentions behind them matter quite a lot as well, if my partner accidentally raped me I dunno if I’d hate her for it. If she had no clue I took consent away and I made no clear indication of that consent taken away, can I really fault her to the point of hating her for it? It sounds like a very complex and very individual thing people need to work out for themselves on how they feel towards those who’ve done wrong to them. I don’t think it’s a good idea at all to automatically hate n lock people up for accidental rape, I’ll save my hate for those who are willfully n knowingly harm others vs those who make a mistake on a matter which seems to rely largely on body language which can be hard to read at the best of times let alone times with alcohol involved.

        If anything we need far more education on consent, and a real emphasis that only a yes mean’s yes, that there may not be a no and people need to be careful with alcohol/drugs n having sex.

      • I was sexually assaulted by my boyfriend and we are still together. It required a lot of work and time to fix things, and we still have issues over it sometimes, but every survivor’s story is different. Please don’t generalize or accuse.

  13. Did you really learn your lesson, Hugo? Did you really, truly understand that many women, particularly young women, have a difficult time articulating their boundaries, comfort levels, and consent, especially given the enormous pressures placed on them by society and by ignorant young men? You claim to have learned from your sophomore experiences. But didn’t you (by your own admission) to continue to sleep with co-eds long after you were made a professor? What is your excuse there? Did you not also admit to having sex with a women clearly not in a position to give consent- you know, that time, in 1998, when she had just been raped and was high on drugs? You didn’t ask her consent before you turned on the gas, did you? You talk a good story about remorse and reform, but your actions paint an entirely different picture.

  14. See, here’s the thing. I’ve been the girlfriend in this situation, and I will be the first to say – I should have spoken up. It is NOT the man’s exclusive fault, and it is NOT rape. But, as Hugo rightly points out, that doesn’t make it right or healthy.

    What I think is basically being said here is that women are told, even today, to basically “lie back and think of England.” Literally every facet of society tells me that I owe my boyfriend sex, just like how every facet of society tells my boyfriend that he owes me chocolate on Valentines day (which, I should mention, I very explicitly told him was not necessary). Don’t get me wrong – he was attractive, and I was pretty frequently into it. But sometimes I just wasn’t, and the few times that I did put a stop to things because I just wasn’t feeling it anymore, I felt horribly guilty – and my boyfriend made it worse, whining and asking if I would just give him a handjob, and then finally storming out. Every time this happened, I felt like I was the one doing something wrong.
    A little discomfort wasn’t worth losing the relationship, so I would do exactly what Katie did in this article – go as far as I actually wanted to (which was less and less each time this happened), and then go very quiet and just let the rest happen to me. Guys have to hold shopping bags in the mall, and I have to help him get off. (You think that’s an unfair comparison? I was told that by my own cousin. In many relationships, they really are seen as equivalent.)

    Was it my boyfriend’s fault? No. Was what he did rape? Not really. Should I have spoken up, despite what society tells me? Absolutely.
    Would he have been a better lover, a better man, and been showing far more respect for me as a person if he responded to my sudden (and very obvious) silence and disinterest by asking what was wrong rather than taking my pants off? Yeah. He really would have.

    • Transhuman says:

      What we have is some partners who do not want to say no to sex, but want to imply it and be assured they are understood. I think it is more a case of poor communication than accidental rape. Considering consent can only be given by an emotionally mature person, perhaps these partners should not be engaging in sex until they can make plain what they do or do not want.

    • Isn’t what he did classed as coersion?

  15. Your situation is a complicated one because it was her responsibility to give an answer, though it is in both party’s responsibility to pay attention to what their partner needs/desires instead of being blinded by their own.

    I had a boyfriend that didn’t listen to “Not tonight, please. Can we just ___ because I love spending time with you.” He laughed and said, “C’mon” or turned it around to manipulate me, saying I obviously wasn’t attracted to him and what could he do different. Even if I explained that it wasn’t a problem of attraction, it wasn’t something I wanted to do all the time. I tried to cite literature showing him that it’s very common for girls to be cyclical with desires, due to hormones/birth control and that we aren’t had our sexual peaks at the same time as men, but he kept at it until he’d coerce me. Sometimes I would bat his hand off of me and ask him to stop but he wouldn’t take his hands off. I could have put my foot down more, but that always started a fight, which led to more issues and I couldn’t hold him off any longer.

    Looking back it’s easy to see that he was very controlling and we were in an unhealthy relationship. I’ve always been a people pleaser and hate upsetting my loved ones and he, possibly subconsciously, picked up on that. It was abusive and awful. He took the yellow light as a time to speed up and the red light as a time to vroom his engine and wait for it to turn green. Then he didn’t seem to care that I got absolutely no pleasure out of it because I just wasn’t into it. Sex was about him.

    The sex talk needs to include self-respect, self-esteem and self-worth. We need to teach our kids to be secure in their feelings and their ability to say no as well as how important it is to respect their partner.

    I don’t know if there is a great term for this situation but maybe tentatively adding the term “rape” to it, gives this situation the gravity it needs to get both men and women to pay attention.

  16. Rape doesn’t leave room for an option. Rape doesn’t give you the chance to say yes or no. Your girlfriend had the opportunity to say yes or no, but refused to act. You aren’t an accidental rapist. You did not accidentally rape her.

    • Samantha, WTH are you talking about?

      You people with your simple-minded concept of what “rape” should be annoy the hell out of me. You are not allies, you are assholes who deserve to be put in your pretentious corner. The author most certainly did rape her when he decided paying attention to her “NO” wasn’t an option therefore removing her option to not have sex with him. That’s rape, genius! She didn’t want to have sex and she didn’t act as if she did either hence your “refused to act” comment is nothing more than a bunch of victim-shaming BULL. Plus from her response during the talk they had, he clearly caused her psychological trauma from their experience. Are you going to say she shouldn’t be upset either? Girl, bye!

      People like you should be slapped especially if you claim to support “enthusiastic consent.” Here’s someone taking responsibility for their (lack of) actions and using it to educate other then here you are telling them not to? SHUT UP. JUST SHUT UP.

      • pops,

        As a chronic people-pleaser who’s been in the author’s girlfriend’s shoes, I have to agree with Samantha on this point. If a woman is actively reciprocating, deliberately making the decision to continue having sex, it just plain isn’t fair to give all the blame to the guy. You can’t say “she wasn’t being enthusiastic in reciprocating, so she obviously didn’t want it.” What counts as enthusiasm? Does she have to be porn-star-moaning before it’s consent? Does she have to be smiling? What if she fakes both of those things in an attempt to please the guy? Labeling him a rapist because he wasn’t good enough at reading body language is ridiculous, potentially life-ruining for the guy, and demeaning to the woman by implying she can’t handle the responsibility of speaking up for herself.

        Now, I don’t like the fact that Samantha has apparently adopted this “the silent person is a coward, let’s shame her/him!” attitude because she feels guilty about being the perpetrator in her own relationship. I think the author could certainly have been more attentive in asking if she was enjoying herself. Communication is a two-way street. But you can’t just go and slap the term “rapist!” on people willy nilly. “It was rape because I was coerced! He kept pestering me! I thought he might be unhappy if I didn’t do it!” Uh, what?! Okay. Say there’s a philanthropic organization that keeps sending you letters begging for donations, with big pictures of sad-looking children on them. “Well, I haven’t got the money to spare.” You throw the first letter away. The second time, you say, “Gee, these pictures sure are depressing, but I’m just too broke to donate!” The third time, you weep over the pictures of sad children and send them your life savings. Can you go and claim you’ve been robbed? Of course not. Is it manipulative? Probably. But no one’s stolen anything from you, and it makes you look like an idiot trying to claim that they did.

        I think there’s merit in a lot of feminist critiques, but this tendency of many people absolve the woman of all responsibility/exalt the woman’s feelings while grinding the man’s into dirt is irrational, unfair, and the reason people tend to avoid calling themselves “feminists” in the first place. The world just isn’t painted black and white, man vs. woman. You have to look at both sides. /End rant.

        • No, this concept of checking if your partner(s) is into everything that’s going on is not just reserved for men, so there goes your straw-feminist tropes. The idea of “enthusiastic consent” is for all partners to ensure that people they’re with are enthusiastically consenting/continuing to consent to everything that’s being done.

  17. Six months later, this blogpost is still compelling. I consider myself a feminist. Feminism is nothing if it does not empower women to speak the truth, and then expect or demand they do so. Goodguys are not at fault for their actions when their partners fall short of clear communication. Yes, of course, nonverbal communication is non-trivial, and on occasion can be quite clear. Most of the time, however, nonverbal channels suggest rather than state. They generate hypotheses rather than certainties. In my own opinion, for what it’s worth, Hugo’s guilt is unjustified, yet it reveals a subtle gender bias: that women are not held to the same standard of communication clarity that men are.
    But we’re not talking about which restaurant or movie to pick, this topic is about sex! Sex may well be the most complex and risky interactions most humans ever undertake. Selfishness and unselfishness get all murky. Whether my wife is uninterested and says, “not tonight,” or whether she is unselfish and gives herself to me even though uninterested, really is all the same to me. I appreciate the gesture, but if she is not feeling selfish, then, well . . . . In fact, I’ll confess the best of all is when she is desperately selfish and, at first, I am not, and enjoy being the target of her pursuit. I certainly feel no injury at her attempts to persuade me. Now turn the tables: If the male of the couple is the one being selfish, does that make him a creep? an accidental rapist? If it is he that encounters disinterest, must he flip off the switch, or be a creep? Please don’t tell me women who want a little or a lot of pursuit are, for that reason, unenlightened. Of course, when there is a clear message to stop, then stop. But that is not at all what Hugo’s post is about. Nor is the post about pick-ups, but about romantic relationship partners.
    It grieves me that so often this whole conversation takes place in a space in which the absence of sexual activity is the default assumption of all parties. That goes against biology and scientific inquiry regarding well-being and happiness, which tell us that the default position for our species is the presence of sexual activity.

    • This is about becoming more in tune with your partner in general. Instead of assuming nothing but screaming a panicked no at the top of her lungs is a yes, asking her if you’re unsure. Being aware of negative or less enthusiastic changes in body language when you move on to new forms of affection. Communication on both ends.

      What goes against biology is the assumption that someone is always interested in sex at all times. Cycles of increased and decreased sexual interest is a well documented phenomenon that happens depending on ovulation, age, health factors, stress brought on by life circumstances, honeymoon periods, the desire for novelty when you’ve tired of routine, etc.

      What grieves me is that men who claim to be feminists can sit there and admit that while you can’t draw any conclusions but only come up with hypotheses when it comes to body language, they still seem to prefer to take the chance that their hypothesis is wrong to just verbally asking if their partner wants to go further.

  18. What I should have clarified is in her eyes I am nothing but a paycheck. When we were first married we seemed to have all those things, but it seemed to decline until we are at this point now. I treat her with respect, but the rejection of affection is so painful. We have children,so I don’t want to divorce. Perhaps her condition is medical. I don’t know. Thanks for the advice.

    • Goodwomanproject says:

      This is crazy. Look, when I married my husband I consented to being sexually available to him at all times (barring injury, illness, etc). There is no, “I didn’t feel like having sex but did it anyway and now I feel used.” He is absolutely entitled to any part of my body at any time, and I fully consented to this when I let him slip the ring on my finger. It’s a permanent, one-time-accounts-for-all-future instances consent. I don’t give it then take it back as I choose. Likewise my husband gave full present-and-future consent to provide for me. Can you even imagine going to your wife and saying, “Honey, sometimes I provide for you when I don’t really want to. It makes me feel violated. I need to feel safe saying ‘No’ at times to paying for your cell phone bill and shopping trips. I need you to respect when I don’t feel emotionally ready to pay for you to eat. Please show that you understand that by patiently starving until I feel good about providing.”

      For you to worry that your wife doesn’t consent to sex or want it is just insane. She’s your WIFE. In my opinion the act of getting married is blanket consent. She is most definitely using you as a paycheck and not at all giving you what you are entitled to in return. Dump this selfish, neurotic woman and please find a better one.

      • Julie Gillis says:

        Whoa…..that sounds suspiciously like him paying you to use your body or some kind of BDSM arrangement ;0. Relax relax…I’m using hyperbole here and certainly not actually accusing of of that but it was my first reaction. When people get married they aren’t giving full and total consent for either person to pay for things or to give it up sexually unless they specifically negotiate that. What they are doing (generally) is choosing to live a life together as partners. They support each other in many ways, including monetarily which means that if one partner cannot earn money for some reason, the other one should step up. It also means each partner has the right to say no to sex is something is up (illness, bad mood, argument, etc). Your body belongs to you, and his belongs to him. You are, again in my opinion, choosing to share your bodies with each other, sharing your salaries with each other, sharing the work of the home (however you divide it) with each other. Cause, you know…partnership….

        But, if your system works well for you that’s all good. Enjoy. Just don’t expect that all people want this particular model, sex for paycheck deal, cause that’s how it sounds. No one should be used for paycheck or for sex, period in a relationship.

        • Well, I’ve been with the same woman for 18 years. We have sex when we both feel like it- she doesn’t own my body, or I hers. Less quantity but DEFINITELY more quality when both want it rather than just “going along with it”. As far as money goes, well . . . whichever of us has more money helps out the other. We’ve kept note of who’s helped out when- some times I’ve owed her, other times she’s owed me. Reason for that is that we trust the other to be in a state where we can pay it back- otherwise we’re saying, “You’ll never be successful enough to pay this back.” So we are neither each other’s paychecks nor concubines.

      • “He is absolutely entitled to any part of my body at any time, and I fully consented to this when I let him slip the ring on my finger. It’s a permanent, one-time-accounts-for-all-future instances consent.”

        That is a disgusting argument. So you no longer have any agency because you’re married? Please, let’s go back to the 10th century when that was normal. Put yourself in the shoes of a woman who MARRIED and abusive man and then try to imagine telling her that she was consenting when he held her down or threatened to beat her.

      • Just because you feel this way about your own relationship does not mean you should speak for all women. Please stop trying to elevate yourself and impress men by bringing down other women. It’s a tacky and obvious ploy for male approval and a glaring example of low self-esteem, probably brought on by being convinced you should be subservient to men all of your life. If you choose to be in a relationship were your body is used like a sex toy that is your business, but you are condoning the rape of thousands of women who are not ok with that based on YOUR selfish desire to be the cool wife who isn’t uptight and prudish like all them other wives.

  19. My wife and I haven’t had sex in over a year. I have asked her what,if anything,I can do to change this. I am kind and thoughtful. I give her back massages and treat her well. Last month she told me it wasn’t my fault , and she has never had a big sex drive. I have never,nor will ever, force her, but I don’t think I should be forced to become a catholic priest either. The pain and hurt of this is almost unbearable for me. I am nothing but a paycheck.

    • The lack of or diminishment of a sex drive does not in any way mean that you are only a paycheck to your wife. That would imply that the absolute only reason that you married her was for sex. I would assume (I would hope) that rather you two decided to get married out of mutual love, regard, and affection. If there is a medical reason for your wife’s low sex drive, she should see a doctor. In any case, you two should probably see counseling, perhaps both separately as well as with a couples therapist, potentially with a sex therapist.

      • “That would imply that the absolute only reason that you married her was for sex.”

        Sex is a normal, regular, and important part of a married relationship. Your comment was a shamming response for JJ to tolerate his wife’s neglect and disregard for him. If the woman lacked a sex drive she should have let him know that upfront. JJ could have been happily married to a woman who sexually connected with him.

        • I wrote JJ when I meant to write jonw1.

        • But saying that she only married him for the money is comparable to only marrying her for sex. Him commenting here behind her back about something that is a legitimate physical issue is neglectful to her and disregards her feelings. We don’t know all of the circumstances like their age, years of marriage, etc. But if she is old enough, it’s common for women to lose their sex drive and when it wasn’t on warp speed before (but apparently still satisfying for him), how can anyone expect it to still be on that level when that changes? Does sex make a marriage happy? I’m sure it’s a contributor but my boyfriend is my best friend and the difference between him and previous best friends is that we have sex. We have a very rich, close relationship that makes me happy.

          Rather than bashing his wife on a public forum, maybe he ought to do what jj suggested and seek counseling with her about it.

    • Fight the Power says:

      If your wife has no medical or psychological reason for not having sex with you, then you should tell her that if she cannot change, then you will have to get it elsewhere.

    • jonw1,

      I understand. It seems as if she doesn’t regard sex as a valid part of the reason to get and stay married. You are an adult man and you are entitled to enjoy physical passion with a wife or female partner. I would discretely speak with a qualified male divorce attorney and a male therapist to help coach you through this time. Ignore those comments from any woman trying to manipulate and shame you that your complaining about the lack of sex suggests you only married her for sex.

      • Nobody is entitled to sex with anyone. That is completely false. You are entitled to pleasure yourself and anything beyond that is up to what another person wants to give you. Using the word entitled is making you sound like a rapist so I suggest you choose your words more wisely.

        • He may not be entitled, but a wife does have a responsibility to TRY engage their partner in all aspects where necessary for a decent relationship, including sex (and yes the husband too). People who are dating should be trying to keep the passion alive, if you purposely continually avoid intimacy (apart from health issues) with your partner then you quite frankly don’t deserve a partner.

          • Whoa.

            Wait, are you the same Archy who was insisting forever that women are the invisible giants on the partner-abuse scale? And now you say this?

            Nobody has a right to sex from anyone else. Nobody. When you marry, you don’t sign a contract saying “I will ignore my own body and needs and allow the guy to stick his willy inside me and grunt away and come as often as is statistically usual in marriage. Also, I will help him feel good about doing so even if I’m miserable about it and want to kill myself afterwards. If I don’t, I deserve a horrible lonely life.”

            Likewise, men aren’t obliged to will themselves into stiffies and treat their bodies like machines on command. They also get to have boundaries, agency, to say no. For months or even years on end if that’s how they feel.

            MARRIAGE DOES NOT ENTITLE YOU TO SEX. Your partner does not become your guaranteed fucktoy simply because you’re married. And if you’re marrying in order to guarantee yourself a fucktoy, then perhaps you ought to wait a while and grow up before you have that ceremony. And get over your wank shame while you’re at it, so that if the woman does go a long spell without being in the mood, you can take care of your own damn self.

            Yeegh. So glad I’ve got a boyfriend who takes these things for granted. I can’t believe we still have to debate things that are this obvious and fundamental. Or that men who claim victimhood all the time are still willing to get on message boards and try to shame married women for not feeling horny (or at least faking it). Shame on you.

            • “Yeegh. So glad I’ve got a boyfriend who takes these things for granted. I can’t believe we still have to debate things that are this obvious and fundamental. Or that men who claim victimhood all the time are still willing to get on message boards and try to shame married women for not feeling horny (or at least faking it). Shame on you.”

              Yes I am so glad to have you misread my comment and then try shame me for it whilst being dismissive of male victimization, and insult me because I speak the truth that men too suffer domestic violence (and I’ve never said they were the majority victim of DOMESTIC violence so please don’t strawman me). Or you know, you could grow up and debate fairly, not strawman my argument, learn to read my comments instead of attack a position I HAVE NOT MADE.

              Try, as in be open to reigniting the fires of romance. Eg, if both of them are run down, worked to the bone, they do what they can to make time for romance and sex. That may be asking relatives to take the kids for a night and going on a date together vs just giving up.

              Not once did I say anyone has an obligation to have sex, I said people in relationships should TRY to reignite the fires, as in it’s their duty to try keep the relationship working instead of letting it dwindle. The onus is on both people in the relationship. That doesn’t mean have sex when you don’t want to, it means do what you can to try WANT sex again, WANT passion, WANT romance. That means if you are depressed, seek help for it, if life is stressing you too much then you both work at reducing stress.

              If this is such a terrible concept for you to understand then I am glad you aren’t my partner, because I only want a partner who would work with me to ensure our love remains strong instead of allowing a major “spell” come between us because of life stresses. I want her to at least TRY to work on it, along WITH ME.

              If you think that is shaming married women then maybe it is you with the victimhood complex, because what I ask for is basic human decency to work hard at keeping a relationship alive. I’m not saying women HAVE to have sex, I’m saying women AND MEN SHOULD TRY FIX WHATEVER is stopping their love life whether it be sexual issues, lack of romance, hell even shit regarding cleaning duties. A relationship requires work, if you aren’t willing to work at it then you shouldn’t be in a relationship fullstop. I can’t believe we have to debate things that are obvious and fundamental, I can’t believe you would misrepresent my position to attack a strawman view of what I want. And I can’t believe you’d use a personal attack which the moderators would allow where you say I claim victimhood all the time for discussing violence as affecting more than just women. How dare someone mention that men too are victims of violence, how dare they use statistics that actually show both genders instead of one. Shame on yourself.

  20. I know that many of the commenters feel like you are being over dramatic, but speaking from your girlfriends perspective I can completely relate to this article and I’ve been looking everywhere for another person who was able to put into words how I felt so thank you for doing that. I am 20 now, but I was 19 like you when a similar thing happened to me. It was with my first boyfriend (I was his first also) and he had a bad habit of pressuring me until I gave in because he knew full well that I hated to disappoint or upset people. The first time I ever touched him was when he grabbed my wist and forced me to while I was telling him to stop. We talked about it afterwards and he promised not to force anything or guilt me anymore. Flash forward a few months, a few days after his dads death, we were alone in his house making out and he began to beg to give me oral sex and get some in return. I had made it clear to him on many separate occasions that it was unfair of him to get me wiled up and then ask for things that I had said no too previously (nothing against oral sex, I just didn’t want it yet). Needless to say I gave in and ended up regretting it. He however, knowing full well how I felt,continued to pressure me into doing it. Was it rape? No because I said yes everytime, but was he a jerk for pressuring me and prodding me? ABSOlUTLY. And did he turn the guilt back on me when I tried to confront him about it? You sure bet he did… I think that learning to communicate about sexual things is an important skill that a lot of people in their teens and twenties lack. I sure as hell did, but I’ve learned from it.

    • Well Rainy day, there’s a big difference between repeatedly pressuring someone and simply not noticing that she isn’t into it.

      • How so? Both take not caring enough about what your partner wants to put their need to not have sex above your desire to have sex. If you’ve started having sex with someone who didn’t even have the opportunity to turn you down there is a gigantic problem there.

    • This is textbook abusive behavior in all honesty. He’s not just a jerk, but an abusive boyfriend. This isn’t behavior to shrug off.

  21. Great post!

  22. The motto of only yes is yes is a starting point for learning how to sexually or generally communicate boundaries. But “The opposite of rape, in other words, is mutual enthusiasm.” is a useful guide as well.

    If you don’t feel free to give a no, or a slow down, there is an accumulating trauma. No, it’s not nasty words and broken bottle at your neck Rape, but that doesn’t mean it’s not violation.
    It’s a different situation than a power gambit of violence to intimidate but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cause pain and fear and isolation and something breaking between people.

    It’s a mature mind that can come to the understanding that there are grey areas. Communication on both sides are needed and not always there when needed and that can break things.

    She says its not rape therefore is isn’t is giving credit of self-definition to her but as a mixed up teen without orientation, does she understand clearly enough to know?

    If the word rape is too much of a trigger, use another. Is it rape by a partner if the partner denies? What if she thought more and got angry and said it was her fault too but it still was crossing the line and wasn’t a matter of mind-reading? Should he know, should the culture raise everyone to understand that anything but yes is no?

    • Fight the Power says:

      But if a man initiates sexual interaction with a woman and the woman reciprocates and gives no indication that she does not want it, then how is a man supposed to know she does not want to do it? Are you suggesting that men should never initiate sexual interactions with women and should always wait for the women to do it? Then what about men, couldn’t a man not want it and go along with it anyways? Good luck trying to convince any woman that she is an “accidental rapist” for making the moves on a guy without him doing it first.

      • A woman who doesn’t want sex always gives an indication. Does it take a loud, angry “Get off me, I don’t want to,” to get it across to you, or would her lying there unhappily not clue you in?

        I actually HAVE tried to initiate sex when my boyfriend didn’t want to. I asked him if he didn’t want to, he said he wasn’t really feeling it, and I backed off. What’s to stop men from doing that too?

        • If men backed off any time the woman looked the least bit disinterested there would be hardly any sex after marriage. What about wives who give their husbands vouchers for sex a few times a month, are they selling themselves into sexual slavery? And if so wouldn’t that sort of minimize the horror and the trauma of actual sex trafficking?

        • How long do you wait after backing off? Are you allowed to try seduce them/foreplay n try get them in the mood or are you mean to call it quits for the night? I’ve heard many say they want more foreplay but if she isn’t interested in sex then wouldn’t initiating foreplay be pushing her?

          • How about you ask her that? I can’t give you a definitive timeline because I am not every woman and not every situation is the same. So if you really want to know, ask. “Is this a no to sex but making out is cool? Do you want me to get you in the mood or is it out of the question tonight? ” There are a whole lot of ways YOU can communicate to ease your confusion and she’ll probably appreciate that you actually give enough shits to not make assumptions.

    • But you don’t see that, when you fail to put your foot down, express your actual feelings, and silently acquiesce to being fucked, the violation is self-imposed? You’re putting your self-possession in the hands of another person, instead of taking responsibility for it yourself. If you can’t be expected to do that much, then the central tenet of feminism (that women are equal to men) is false; you’re barely a step above children, and the relationship is not one of equals, but of stewardship by men.

      • Women are equal to men, but feminists acknowledge that women are socialized to be people-pleasers and that it takes time to overcome the programming that tells you you’re a “bitch” if you express what you want. But I suspect that you’re just trolling because you don’t believe in equality anyway.

        • “Women are equal to men, but feminists acknowledge that women are socialized to be people-pleasers and that it takes time to overcome the programming that tells you you’re a “bitch” if you express what you want.”
          Wait, what? How does that make them equal? Are you implying women are coerced into actions more than men in regards to sex? Society is raising women to purposely please their men to the point it’s against their wishes? Wouldn’t that mean men have more agency unless men are also raised to be people pleasers?

          There is a comment here about young women being pressured by society into sex which to me sounds like the commenter doesn’t think young women have the agency n responsibility of their actions that men have (well I assume so as they don’t mention men having the same pressure). I’ve seen parts of feminism which really were the worst examples of infantizing females I’ve ever seen, treating them like they have much less agency than men.

          If women are to be equal to men they would need the same agency, if men aren’t being pressured like women are into sex then men are above women in power? If that is true then Jacob was right, women are a step above children but below males in their agency n ability to consent.

          To be equal we would need both men n women to have agency AND be made to take full responsibility for their actions instead of only one gender having that. Either both men n women are a step above children but not quite the adults we hope, or one gender is less mature, or both are equal and thus have responsibility in this matter. Given an equal relationship, same age, similar finances, no difference in power, then those who aren’t speaking up definitely are self-imposing their own violation if they aren’t communicating the disengagement of consent. To legally consent to any sex that couple must both have full n complete adult agency, so if they’ve ever had legal consenting sex before than in this particular situation the violation is self-imposed.

          Obviously the other partner should be able to pickup on the lack of interest which probably happens a lot, but if the communication isn’t clear and especially if the one violated is still actively engaging in the sex though they don’t want to then they must be self-imposing their violation unless they’re coerced or threatened, etc. In these particular cases can the partner actually be at fault at all if the sex is no different to normal, where interest is being faked? It’s easy to see the change from normally enthusiastic to starfish, but what if they’re still doing stuff to you in the same way they normally do? It’s unreasonable to expect the partner to mind-read at that point.

          I really hope Kat is right that a woman who doesn’t want sex always gives an indication, because this stuff scares the hell out of me. I ONLY ever want consenting sex so we all need to really work on communication to ensure the consent remains, after reading this I am even more worried about consent after seeing people are going along with the flow whilst inside they’re feeling violated. I truly do hope there is a large change in behaviour so it’s easily spotted because if it isn’t then that really is scary as hell given the possibility we may be fooled into thinking someone is into the sex, enjoying it, whilst inside they’re hurting bad. Am I worrying about this stuff too much?

          • It is up to the person to ensure that they are not violating their partner and not the other way around just as it is up to any other criminal to ensure they are not committing a crime and not the victim to make sure a crime is not committed against them. It is never ok to assume someone is ok with something because it’s too easy to let what you want color your idea of what they might want. It’s better safe than sorry to ask them questions if you’re unsure.

            And don’t equate the idea of faking an orgasm or something to what happens when a woman doesn’t want sex but goes along with it anyways. Going along with it is generally lying there until he finishes at the most subtle, and crying and making pained expressions at the most obvious. My ex ignored me while I cried and laid there like a log and then told me he had no idea I wasn’t into it. He didn’t see it because he didn’t want to see it, didn’t pick up on the signals because he let what he want to happen matter more than the fact that he was hurting me. He didn’t recognize that ten no’s meant no, and thought that as long as he pestered and guilted me long enough to say yes it was cool.

            It’s also important to consider how many times you asked her before she said yes, if she did say yes. If you kept asking her over and over again, and then you started to make her feel bad for you, or like a bad girlfriend for saying no, or started complaining about blue balls, or anything like that, she is being coerced and you need to recognize that behavior in yourself and realize that any yes that follows that type of incessant nagging is not consensual.

            You SHOULD worry about this stuff. But not in a “oh poor me, I’m gonna rape someone and not know it, it’s so hard to be a man,” sort of way. In a way that encourages you to communicate with your partner, ask her questions if you need to, pay closer attention to her body language every time you “up the ante” in regards to foreplay (if she’s not moaning and writhing like she was at the step below, odds are you either moved up too quickly or that she only wanted to go that far. If you don’t trust yourself to read her reactions, ask her). It really isn’t about mind reading, you have a mouth too, you have just as much ability to communicate as she does. So if you’re actually worried about it, might as well clear it up verbally.

      • But you don’t see that, when you fail to pay attention to her tentative/cold/negative body language when you go from fooling around to initiating sex, ask her questions when you’re not sure what she wants, and decide what she wants for her, the title of rapist is self-imposed? You’re putting your identity as a kind and decent non-criminal in the hands of what your dick is saying, instead of taking responsibility for it yourself. If you can’t be expected to do that much, then the central tenet of egalitarianism (that men are equal to women) is false; you’re barely a step above children, and the relationship is not one of equals, but of uncontrollable violence by men.

    • “If you don’t feel free to give a no, or a slow down, there is an accumulating trauma. No, it’s not nasty words and broken bottle at your neck Rape, but that doesn’t mean it’s not violation”.

      If anyone violated the ‘woman’ in your example it is the woman herself and not the man. If a woman feels dirty and wrong for masturbating herself does that mean her hand violated her? Obviously many women including yourself need to grow up and start being accountable for your own decisions and actions.

      • Your argument is pathetic. If a man can’t be bothered to fucking ASK if his partner is interested in sex, he is behaving like a child who just wants what he wants, everyone else be damned. And it sure is the man who does the violating when he pays no attention to the feelings of the person he is physically invading. Obviously many men including yourself need to grow up and start being accountable for your own decisions and actions.

        • Yeah, the man’s being oblivious, but is the woman not also behaving immaturely by failing to speak up for herself? If she plays along, kissing and spreading her legs, and can’t even be bothered to open her mouth and say “not in the mood, honey,” should she not be held accountable for her own actions?

          I say this as a woman who’s often been in this position. Literally all it takes to prevent your own “violation” is a simple “Not tonight.”

        • Exactly, Kat. What he’s describing is the very definition of a bully and he wants the bullied person to take responsibility! I’m loving Hannah’s and your replies; so patient.

  23. Fight the Power says:

    Right. This actually doesn’t surprise me coming from you. You’re one of those guys who think that men should never try to seduce women or initiate sex and should never have sex unless it is the woman who aggressively initiates it. I wouldn’t be surprised if next you start saying that men should be aware of whether or not women would be physically attracted to their looks and based on that should decide if a woman would want to have sex with them.

    • Men should be aware of their looks and try to look nice for their partners. That’s fair game for both sexes.

      • Fight the Power says:

        I didn’t say they shouldn’t.

        But are you saying that even if a woman agrees to have sex with a guy and gives no indication that she doesn’t want to, that the guy should himself determine whether or not she REALLY wants to based on his assessment of how physically attractive he is? If so, you are essentially calling any unattractive guy who has sex with women a rapist. And not just that, but the modern standard of beauty for men is ridiculous. So you would be essentially saying that any guy who doesn’t look like an adolescent boy or a model should never pursue a sexual relationship with a woman.

        Honestly you sound like a pathetic feminist stooge. Either that or you are gay. Gays often have the same hatred for heterosexual men that feminists do. Really they are just pissed off because most men are straight into women and have no interest in them.

        • Arse Politico says:

          it was explicitly stated that these strawwomen did NOT agree to have sex. and if it were effing ICE CREAM, would you even be trying to have this argument???
          I THINK NOT.

    • If a woman isn’t emotionally mature enough to clearly communicate, in plain English a No to sex, then she should stop dating men, and maybe go find a girlfriend or a toy.

      • Take your pathetic shaming elsewhere. “Clear communication” is a two-way street. If men can’t be bothered to listen to their partners and be willing to accept that they might not want sex every time, then they should stop dating women, and maybe go find a sock or a toy.

  24. Sometimes when you ask me to take out the trash I don’t really want to do it but I don’t say “no” I just do it. And sometimes the movies you want to go see, well, I don’t really want to seem them but I do it anyway; I sit limp beside you in that theater seat, munching heartlessly on that stale popcorn, staring–eyes glazed–at Owen Wilson’s 30-foot face, squeezing out a few feigned laughs, all while holding your clammy hand. I wish you would be more thoughtful about what I don’t tell you. Every day you rape me a little bit more while I remain a silent victim.

    • Frank you’re my hero

    • Presenting sex as an obligation on the level of doing your share of the house work is disgusting.

      • LTD.Edition says:

        Agreed. Shared labour in the house has nothing at all to do with sexual activity which is entirely personal and voluntary. WOW

    • Arse Politico says:

      I hope you understand that having your body invaded for a duration by another living being forcefully and under circumstances that by definition limit your ability to take pleasure in or respond passively to the experience is no the same as eating popcorn and watching a movie.

    • @ Frank- Amen…
      @Hugo- did Katie grow up to function as an adult?
      Order for herself in a restaurant?
      Choose her own clothes?
      Do you now wait to be invited aboard if there are people on an elevator when the doors open?
      Do you wait at the buffet until everyone else has been through the line?

  25. I really, really, really wish you would re-title this article and stop talking about what happened with your college girlfriend in the same breath as you talk about rape.

    If nothing else out of respect for the deep, PTSD-inducing, years-to-recover-from trauma that rape usually induces, and lack of mind reading from a partner does not. SHE explicitly told you it wasn’t rape. Why do you have to keep lumping it in with rape?
    You were not an accidental rapist, you were in a relationship with a girl who had problems communicate her feelings about sex, and you didn’t pick up on it, so she told you about it, and now you are overwhelmed with misdirected guilt and shame and, frankly, being kind of a drama queen.

    • So very much this. Don’t cheapen! And don’t victimize when your girlfriend didn’t claim that space.

      PS, sexy photo on the top of this article why? This is the unsexiest description of nonrape sex I’ve ever seen.

      • Don’t fully agree that that photo is all that sexy. Seems more to portray a guy being physically affectionate & a woman looking far, far away.

    • Excuse me??? This article is trying to send a VERY important message that rape is not *always* perpetrated by the stranger in the alley or someone who drugs you, that people you love and care about can rape you by not understanding what rape or consent truly are. This guy is in no way trying to belittle the trauma of people who have been brutally abused, so do everyone else who has been raped under different circumstances a favor – don’t belittle THEIR trauma. Coercion is NOT consent.

    • Also, let’s not pretend like other circumstances other than someone overpowering you for the sake of overpowering you can’t be PTSD inducing. Someone you love and trust suddenly taking advantage of you to please THEMSELVES is VERY, very traumatizing. Someone you thought cared about you suddenly showing interest only in what they want and showing no regard whatsoever for your repeated “no”s and “I’ll tell you when I’m ready”s. And people who are in abusive relationships but who can’t see it from where they are, who are staying there because the abuser has convinced them that no one else will ever love them the way he does.

      You have NO place saying what does or does not cause trauma or PTSD or real “rape” for anyone except yourself. Stop it.

      • SHE said it wasn’t rape. If she had said she felt it was, my response would’ve been entirely different.

        • ewrtyuiyuyhtre says:

          Oh, great its all about how people feel about things and not about what they actualy are.

          • She said it wasn’t rape, yes, but he is choosing to call it that. Two people involved, two people who get to choose what to call it, as they perceived it. Women are not the only ones who can be raped, or who can be hurt in the event of a rape.

            • Yes, two people are involved. No, he doesn’t get to label her a victim when she doesn’t feel she is. (Actually, even if she did feel she was a victim, I would still hotly contest slapping the word “rape” on what happened between them, but that’s not what you’re arguing here.)

              By your logic, since two people get to decide what happened, a rapist could simply declare that it was NOT rape, regardless of whether the victim claimed it was.

        • Yeah, i said that to my boyfriend too because I was STILL concerned more about his feelings than my own and, while I wanted him to stop doing it, I didn’t want him to think of himself as a rapist because I was concerned for his sense of self. I didn’t want to “do that to him,” despite the fact that every time he touched me I could feel the pressure to have sex I didn’t want coming, the nagging, the guilt trips, the inevitable painful intercourse and the laying awake for the rest of the night trying not to cry. The fact that even the thought of having sex with him became anxiety-inducing when it used to be pleasurable. It completely destroyed my once very healthy sex drive.

          We’re so convinced that rapists are only demented sociopaths that lurk in the shadows, determined to destroy their victims, that, even when we’re been violated by our partners time and time again we choose to avoid lumping them in with THAT kind of rapist for their sake.

          • Hannah,

            We choose not to lump them in with “that” kind of rapist, because rape is a specific crime defined by the law, and when you use the word “rapist” to label someone, society gets a specific impression of what that person’s done.

            No, letting your boyfriend have sex with you even when you don’t feel like it is NOT in the same category as the guy who holds you at gunpoint, or pins you down and forces himself on you. Not even close. THAT is why we “avoid lumping it in.” It’s a completely different scenario, and if you were to call your boyfriend a rapist to your friends and family, you’re giving him a violent, twisted reputation that’s just not deserved.

            • Huh?? If there is no “enthusiastic yes”, then it’s rape. Stop trying to police Hannah’s valid feelings.

              • This isn’t aimed at Hannah, just a critique of everything is rape except enthusiastic consent.
                “Huh?? If there is no “enthusiastic yes”, then it’s rape. Stop trying to police Hannah’s valid feelings.”
                I didn’t give an enthusiastic yes when i had sex, it wasn’t rape. Just because there is no YES spoken by words doesn’t make it rape, there is body language and actions at play that communicate desire. A couple making out and they both go on to have sex with smiles but speaking zero words does not mean it’s rape.

                How many couples here specifically ask for sex and say yes or no? If you aren’t in the mood but allow your partner to have sex with you it is not rape, if you truly don’t want to have sex but do it out of fear of losing him as a partner for instance (as one woman mentioned on this site once) then that becomes a tricky issue. Agreeing to sex but not wanting it sends extremely mixed signals and unless it was done under duress/threat/coersion then it’s not rape, but still violating. The act of saying yes has given him consent and only violence/threats/drugged/etc legally remove your ability to consent, saying yes but really meaning no because of non-violence (such as fear of losing them as a partner) can’t be rape.

                Of course it’d be great if couples were so attuned to each others feelings to know when it’s ok and when it isn’t but that isn’t always an easy thing to know, will a shy person’s body language differ much if they aren’t really into it but go with it vs they are into it but nervous cuz they’re naked? If I didn’t speak up and say what I wanted, my body language could easily be read as me not wanting sex, or me just being shy. Saying yes when there is no threat is quite frankly an asshole move to do, if you are not truly consenting then you have just lied to your partner, abused their trust and are actively engaging in your own violation if your partner has been given fake signals of consent. That’s a fucked up thing to do and quite frankly I wouldn’t ever want a partner that does that, it would sicken me regardless of her internal insecurities because sex is an act that should not be messed with, you don’t go faking your enthusiasm for sex and lying about it to please the other person. If my partner did such a thing I would be angry at not detecting the signs, and damn well angry at her for lying to me. She has the right to say no, and I tell my partners that, I look for enthusiastic consent to avoid this issue and I truly hope I don’t get a partner that says yes when she really means no and fakes the enthusiasm as some stupid way to try please me (and yes I tell my partners not to try PLEASE me unless they are really into it).

                There is a point where you cannot blame the other person so much if you are not clearly indicating consent. If no consent is given, and they go ahead it’s their fault, if you lie about consent though without threat/etc then you have fault as well as they do. Fear of losing a partner is not a good excuse to lie about your consent and then try suggest they’ve raped you unless you either never told them yes, or told them no. If you say yes and they have sex with you, then the consent has been given (excluding violence, threats, etc). Lying about the yes will basically have you violating yourself. People need to stop this reliance on mind-reading and super-sensitive ability to read consent of someone who fakes a yes, should they be able to pick up on it? Yes they should but not everyone has a perfect grasp of human body language and some people really have trouble with it (autism I think makes it quite difficult). As a sexual partner you have a responsibility to communicate your consent and faking one just fucks you over. As bad as it is to lose a partner because you don’t have enough sex for them or whatever reason, that’s no excuse for your actions, they are not forcing you to have sex because you don’t want to lose them, you are choosing to have sex that you aren’t interested in, you have that choice and you make it regardless of how shitty you feel. The only way that choice is removed is if you are mentally unable to consent due to drugs or under duress/threat of violence, too young, or they hold position of power above you.

                We need to teach people to speak up on what they desire, no more of this bullshit reliance on body language alone whilst saying yes without meaning to, which I hope is so damn rare or non-existent because I’d rather look like a fool talking about something that doesn’t exist vs live in a world where people are harming themselves because they fake consent and are MISLEADING their partner. Because that is what it is, you’re misleading your partner, you are acting as if you want sex but you don’t and if they aren’t being violent then their fault lies with lack of ability to read your body language which is quite frankly far less bad than willfully lying to them about your desire for sex when you don’t want it. Choosing to have bad sex, or sex you regret does not make it rape, having your choice taken from you is rape. Someone who is frozen with fear can’t consent, so it’s rape, someone who is afraid they’ll cop a beating if they say no can’t consent, so it’s rape, someone saying yes to keep the bf IS able to consent and so it’s not rape. If someone threatens to kick out a financially dependant partner if they don’t have sex then it becomes coersion. Again, I hope this comment is useless and this never happens. My sexual partner isn’t guilty of rape because she touched me somewhere that I didn’t say yes to, she made the move during our love making, my body language was showing I was into it. If I was frozen with fear and she continued then it’d be rape.

                • ” there is body language and actions at play that communicate desire. A couple making out and they both go on to have sex with smiles but speaking zero words does not mean it’s rape.”

                  That is an enthusiastic “yes”.

    • You seem in a hurry to minimize the author’s feelings. His feelings in this situation are as valid as any others. Seeing how ignorant you are of the world can be traumatic. There is no shame in recognizing how complex and difficult sex and communication can be.

    • Josie Cole says:

      I am speaking from the point of view of Katie, as I myself have laid in bed, silent, as my lover proceeded in one sided intercourse with my lifeless body. Although I never spoke the words “no,” I sure as hell never said “yes.” After every time that he failed to hear my silent pleas I felt used, disgusting, and damaged. I was angry at myself for keeping quiet, and confused over the reasons behind what was happening- why couldn’t i speak those words, why couldn’t he feel my displeasure, and how could he not see my tears.
      I never pushed him off. I never stopped the action or told him how i felt, and therefore I was also to blame, but he should have known the difference between what Hugo refers to as the lights of attraction.
      If you take the same response and apply it to any other given situation, perhaps you will better see my point. If you were to order a coffee, and was asked whether you wanted cream or sugar, would you expect the server to give them to you if you did not specifically say yes? Or, in another case, if you asked a friend to look after your child and they answered with an enthusiastic yes, and then you added that it would be for a week and they were silent, would you assume that they had agreed, or would you sense their discomfort and re-evaluate the situation?
      I have never fully recovered from the unconcentual sex I shared with my ex partner. I was young and had yet to find my voice, and his lack of interest in my personal pleasure left its marks on me in the form of sexual disfunction and displeasure. Although it may not have been as traumatic as being held down and forcefully made to have sex, it was, nevertheless, a painfully horrible experience.

      • Fight the Power says:

        “but he should have known the difference between what Hugo refers to as the lights of attraction.”

        The lights of attraction? I think that if someone is in a relationship with us, we generally assume they are attracted to us. Don’t you think that’s a reasonable assumption?

        With that said, your situation is different from what Hugo is describing. Your making no indication that you wanted to have sex should be considered an indication that you DON’T want to. In Hugo’s case, his girlfriend made every indication that she wanted it and he had no reason to believe she didn’t. But Hugo and a lot of the other people on here think that it is still the man’s responsibility to know if the woman doesn’t want to have sex even if she gives every indication that she does. One person on here even implied that a man should be aware of his own physical attractiveness and based on that, decide whether or not a woman would want to have sex with him. That is simply ridiculous.

        • That’s the problem, you should never assume when it comes to sex. Just because you’re generally attracted to someone does not mean you’re always up for sex with the person. Kissing does not indicate wanting sex, neither does cuddling or fooling around. The only indicator that someone wants sex is saying so. Many people enjoy the act of kissing, the act of fooling around, and the act of cuddling independently from sex for an assortment of reasons. You’re not entitled to decide that another person’s decision to do one thing means they’re down for anything. If you guys were so good at “ready body language” like you think, men wouldn’t be praising the woman with the tight vagina–a clear biological indicator of discomfort/anxiety/non-arousal. You would pick up on someone going cold when you try to move on to sex instead of pushing on as if she was still enthusiastically participating. Give me a break dude. If more men knew what clear indicators for wanting sex were we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

          • Not all tight vaginas are due to someone not in the mood. Some women do kegel exercises, some are tighter naturally. The reason tighter is celebrated is because it often feels better for the penis, kegel muscles should be able to help with that. What if she is very lubricated but still very tight?

            “If more men knew what clear indicators for wanting sex were we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”
            And if more women were honest with their feelings, and communicate them appropriately, which means using that thing called a voice if your partner is bad at reading body language just like you use french to talk to a french person that doesn’t understand other languages. Communication is a 2 way street which is even harder to pick when your partner doesn’t show all that much body language when WANTING sex let alone not wanting it.

            Relying solely on body language to communicate is a very bad idea because not everyone understands it perfectly, nor understands your signs perfectly. Both the male n female have responsbility to communicate their feelings during sex, before and after. If a female is being quiet but showing what she thinks is disinterest yet he is reading it as something else then there will be a problem. This is probably worse when people are young especially if each gender acts differently and shows different body language. A woman afraid to speak up is also failing to communicate verbally and this is gonna be a real big problem with inexperienced men who may have trouble reading what sign is what. Confusion happens with body language outside of the bedroom, it sure as hell happens in the bedroom too. It’s a good idea to only have sex with enthusiastic consent to help avoid this.

            Women and men, use that voice, speak up, don’t rely on body language to communicate your feelings only. Body language is fucking terrible to rely on, confusion happens, and when it does the fault lies with both parties for not setting boundaries, discussing them like mature adults, and LEARNING how to communicate with their partners. Yes, you have to learn how to communicate. If these guys suck at reading your body language, then part of the problem is your failure to communicate in THEIR LANGUAGE. Verbal can be much more direct and harder to get wrong, unless of course you lie about wanting sex which further fucks things up. Btw, this doesn’t mean those who know your body language and purposely ignore it, they’re terrible people.

            I wouldn’t expect women to know my body language when we have sex, they might notice I am nervous and think I don’t want the sex but I probably do want sex and I can deal with the anxiety. Women that don’t use their voice won’t ever find out if I want sex or not if they’re misreading my body language.

            This all applies to both genders, but I guess I could say YOU GIRLS need to use your voice, YOU GIRLS need to take responsibility for your failure to communicate effectively and rely on a system full of miscommunication partly due to both genders having slightly different body language (unless of course you know a lot of men touching their hair when they like someone, or women using their hands subconsciously to aim to the crotch whilst holding their belt). Everyone needs to take responsibility for their failure to communicate, not just the men. It’s interesting for you to assert cuddling independent of sex because cuddling also LEADS TO SEX A LOT so how exactly has the guy read a situation wrong WHEN cuddling is a common activity full of body language that often leads to sex? She’s also at fault for sending a mixed signal via cuddling especially if she has had sex with him after cuddling before. If you don’t want to have sex after cuddling, LET HIM KNOW in whatever language he understands.

          • Exactly!

      • You should have taken responsibility for yourself and firmly told your significant other no. You are responsible for opening your mouth, and not clamming up like a coward. You were just afraid of being rejected, so instead of saying no, you let your significant other proceed with sexual acts.

        • What part of “I was young and hadn’t found my voice” didn’t you understand? She doesn’t need your advice or your judgment, so kindly piss off and take your self-righteous blame game somewhere else. What she should or shouldn’t have done is no business of yours, and she certainly didn’t ask for your advice.

          “You let it happen” is a disgusting thing to say to a woman who was sexually exploited. It may not have been exactly “rape,” but does it need that label to be exploitative and coercive behavior? The onus IS on the person who initiates sexual activity to make sure his or her partner actually wants to participate, and having sex with someone who lies there and waits for it to be over is pretty clear evidence that you don’t care how she feels.

          Even if she was afraid of rejection, her boyfriend had no right to bulldoze over her feelings and pursue sex with her “lifeless body,” as she put it. Do you even hear yourself? You’re legitimating coercive sex by blaming the victim for not being confident enough to stand up against it? Do you also shame victims of violent rape also by telling them they should have fought back harder?

          Lastly, being in a relationship with someone IN NO WAY indicates that you always want to have sex with them. You may be attracted to someone on a general level, but that doesn’t mean that you are at their disposal for sex whenever they feel like it. Relationships don’t negate consent.

        • I cannot believe what I’m reading. Calling a victim a “coward” is sickening. You don’t know what it’s like to be in that type of situation; I do. It is anything but cowardly to speak up about one’s experience and defend victims from those who would belittle or deny them, much like you are trying to do.

        • You are a scumbag. No, seriously.

      • When I was 14 years old, something very similar happened to me with a partner I wasn’t attracted to, I was just too scared/nervous to say no when he asked me to be his girlfriend. I am 17 now and I live with the effects this event inflicted on me and the depression afterwards. I’ve only tried to explain it to one person I trusted very much. I never felt like anyone else would treat it seriously, or make fun of me, or understand. I had no idea that this happened to other people as well. After having my first sexual experience since then, it brought up old feelings of depression and low self-esteem. I found this article and your comment, and I am literally in tears. Thank you for sharing your story. Now I know there are people that understand and I’m not alone.

      • I realize I’m replying to this a year late, but:
        I wouldn’t ever dismiss the situation YOU describe here. Maybe rape is the appropriate label for that; either way it sounds at the very least abusive and harmful.

        The situation Hugo describes is, however, very different. Everyone seems to be projecting their own experiences and ideas and stereotypes on to it. I would wish for people to listen to what the woman in question said she experienced, and what she wanted.

    • Thank you for putting into words what I want to say to the man who wrote this article.

      I had a very similar situation arise with my boyfriend, only it was the other way around. He told me that he would have sex with me when he didn’t really want to, just so that I would be happy or satisfied. We broke up not too long after that conversation. It ate at me for years. Years. The whole time I was with him, I was so sure that everything we did together was done out of mutual love and passion. And then he told me that there were times when he wasn’t really into it at all. I felt embarrassed. I was ashamed of myself. I thought that there was something fundamentally wrong with me for not picking up on any of this, even after dating for almost three years, and it affected so many of my relationships afterwards.

      It took me many years to figure this out, but I know now that I did absolutely nothing wrong. He was fully in the right and had every opportunity to tell me that he didn’t want to have sex. I never once forced him to do anything. I couldn’t force him. I loved him too much.

      The girl that you dated was completely in the wrong, and you should in no way feel guilty about the things you did with her. It wasn’t rape. You aren’t an “accidental rapist,” and it’s disgusting to me that you actually think of yourself that way. Grow up.

    • LTD.Edition says:

      I disagree. If it’s unwanted, it’s not okay.

      If someone decides to have sex even though they don’t want to but because they feel pressured to do it (even if it’s for the other person) that’s wrong. In fact, in some countries it IS legally defined as rape when that happens.

      The fact is, you might not recognize it as such when it happens or even deny it after (Shocker, people deny things like this because it is too painful to accept). It doesn’t matter what you say, or how you act. It’s about what you want. If you don’t want it, then it’s non-consensual, even if you say yes, it’s pressure. Pressure to please the other regardless of your own thoughts on the matter, to be the perfect partner or “be nice”. It is NOT because you “want to”. And that’s the issue.

      I’ve been in the situation you say your husband had been, where I said yes when I didn’t want to. I think many people have been, they feel like they must. It feels shameful and wrong and causes pain afterwards that gets buried. It can lead to other issues later on as it builds.

      Instead of blaming him, or the women that say yes when they actually aren’t okay with it, recognize that it’s a mutual problem. The problem is our lack of ability to properly communicate our needs and wants. We make assumptions and don’t talk to each other clearly and openly about what we feel comfortable with. It’s a societal problem, one that needs to be addressed on a personal and cultural level. Yes, he should have been clearer, these women should have been clearer. But, you should have made it clear that it’s okay to say no, how you feel now that you found out and what you two can do to avoid such an unfortunate situation in the future. However, instead of owning the fact that there is a shared responsibility, or that you may have in some way been pressuring him, in a way having power over him (or her as the case would be for men, but I’m talking to you), you deny. Diverting all blame to the person who felt pressured and violated.

      How do you think that would make someone feel? It sucks to think that you violated someone by doing something they didn’t want, and it hurts to think that the person you loved didn’t feel that they could be open and honest with you. But it happened, accept it. Because if you don’t accept it, you can’t recognize the problem or work to find a solution.

  26. Free Human Being says:

    So just to be sure, the good men project is a feminist blog parading as a men’s blog in order to tell men how they should act based on the theories of people who believe nobody has the right to tell them how to act?

    It appears that Hugo seems to only write anti male pieces that paint men as bad – women as victims. I guess I should have guessed from the name of the blog that men are inherently bad and therefor need a project to set them straight unlike those perfect other genders whom need no advice.

  27. I just thought I would post a quick comment of a perfect example of this article. There’s a movie called “Boys on the Side”. This scene comes up where a guy and girl are making out and groping and he lays her down and starts to unsnap her bra. She says “No…no…wait…I’m a little drunk…no” but he keeps trying and sure enough he finally gets his way.

  28. The weird thing about feminists like Hugo Schwyzer is that he argues that women should be regarded as equals, then he also claims that women are poor, weak, pathetic beings who cannot be expected to speak up for themselves. I’m with Amanda; if you can’t assert yourself like an adult during sex, then you should not be having sex in the first place.

    • Please read Aeaon Blue’s post above. While I agree with you in essence, she demonstrates so perfectly why it’s neither called for nor necessary or decent to call women in this situation “poor, weak, pathetic creatures”, just to avoid having their issues conflated with rape.

      Like ThatGirl says, these are two entirely separate sexual issues, one truly horrific and one kinda-awful-too-though-on-a-whole-different-scale. Though on the surface they’re similar since they’re about sex and consent. Removing the word rape from discussion of the latter would be a very good start for feminists.

  29. My husband, a good, wonderful man, has had a history of believing that “while “no means no” anything short of a firm “no” is either a “yes” or a “keep at it, boy, because you just might get a ‘yes’ soon.”” Later, in couples counseling, he admitted that when I declined sex that he didn’t believe me. He thought it meant he should try again later, or push harder. After having my “no” rejected and ignored so many times, most of the time, I gave in. It was easier than enduring an endless barrage of childish pleadings. And, after all, he was my husband. Women were supposed to have sex, even if they didn’t want to – even my counselor had said so. It got to the point that when he’d touch me, I’d go dead still and daydream so I wouldn’t have to feel what was going on. He never seemed to notice that I wasn’t mentally “there.”

    I began having nightmares about my parents sexually abusing me, which was confusing and shameful, because they were good people that would never do such a thing. My husband was convinced I was repressing childhood sexual abuse. Then, one day, I woke up fresh from such a nightmare and realized – knew, without a doubt – that those dreams were about me and him. His overstepping of boundaries and my passive acceptance of this had led to a deep well of shame, helplessness, and trauma that I had been denying for a long time. I denied it because I loved him, and he was a good man, and I had consented.

    I was relieved to find out what was going on. I tried explaining things to him, and he thought I was accusing him of rape. He panicked and told my family. Everyone was furious at me, saying a lot of things people in this thread have said: I was insulting real rape victims, I didn’t resist hard enough, somehow my “no” was’t sincere enough, or he would have stopped, whatever happened had been my fault, because he didn’t have to hold me down to do it. He was a good man. I loved him. I consented. The real trauma this situation produced, the one that gave me nightmares and turned sex into something fearful for me, was dismissed, because what I’d been through was conflated with rape. There was no inbetween words for non-consensual, or less than eager sex in our cultural vocabulary.

    He and I went to counseling and we got it worked out. He learned that no means no. I found the courage to say it every time i needed to say it. These days, I can have sex even if I’m not in the mood; it can be enjoyable, if it comes from a place of love and generosity, instead of fear and complacence, and it helps knowing that when I do say no, it will be respected.

    This article reached me, because I’ve been through it and I hope people understand the message I think the author is trying to get at: You have to listen, and you have to respect what your partner wants. Carelessness can lead to pain. The line between consent given with enthusiasm and consent given out of hopelessness and despair can be blurry. This is difficult to talk about because people want to turn it into a blame game, but it’s a mutual problem in the relationship. Dismissing it as a game of “crying rape” is hyperbolic and missing the point. It’s a problem that good people can have. People that love each other, and consent.

    • Maybe we could remove all instances of the word “rape” from this dialogue and get somewhere. Rape is an entirely separate and horrific thing, and it is not on the same plane as a decent man just not getting it. But that doesn’t mean that a loving man (or hey, a woman) can’t cause pain by pushing, and the fact that men *should* accept “no” and women *should* unhesitatingly say it, always and only when they mean it, doesn’t erase this problem.

  30. I find relating anything that is being talked about in this article to rape is an abuse to rape victims. 99% of rapists KNOW they are raping and in fact what gets them off is rape. Anybody who has problems enforcing their boundaries due to cultural or personal reasons cannot fault the other person involved. If someone offers you something to eat and you don’t want to eat but you do not refuse and/or they continue to insist and you give in then it is YOU who has a problem. You have consented. It is you who have violated yourself by consenting to something you did not want. This article is offensive and even more so in that it couches its stupidity as pro woman.

    • Those are excellent poimts. Thank you

    • Nice victim blaming there, Ana. As a victim of something similar, I know that I was taught that a rapist is a scary guy hiding in an alley to catch me if I’m dressed “provocatively” and walking alone at night. I gave pseudo consent to an ex boyfriend who pressured me into sex even after I threw up from being nervous because I was scared as to what it would mean if I said no. Did I violate myself? Was that my fault?

      • “Did I violate myself? Was that my fault?”

        Yes. Your boyfriend might have “pressured” you, but consent, whether “pseudo” or not, is consent. It’s called personal responsibility.

  31. This reads to me as another way of a man claiming he won’t have sex with women until they do it exactly the way he dictates, and he’s setting the bar inhumanly high for any ongoing relationship.

    The whole thing is entitled, manipulative bullshit. The man does not get to decide what ‘yes’ means (barring obvious incapacitation on the woman’s part). His article appropriates the right of a woman to say ‘yes’ and mean it and instead puts the power to interpret that ‘yes’ into the man’s hands.

  32. As an actual rape victim, not someone who expected a guy to read my mind, I am almost offended by any idiot who thinks that a man should have to guess whether yes really means no. Say yes, say no…don’t be a wuss. If you are old enough to be having sex, you are old enough to speak your mind about it. Don’t say no just to get him to push for it so you feel some kind of power over him, don’t say no because you want to have sex but have some kind of virginal guilt complex and feel you need to be talked into it because if you don’t you are a tramp. Don’t say no because you want more foreplay, don’t say no when you really mean not right now because that just sets guys up to think if they push you enough you’ll give in.

    If you say no and he doesn’t listen then he’s a rapist, if you say yes but mean no then you’re an idiot.

    • In addition, you’ve obviously missed the entire point of this article. The article is discussing the need to make both parties responsible, active consenters….not to preach that men should try to play mind-readers.

  33. Does anyone make a “sexual consent form” pad? Just a small one should suffice, your name, her name, date, the sex act, date, signature. Carbon copy for her, original for you. I’d make things so much better.

  34. Note: this can all apply if you reverse the sexes, too, I’m just going to stick with the set-up in the article.

    I’ve definitely been in Katie’s position, and I’m lucky enough to have stuck it out with the guy, so I have his perspective also. First, I didn’t blame him at all; I did *wish* that he could have been a mind-reader but realized that the problem was my literal inability to say anything to stop things I didn’t want. He was interested in sex but definitely trying to be a good guy, and was torn up when I finally managed to explain things to him after the fact (although he still felt more generally bad for me than guilty, since he knows he’s not a mind-reader).

    Anyway, asking for permission for every little thing could certainly kill the mood. I’d say that above all, we need to help girls be comfortable declaring their boundaries – it’s something I’ll focus on for sure if I ever have daughters.

    And meanwhile, a workaround for men (or whoever’s the enthusiastic one) could be suggesting a sort of “safe word”. I just thought of this, haven’t tried it myself. It might be easier for the uncomfortable one to squeeze out a tiny, previously agreed upon word that means “put on the brakes,” and then talk from there if need be. (After all, odds are good that the mood is already dead for whoever uses the word!) That way if everyone seems enthusiastic and no one says the word, there’s no need to ask for a yes at every step.

    • How about women (because they should be women if they are having sex) just learn to say “No, not now.” Why do you need a safe word when NO is sufficient? I really don’t understand. I have been raped and believe me I said no. Even when I was scared I said no. Even when I was being choked I said no. Even when I was bleeding I said no. So why is it when a woman is in a safe situation with a man who supposedly cares about her she has a hard time saying no?

      • Amanda – why is it hard to say no? Don’t ask me, I’m just telling it like it is. It’s wonderful that this isn’t a problem you have. Notice how I said a safe word would be a workaround while girls (ok yes, Women) learn how to “declare their boundaries,” ie SAY NO. I fully agree that it’s terrible and even ludicrous not to be able to.

        Ok, maybe the answer to “why?” is exactly because it’s not rape, because the guy is not a jerk and you like him, so how could something he’s doing be bad? Will he think it’s stupid if you say no? Again, I’m not saying any of these are good *reasons*, I’m just saying it happens. Please, absolutely, let’s have more women learning to say “No, not now.” Yes. Good. Two enthusiastic thumbs up!

      • …obviously no is NOT sufficient as you so clearly express with your story. The best precaution is to discuss it beforehand. If your partner is incapable of discussing with you maturely an unwanted sexual situation then at least you know beforehand that it’s not a relationship you want to be in. I honestly find it offensive that you would perpetuate the attitude so many people have about women being women and how no should be sufficient and in the same instance discuss how despite your “sufficient” no you were raped. Having been in that situation, you should seek the change to minimize this horrible victimization to others.

        • You are misunderstanding Amanda’s point. In the situation discussed in the article, her “no” would have been plenty sufficient to stop the sex. To then feel victimized, as if you had actually been raped (which the college girlfriend in the article did NOT, but the author still titles the piece “the accidental rapist”), would just be bizarre. (To feel awful in other ways, and maybe rightfully disappointed in or disgusted by your partner, would be pretty natural. But that is quite different from the deep trauma of a rape.)

          Of course, if you are with a threatening person you really feel you have reason to fear, then quietly submitting to sex may be the best thing and yes, that is rape. But that is again an entirely different situation than the one in the article.

  35. Maybe instead of waiting for a yes or no you can ask your partner, ‘what do you want me to do to you?” or ‘what do you want to do to me?’ or something like that. Consent is a really tricky question because it’s hard to get consent constantly without taking some of the sexiness out of it.
    Or make the assertion of “yes I want it” part of the foreplay.
    At the end of the day a lot of the problems are to do with the fact that women and girls are often uncomfortable saying no to their partner, or feel that it’s their obligation to please them when the partner wants it. I think it’s the case for men too; men are always supposed to be at the ready and constantly wanting sex or they’re not ‘real men’.

  36. There are plenty of times that my boyfriend and I have sex and I’m not all that into it, but I do it anyway. I’m still consenting, even without displaying the obvious level of desire mentioned in this article. I never feel taken advantage of afterwards, ever. Men and women — humans in general — are sexual beings. We, for the most part (not all of us), want sexual interaction. It’s up to the person who is uncomfortable or not consenting to speak up. No one is a mind-reader, and if you’re in the middle of being passionate on a smaller scale (making out or other foreplay), any adult is going to consider that leading to something even more intimate — sex. So adults are expected to express whether or not that is something they want. I completely agree with Scott’s comment above — but it does not only apply to women. Men and women need to speak out if they do not want their sexual relations to reach that stage. “No” means no, “yes” means yes — but body language speaks volumes. In this story, Katie became timid because she did not know how to say “no” but just as we are taught to seek consent (verbally or otherwise), we should also be taught to make consent clear. I’m not a victim-blamer, and I understand that many people feel that their consent — willful or otherwise — may affect their entire relationship. Still, we must have the self-respect enough to say NO when mean to.

  37. cargobikeman says:

    at my middle age of life , the only consentual sex there is , is in writting backed up verbally , and with her physical acceptance, since older women me age KNOW how to EXPRESS themselves at all times , it’s not quantity , but quality , and always time well spent , go slow , real slow , man .

  38. I’m sorry you had to experience this. But it does capture a very real slice of American life. Women who’re denied ownership of their sexuality (they’re supposed to look sexy, but not act sexual, right?). Who’re told it’s their responsibility to keep guys at bay (because guys are guys and really can’t help themselves). And that sometimes you need to give in (to please).

    All false, false, false.

    But these ideas persist. With the result of unsafe sex and (as Abma has found) young women saying that even if the sex was consensual, it wasn’t always wanted.

    Is it because they’re not supposed to want it? Or is it because they’ve been taught they shouldn’t want it. Or because they haven’t been equipped with the knowledge and means to say no AND yes. And to specify what exactly this means to them.

  39. Frank Mueller says:

    Sorry it seems you two are not doing so well in the ability to communicate. This seems to really over-generalize and condemn all people who have sex and have a meeting of the minds well enough to be emotionally stable. It is as if one person can decide later for any reason that there was not a meeting of the minds when there was in an effort to guilt or shame the other person. It looks like there are contrary views here your presenting but not contradictory ones which would support the idea of cognitive dissonance your hinting at but not out and out saying.

    Starting off with the statement that “Sometimes I say ‘yes’ when I’d rather say ‘no.’” implies your talking about some justification of cognitive dissonance but your not unless you really did not talk to her but took her clothes off because you were excited. In that case it may be you are attempting now to alter her perception of what happened by making it public. Do this person have her permission to talk about her sexual activity?

    Another reason people talk so obtusely to other saying things like “Sometimes I say ‘yes’ when I’d rather say ‘no.’” is they want to break up with them and don not want to take responsibility for it so they cause a communication breakdown that leads to the inevitable. It could of have been she was just not into the person she said this to…just some thoughts..

  40. So “no” means “no”, and quiet consent means “no”, and “yes” might mean “no” too. I think I’ve got it now. Thanks for clarifying that.

    • It’s easy. Stop worrying about the nos, and pay attention. If you get an enthusiastic response, then go ahead, anything else, check. Surely you want to have sex with someone who really, really, really wants to.

      • Really? So we’re stopping the sexy train every 5 seconds to say is this ok?

        • Well Amanda, if that’s what you think it takes to avoid hurting someone, then perhaps so, though I suppose it depends on how willing you are to just go ahead and risk it.

          I think the answer lies in the only useful thing they told me in high school “sex ed” – work out how you are going to respond to your partner AHEAD of time, NOT in the heat of the moment. That may mean you psyche yourself up to say “no” when you need to, or it might mean a quick conversation with or note to your partner ahead of time. (The “safety word” isn’t just for that whips-n-chains depraved dungeon scene!)

          The idea that talking about physical intimacy ahead of time “ruins” the experience is silly at best, dangerous at worst.

          • Thank you, Aaron. I think the attitude that Amanda has posed is far too prevalent. No favors are being done by trying to preserve the passion in what could actually be an uncomfortable and possibly non-consensual relation.

  41. Some people are still in the 1800’s. We in the last few years have made it a minefield for both sexes. We as human being do not want the reviled “Antioch” rules. one needed a yes for every stage. for example: may i kiss you rather than going for the kiss. May i kiss your.. etc burdensome and anti sex at it’s worst.

  42. I thought this was an extremely thoughtful article. In recent years I’ve learned to be more careful about “the yellow light,” and I’m vocal about when I only want to be close rather than sexual… But as a teenager and young woman that was hard, and there were definitely instances when the situation escalated at a pace that outstripped my ability to express discomfort. I had sex many te when I didn’t want to, sometimes with people whom I didn’t want to, because I felt like I owed them, because they just wouldn’t let up, or because I was worried it would be the end of the relationship if I asked them to stop.

    I think this article walks a fine line between holding men accountable (be sensitive, look for non-verbal cues, etc.) and acknowledging that women have to learn how to express themselves. I’ve been sexually active for a decade now, and I’ve only been with one man that I felt followed the author’s suggestions. I’m not saying my experience is universal, just that maybe this article isn’t as off-base as some think it is.

  43. We need an explanation of the moderation policy of the Good Men Project because its unacceptably opaque. It appears that GMP controls comments in order to control the debate. If they are going to do this they should be so sly about it.

  44. I feel like this makes a bit too much of a generalization about men. I may be the exception, but in every sexual relationship I’ve been in, at some point I’VE been the one who has wanted to say no but felt like I couldn’t, usually because of a fear of hurting the girl’s feelings or getting into some protracted argument. I never felt taken advantage of; at most, I was annoyed that I felt powerless to assert my desires and have the other person respect them. The author makes a very good point that the ideal sex is between two people who are completely enthusiastic about it, but more caution needs to be used when throwing the word “rape” around.

    • Yes this is true for me as well. In every relationship with a woman I have been in a position where I had sex with her because I thought she wanted it and I knew if I said I didn’t want sex she would be annoyed. There is of course another element to this which is that I didn’t want to deny her sex because I didn’t want her to deny me sex when I wanted it. I didn’t feel powerless though. I just felt that this is one of the things you do in a relationship.

      Now I am sure that someone will tell me that I am extremely dysfunctional, that I deserve better, that there is another much better world I could be a part of. But here is the thing in all of my relationships: I have been content, mostly very very happy and satisfied. So why should I care. The progressives are always telling us how much better things could be. But things aren’t getting better, we are just getting guiltier, more selfish, more competitive the more we listen to them.

      Unlike moderns, I have never believed in optimization. Not everything is perfect. You are not always happy. You don’t always get exactly what you want. And the greater your expectations the more unhappy you will be. This is something the Stoics understood, the Buddhist knew, and many of the others who have thought deeply about it but that in our modern society we have completely lost sight of.

      Notice Hugo words: We all deserve better. This type of thinking is a recipe for dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

      • I would have to disagree with your point and some others that have been posted. The relationship he poses is one of active consent with a mutually respectful and enjoyable togetherness. Too often society quantifies “rape” as a scenario in which the man is forcing down the woman and holds a weapon to her as he demands sex and takes it. To some, it’s obviously so much more than this, but to most it’s the only way to see it. If the victim isn’t bruised and bloody to prove they tried to fight, then their no is invalid. Because of a lack of understanding of the many different scenarios that could qualify as rape, the line is blurred. I’ve personally seen that it’s a sad occurrence that jokes are often made regarding sexual assault and rape- it’s in these situations that the word “rape” is thrown around carelessly. Sex needs to be the result of active consent, not assumed. The author doesn’t remove fault from the girl because she didn’t express how she felt, he makes the point that both parties are responsible, as it should be in every situation.
        Assman, recognizing that our action or lack there-of leads us to inappropriate situations and negative feelings in a relationship that should be enjoyable is NOT a recipe for dissatisfaction and unhappiness. It’s a recognition in our responsibility of those feelings and a call for change.

  45. The Wet One says:

    Here’s a nice guy who’s not a rapist.

    See the problem?

    Speak up ladies.

    • He responded perfectly to that, and she really was a moron.

      And I REALLY hope that the number guys who see situations like that and think they should just go for it on the off chance is decreasing.

    • I think Hugo seems like a great guy, but look at the cultural undertone here: “I’m this great big man holding this tiny thing’s fragile little heart in my strong, capable hands. I could crush it in an instant!” And then comes the obligatory repentance to assert that he’s really a good guy: “and I’ll hate that power for all eternity!”

      I don’t think Hugo is doing this on purpose, like I said, he’s obviously a good guy. None of us “good guys” cave to social-sexual stereotypes on purpose. And, of course, it takes two, as she’s his willing partner in this little litle dance; making Hugo responsible for her choice not to communicate (that poor, fragile thing!). I was a teenager once to0, and I like to think I grew up and got over it. It’s time for Hugo to cut himself a little slack!

  46. No. Uh-uh. All wrong, women can verbally state that they do not want to have sex with the man that they are with. Period. No we do not need to learn to pick up “cues” “signals” or “clues”. That is just game-playing which leads to crazy-making. I can assure you very few men are going to get forceful if the woman they are with says “No” . The ones that do ARE rapists which is a whole other department.

    Saying that men need to pick up these clues from women who are still having sex with their men is saying that women are incapable and or inept in some way. Saying that IS not being very feminist.

    Which I am not.

  47. Studies have shown that men have no trouble interpreting subtle non verbal signals coming from their boss or client.

    Why is that I wonder?

    • “men have no trouble interpreting subtle non verbal signals coming from their boss or client.”

      These studies are very wrong. And how the fuck would they even know?! The studies could only know if an interpretation is correct if they themselves form an interpretation. But how would they know their interpretation was correct?

      I work in a corporation and we have enormous difficulty interpreting non verbal signals from bosses or clients. Its also extremely frustrating, soul-destroying and annoying to work in corporations where this form of communication prevails. My boss spends maybe 50% of his time trying to interpret the non-verbal signals of his boss and none of us are sure whether we are right. We are always second-guessing.

      I would feel like I was stuck in a special hell if my communications with women were ever as ambiguous as what happens in a corporation.

  48. Yeaa……..

    Most guys would understand if she actually said no, they’d pull out. Accidental Rape? There is no such thing.

  49. Now, there’s a lot of booing and hissing from the audience, but I actually am glad that Hugo wrote this article. I have been the AFAB (assigned female at birth) individual on the other end of this equation more than once. I have gone through intense periods of low self-esteem that have led me to be UNABLE to verbally vocalise my “no!” I have had several occasions in which I really did feel raped, but couldn’t make my mouth go. I have had sex that I didn’t want, to soothe someone else, to placate them, to get them out of my hair, the list goes on. I have left sessions of supposedly consensual sex feeling… lesser. Violated. Dehumanized. To wit, raped. And COMPLETELY enraged with MYSELF, because *I* was the one with the responsibility to, as it were, “flash the red light!” I considered myself a relatively strong, empowered feminist… until suddenly I found myself under someone (who had no intention of hurting me, natch) unable to breathe with panic and unable to say “no.” Talk about self-esteem destroying moments! This is a very real and scary issue, for both sides of the equation! When I finally told one of my partners what had been happening, they were totally horrified, and it caused some serious consequences in our relationship. Thanks for trying to start a discussion about this issue, Hugo. I appreciate it.

  50. I agree with many aspects of this post, particularly how you assign responsibility to BOTH parties. Women really need to learn to be more assertive, and our society training girls to be people-pleasers is harmful to everybody. Men also need to be more sensitive to such issues.

    That said, I think that you are using the term “rape” too loosely here. I think what you are really referring to here is “pressure”. She felt pressured into having sex, whether actively by you or not, and that’s very different from “accidental rape”, which, frankly, is an oxymoron.

  51. J.G. te Molder says:


    No, rape is not non-consensual sex. Rape is sex coerced by force.

    And no, rape is not increasingly well-defined, it is increasingly expanded… for men, that is. A woman does the same things that would land a man in jail for rape, and society says, “You go, girl.” And if a man should claim rape as a woman would have; he gets kicked out the building he mad the claim in; that is after being laughed at and ridiculed.

    Alcohol, for example, which will probably soon be added to the legal definition, even if the woman imbibed it freely of her own will before even meeting the guy she choses to sleep with, even if he’s equally drunk. For as we all know, a man is not only responsible for his own actions and choices, but women’s actions and choices as well.

    And who can we thank for this ever increasing legislation: feminism. Congratulations girls, feminism treats you like little, pathetic, incompetent children, and men as competent, capable adults.

    • dumb. rape is more than sex coerced by force, or else all those women drugged into it, well, that must not be rape, right? what about those too frightened to say no? well, they probably wanted it because the guy didn’t like, HIT them.

      i find it funny and sad that men, when complaining (and rightfully) about the discrepancy between prosecution of women’s rape cases vs. men’s somehow blame the feminists for this?? tell me, WHO is doing the majority of raping of men (other men)? WHO comprises the majority of the legal system not taking these crimes seriously (other men)? And most importantly, WHY is male rape stigmatized and mocked (by other men)? Because the victim has been treated like a woman, and what could be more degrading than to be penetrated. Believe me, we’d be on the same team at de-stigmatizing male rape, because it would #1) help rape to be taken more seriously in general, and 2) help de-stigmatize the trope of sex-as-domination that is so often aimed at women and so often at the root of rape, both on men and women. but since men mistreat other men and men are too scared to talk about it, it must be women’s fault, right?

      • J.G. te Molder says:

        Tricking someone to take drugs would be force. And those to frightened to say no, should have said no. The entire article is about it: no human being is a mind-reader, men can’t be expected to be mind-readers.

        Women’s fault? Sweetheart, feminists does not constitute women. There are both women and men that are feminists, and there both women and men that are not.

        And it is feminists fault, because feminists spend their time ever increasing the definition of rape, constantly saying all kinds of things are rape that aren’t, constantly blaming men for women getting raped (which wasn’t rape) and women’s own choices. It’s gotten so far that men can’t face their accusers; because feminists said it was too traumatic for the “victims”. And how is he expected to prove his innocence if he can’t face his accuser, that so-called constitutional right that got torn to shreds for the men accused of rape. And yes, it is prove his innocence, not show merely reasonable doubt. When it comes to rape, even if officially it is still “innocent until proven guilty”, unofficially it is “guilty until proven innocent”. Hell, feminists around the world are clamoring for that to become official.

        And who is to blame for all the mocking of male-rape; not men (unless they’re feminists), but feminists! Feminists have spent the last 40-70 years hammering it into everyone with propaganda everywhere that only women get raped, and it’s always men that are the perpetrator’s, because that’s what nets them the money and the power, the massive privilege in biased legal sentences; always far less than men, if they even get punished at all. The moment feminists publicly announce, that no, men are raped more often than women, and no women do some of the raping of men and women as well, it isn’t just men that are perpetrators; their entire house of lies comes crumbling down around them.

        So onward, with the propaganda of women as the eternal victims, and men as the eternal demons. And if that is the way it is, and all of society views it that way; well, that man that is a victim, can’t possibly be a man, right? It’s feminists that are to blame for the stat of these affairs; for the continued and ever increasing reducing of men to disposable walking ATM-machine and beast of burden status. It’s their propaganda that has pushed this view of men to greatest height in human history within the western world; and it is done by no one else.

      • “tell me, WHO is doing the majority of raping of men (other men)?”

        WOMEN! Most sex according to feminist definitions is rape. There is only one type of sex that is not rape and that is where a women and a man obtain unambiguous, enthusiastic consent to every single sexual act. If a woman kisses a man without first asking that is sexual assault. If a man has sex with women EVEN IF HE IS TAKING AN ACTIVE ROLE, the woman has raped him if she did not obtain unambiguous and enthusiastic consent beforehand. He may be having sex with her because he doesn’t want to disappoint her (I have been raped many times this way). This is rape! It doesn’t matter whether he is thrusting his penis into her. Men are trained to always satisfy a women even when they don’t want to. If a woman doesn’t obtain unambiguous enthusiastic consent beforehand she has raped him. Notice it doesn’t matter if the man takes an active role because feminists have established that non-verbal indications of consent are INSUFFICIENT. Also a single yes is insufficient. Yeses must be obtained continually for every separate sexual act. Now it is possible that a man consents to a sexual act beforehand but later changes his mind. However he doesn’t stop because he doesn’t want to displease his woman. In this situation the woman has raped him. You have to keep asking for consent and make sure you get enthusiastic consent at every point of the sexual act. I propose one enthusiastic consent, every 30 seconds.

        Under the feminist definition almost all sex is rape. And often both people are raping each other at the same time. In other words for feminists SEX == RAPE.

  52. Sometimes my girlfriend wakes me up with a blowjob. Afterwards, I feel so…so….violated.

    Anti-sex, anti-male feminism strikes again. This article is idiocy.

  53. There is ‘wanting to be able to turn a no into a yes’ AND ‘wanting to be desired enough that someone will want to turn your no into a yes” and wanting these power trips is not the problem. The problem here is not even that people fear admitting this or fail to communicate it effectively. The problem HERE, and in sex discussions everywhere, is that we let the personal nature of our sexuality override our logical and empathetic nature as humans.

    We have to stop saying ‘there’s problems on both sides…BUT’ followed by reasons the other side should apologize more. There are not problems on both sides because there are no sides. There may be an amoeba human out there who can truly point fingers. The rest of us don’t get to if we want to get some well. And we all deserve to.

  54. Jesus, Hugo, you singlehandedly caused this site to jump the shark. Just rename the place to “the good apologist project”, finally get some truth in advertising.

  55. This does put my mixed feelings of feeling really unhappy with some of my sexual encounters and borderline feeling like they weren’t consensual, in context with the fact that I never quite felt right to “report it to the police” or “describe it as rape” or anything like that.

    It’s never really been the case that I’ve said yes when these things happen; I’ve generally expressed feelings of discomfort with the atmosphere or the timing or various other things, and, in response, had a partner push back harder or tell me that the things I was worried about didn’t matter. And since it wasn’t the case that I would have refused to have sex with them in a different place/time/whatever, I didn’t know what to do.

    Also, I don’t think guys have the responsibility to be mindreaders, but to emphasize their interest in pleasing their partners and encourage their partners to speak up if something isn’t working for them at that particular moment.

    On a sort of related note, the most amazing sexual experience I’ve had was with my current partner who I basically needed to ASK to take every additional step; he just enjoyed and perfected every little thing along the way, so I never felt pressured to go further. At least, not externally pressured.

    I think people who make actual intercourse the “goal” end up missing out on how good a lot of the other stuff can be, and I just don’t understand why that’s desirable.

  56. SuperUltraJulie says:

    Your girlfriend was an adult who was responsible for saying NO within the context of a romantic / intimate relationship.

    What your describing here is different than a RAPE. What you are describing is a different problem women and men have – synching up sexual desire & honestly communicating about it.

    Hugo…this one may be a bit over the top.

  57. Yeah, this one’s pretty silly. Hugo’s making the “women are infants who can’t be accountable for what they say and do” argument; they should be believed when they say no, but doubted when they say yes. Huh?

    We’ve been hearing “no means no” for decades now, over and over… and I agree with it. So what’s the matter with “yes means yes”? Are women really so helpless and unable to speak their minds that we have to second-guess THEIR OWN STATEMENTS in order to find out if they’re really, really sure about what they’re saying? And should this doubt flow in only one direction?

    • pillowinhell says:

      Ack! The patriarchy! The patriarchy! How dare a man second guess what a woman says!
      Boy we gotcha coming and going don’t we?

  58. Womyn are God says:

    This article is totally correct. A notarized contract should be signed by both parties prior to the initiation of coitus. If parties are not sober the contract is null and void. Furthermore, during coitus both parties should stop AT MOST every 30 seconds to determine whether the sexual inclination continues to be mutual. Failure to agree that it is must result in immediate termination of the coital act. Post-coitus, the man must sign present a waiver to a woman which she must sign to declare that the prior sex was consensual. If she refuses to sign, the man MUST be assumed 100% guilty of rape.

    • van Rooinek says:

      A notarized contract should be signed by both parties prior to the initiation of coitus.

      Full circle. We have just reinvented the marriage license! Gotta wonder if these problems didn’t arise thousands of years ago, and if our ancient taboos were actually designed to prevent the problems we see today.

      If parties are not sober the contract is null and void

      What if one of the wedding guests turns water into wine?

  59. Since I can’t recall the last time a man ever got my discomfort at his sexist statements, have never seen a man really get when women want him to shut up and stop dominating a discussion, I just assume when it comes to sex, men are as domineering and clueless as ever. NO, women don’t want to have sex with men all the time. Men don’t get this. If they can’t even stop with the sexist clueless conversational style, what makes anyone think that accidental rapists aren’t all over the map, and yes Hugo, you have raped women. In a women’s legal system you would be behind bars. Just fess up to it! Geex, you guys are dense, clueless and rapists. Yes you are.

    • pillowinhell says:



      • Interestingly Hugo’s girlfriend didn’t consider it rape. I guess she just doesn’t know when she being raped.

    • van Rooinek says:

      I can’t recall the last time a man ever got my discomfort at his sexist statements, have never seen a man really get when women want him to shut up and stop dominating a discussion…. If they can’t even stop with the sexist clueless conversational style,

      It’s called direct, linear thinking. It is INNATE in males, it is not a moral issue. If you want a man to “get” your discomfort, you have to TELL him, “That statment made me uncomfortable because..”. If you want him to stop “dominating” the conversation, you have to SPEAK UP and jump into the conversation yourself. Men are wired differently, we CANNOT read your minds or discern subtle emotional signals as your fellow women do. Since women are perfectly capable of speaking up, but men are NOT capable of reading your minds, the moral onus is on women to speak up. Period.

      You harp, “No means no!”, and men, assuming you to be honest, take you at your word…. and then you think you were raped because you initially went along with it (as happened in Hugo’s case), and FAILED to say NO …..!??!?!?!?! I have no use for the S&M realm but they have a concept called a “safeword” which, if spoken, immediately terminates any activity. Well, for regular sex, according to feminism, “No!” is the safe word. She didn’t say the safeword. It’s not rape.

      women don’t want to have sex with men all the time. Men don’t get this,

      Helloooo? Most men spend most of their lives in a state of unrelenting sexual frustration because, as we are all too painfully aware, women don’t want us as much as we want them. Much of human history is explainable by this one simple painful fact. And you think men don’t get it? Who is the cluelss one now?

      • what a goony argument. um for your information WOMEN CAN’T READ MINDS EITHER. if you want to go with the ‘innately different communication styles’ argument (which i agree, there might be something to that), the two choices are not Direct, Linear, Practical Communication or crazy voodoo mind reading. men are just as capable of learning the feminine style of communication as women are of the masculine, so there is no reason the ‘onus should be on women to speak up.’ why shouldn’t the onus be on men to be more sensitive? because it doesn’t come naturally? well guess what maybe direct speech doesn’t come naturally to women. yet women are expected to be the ones to adapt.

        typical privilege.

        • “well guess what maybe direct speech doesn’t come naturally to women.”

          Given the voluminous evidence you presented to prove this assertion I guess I have to accept it as a fact.

          In fact I have decided that you don’t believe anything you just said. I am so sensitive to your state of mind and your female method of communication that I have come to realize that whenever you say something you really mean the exact opposite but due to your female style of communication you are incapable of saying so directly.

          So I have adapted to your style of communication and concluded that I can safely assume that all your comments support my position but you are just too scared to say so directly. See we are making progress! I know your going to protest against my interpretation but I know that I am safe to ignore your protests because I am truly sensitive to what you really want.

          In fact based on this new indirect style of communication I have concluded that all women want to have sex all the time and that when they say NO the really mean Yes. See I am very good at reading women’s minds.

        • van Rooinek says:

          “…men are just as capable of learning the feminine style of communication as women are of the masculine, so there is no reason the ‘onus should be on women to speak up.’ why shouldn’t the onus be on men to be more sensitive..”

          Actually, NO, we are NOT. True story, one of many similar ones I could tell. When I asked a (then)girlfriend about a particular painful issue from her past — in the context of a discussion of both our family backgrounds — she said to me, “I don’t want to talk about that” — without any trace of irony or sarcasm in her tone. Because I am “sensitive” and “respectful”, I took her at her word, and left the issue alone. Truly, no good deed goes unpunished: weeks later she got all upset because I “didn’t care enough” to push her on the issue. Dredging that coversation up from memory..

          Me: “But…… you said, quite clearly, that you didn’t want to talk about it”
          Her: “But if you really cared about me, you would have pressed the issue…”
          Me: “But… you SAID, you didn’t want to talk about it. I respected your plainly stated wishes, because I DO care about you….”

          This, right here, is a classic example of what you call “feminine communication style”. After spending 10 miserable months with her, desperately trying to figure her out, I finally concluded that the correct term for it, is simply: “LYING”. I had encountered female lying of this type before but she had the worst case of it I’d ever encountered. BTW “accidental rape” was never an issue in this relationship, as we were both virgins. It’s ironic that a woman would have enough faith to stay a virgin til the altar, and yet disregard the Bible’s command not to tell lies, but there it is. For another irony, contemplate the fact that the feminists have been preaching at us for years, that women are to be taken at their word — “No means No!” — yet in conversation after conversation, relationship after relationship, women pull this, “yes means no, no means maybe, read my mind even though I say the exact opposite” game. Lying, in other words. And you have the gall to call it a “feminine communication style”… what an insult to honest women!

          Once again – the moral onus is and MUST BE on women to be honest. since men CANNOT read women’s minds. You can neither wriggle out of, nor refute, this truth, however desperately you may wish to resist it. I must pose the rhetorical question, WHAT THE HELL IS SO HARD about saying what you really mean, what you really think, anyway? Whether you end up going for Italian when you’d rather have sushi — or you end up having sex when you didn’t really want to — either way, afterwards, you wish you’d spoken up. Honest women are SOOOOO much happier. Why do you fight happiness so hard?

          Speaking of honest women — the day that relationship ended, I vowed that I would never again tolerate that feminine lying style, that if I ever faced it again I would INSTANTLY terminate the relationship. Guess what? Either women somehow saw they couldn’t play that game anymore, or, I stopped attracting that type of woman. Whatever the reason, nobody ever tried it again. And I got married — happily — to an honest woman — about a year and a half later.

          Heed the words of Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”, wherein Gulliver finds himself in the midsts of the perfectly honest talking horses, Hhouyhnhnms — ”
          “… in frequent discourses with my master concerning the nature of manhood in other parts of the world, having occasion to talk of lying and false representation, it was with much difficulty that he comprehended what I meant, although he had otherwise a most acute judgment. For he argued thus: “that the use of speech was to make us understand one another, and to receive information of facts; now, if any one said the thing which was not, these ends were defeated, because I cannot properly be said to understand him; and I am so far from receiving information, that he leaves me worse than in ignorance; for I am led to believe a thing black, when it is white, and short, when it is long.” And these were all the notions he had concerning that faculty of lying, so perfectly well understood, and so universally practised, among human creatures….”

          “typical privilege”

          False accusations of privilege are a standard tactic of those who wickedly seek to illegitimately privilege themselves. Ho hum. “Privilege” has now found its place alongside “Racism” in the ranks of words that no longer mean anything because they are lies almost every time they are used.

  60. Sometimes when I post comments, I don’t really want to. Hmmm, maybe the GMP is forcing me to submit these comments.

  61. I think calling this “accidental rape” is too much.

    Yes, it’s important to be conscious of non-verbal cues from our partners.

    Yes, this is especially important as a male in a heterosexual relationship since women are socialized to be more passive than men.

    But having sex with someone in the context of a consensual relationship when they’d rather not and they don’t speak up is wrong on the level of being a jerk boyfriend, not rape.

    • But having sex with someone in the context of a consensual relationship when they’d rather not and they don’t speak up is wrong on the level of being a jerk boyfriend, not rape.

      actually im quite happy to accept the feminist argument that it is rape. i welcome its introduction into jurisprudence. the revealed hypocrisy when women arent prosecuted for the same crime, will help usher in true equality before the law

  62. Ryan Williams says:

    Its apt that you use the misunderstanding of stoplights as a metaphor here. I use it a lot too. But you confuse it a bit when you later say that the only yes is an emphatic yes. In my state, for instance, the yellow light means “stop if it is safe to do so.” But most drivers will tell you it means “slow down,” and largely they will speed up when they see it. The same is true of ambiguity in sexual relationships. I would suggest that if young men or women think they see that yellow light, don’t speed up. Don’t just slow down. Stop.

  63. While the legal standard of rape is increasingly well-defined (and what happened with Katie fell well short of that legal definition),.

    Thats what you think
    But I wonder how many of your fellow feminists, from the various churches, have read your article and now think you are a rapist?!?

  64. Kool D Raziell says:

    Nice Post.
    I have been in this position once before… I felt the exact same way: nauseated, peeved at myself, and unobservant. So I decided to try something: stop having sex. At first, I just stopped initiating sex… this led to a realization: If I didn’t initiate it, it almost never happened; contrary to what you may be thinking, this wasn’t actually so bad. I kept this mentality even after my girlfriend broke up with me. I began to see how, in this patriarchal world, my lack of initiative when it came to sex had immediate consequences: I stopped getting laid entirely. Once again, this wasn’t so bad; not nearly as bad as being a rapist. I am now middle aged, happily unmarried, and no girlfriend, no kids. I think most men don’t understand: it’s male sexuality per se that is the problem. Until the day comes when women are equal enough to feel comfortable initiating sex and sexual relationships, I beseech my fellow men. Give it up!

    • The Wet One says:

      While I agree with your point, it’s errr… A bit too extreme for me.

      Is it ok if I only consult with professionals and strippers until the non professional, non strippers (or when they’re off duty at least) make come ons to me? That’s a bit of a cop out I know, but life is too short to wait for that to happen (has only happened once in my existence and I wasn’t interested).

      Quite honestly this is still a bit of an issue in my relationship. My sweet sweet love rarely / never really initiates. We’ve talked about it and I’ve said that when she wants to initiate she needs to communicate clearly. Generally, I’m still missing most of the signs because if she’s indicating interest, I’m not really hearing it. Lord have mercy, imagine how it would be if we weren’t together? Crikey! It’d be pros for me for the rest of my days.

      Thank god I’ve avoided that bummer. I guess that makes me part of the “patriarchy” but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be celibate mope just because women are afraid to come up to me and say “Wanna have sex with me?” I’m responsible for my own life. That’s just how it is.

      • pillowinhell says:

        Who are you fellas dating??? My god, I know plenty of women who aren’t the least bit shy about sex and they aren’t pros either!


        • “Who are you fellas dating??? My god, I know plenty of women who aren’t the least bit shy about sex and they aren’t pros either!”

          Better question: What drugs are you taking. Because you are delusional. Women mostly do not initiate sex especially the first time and even in committed relationships.

          This does not necessarily imply they are shy about sex although plenty of women are also shy about sex. I had a women tell me she was hedonistic, she liked sex. She wasn’t shy. She invited me to her place. But ultimately at the end she expected me to initiate, to make the first physical move.

          Let me just explain something to you:

          Saying “I enjoy sex” is not initiating sex
          Looking at the guy directly to indicate you want to fuck him is not initiating sex
          Inviting the guy to your place for a “drink” in not initiating sex

          Initiating sex means that the woman kisses you. She jumps on you. She grabs you. Takes off your clothes. Tells you lets have sex. Women may be very unshy about sex but they rarely do any of these things.

          • ” Women may be very unshy about sex but they rarely do any of these things.”

            Except in Axe commercials and porn, which strangely enough feminists hate. Why do feminists hate the few mainstream media depictions where women are actually shown to be sexually assertive.

            Because feminists are anti-sex….that is why.

  65. Trying again.

    And some of them might be accidental rapes where a girl is actively freakedout, says no, etc and the fellow doesn’t care. This examle, unless you are withholding information to prove otherwise, doesn’t seem like rape at all. It seems like clueless bad sex with two young people who aren’t really communicating. Women are not taught that they can and should communicate about sex.

    Good girls don’t, right? So women wind up in this really weird position, especially young women where on the one hand they are taught they have all this agency in the world (schools, college, jobs) and on the other they are still holding on to old old stories about what “good” girls do and don’t do.

    I imagine that 20 years ago or so, things were even more so.

    Yeah, you didn’t check in. Neither did she. She did open up and you apologized and both of you could have learned how to move on to much better sex. You didn’t at that time. But rape? I don’t think this seems like rape

  66. I feel bad for both Hugo and Katie. What happened wasn’t rape at all. I hope Katie got some counseling to uncover why she has no voice when it comes to saying “no.” I don’t believe this is some patriarchal thing. I think it’s personality driven. Plenty of women can say no and do.

  67. Squick said: “For those of you who are concerned about Hugo’s willingness to label himself a rapist; please know that he doesn’t mean a word of it. A more transparent creep would be hard to find. If you buy his garbage please get in touch, I have two Brooklyn Bridges for sale”
    I think we all know who this Troll is.
    He and his deputies never give up, do they ‘lol

  68. For those of you who are concerned about Hugo’s willingness to label himself a rapist; please know that he doesn’t mean a word of it. A more transparent creep would be hard to find. If you buy his garbage please get in touch, I have two Brooklyn Bridges for sale…

  69. I like a lot of what you have written, Hugo, and it’s great you learned from this to look more carefully for active, enthusiastic consent. But I find the level of concern over-the-top, sexist and insulting. It reads to me like a denial of women’s adulthood, responsibility and resilience. Women are not children and – even in a patriarchal society – do not need to be shielded from all mistakes, inconveniences and discomforts in life. You learned to be more aware. She undoubtedly learned to honour her own desires more. And I very much doubt she was traumatised or unable to recover from having had some sex that she engaged in just because she liked you.

  70. Tom Matlack says:

    Thanks for this Hugo. I think it speaks not necessarily to rape as defined as a criminal act but to the lack of communication–or the difficulty of communicating–across gender lines about sex specially when youth and hormones are in full blossom. As usual there are plenty of comments here worth ignoring, but I thank you for bringing up a real topic and forcing us all to think more carefully about it. I was thinking what Leah was saying that it must be hard for women to say “No” when they don’t necessarily know what they want and equally hard for men to hear “No” when a women isn’t being particularly clear about it. I recall one particular date I had years ago with a woman who seemed to like me and I her. I was driving I asked her whether she wanted to come home to my house or would prefer to end the date and go home. Her answer was so unclear, I am sure because of the bluntness of my question, that I honestly didn’t know what to do. I think that is what is you are talking about. Giving women the right to say No whenever they want for whatever reason. And for men to hear that clearly. Frankly the worst kind of sex is when one party is going through he motions in my mind. So I for one would rather not have sex at all unless the person I am with is actually excited to be with me. Call me old fashioned that way.

    • all fine and good, Tom. but do you agree with the language Hugo used to get this point across?

    • Good Lord Tom…..
      You’re *thanking* Hugo for “Giving women the right to say No whenever they want for whatever reason.” ?!?!? He’s not giving anything…we already have it ffs. You want to talk about male entitlement, look at the pair of you!
      This article is so patronizing of women that Im amazed he didnt trigger warn himself while writing the damn thing. It totally STRIPS women of any sort of personal responsibility, stating that if a partner of his is ever unsure, in the present tense or in retrospect, that he will readily assume the label of rapist, because, well shucks you know how us women are, its so darned *hard* for us to know our own minds…..*barf*

      • Yeah, I have to agree with Natasha here. Yes, women have been socialized to not be as assertive and forthright about sex and “no” as they should have been, but honestly the tone is pretty patronizing. She had every right and opportunity to tell you know and not just put up with sex. She didn’t do that. She carries some weight. That lack of no could have been because she was inexperienced, naive or plain passive aggressive and wanted you to feel like cr@p.

      • The Wet One says:

        You tell him Natasha! I’m loving it!

  71. They had women’s studies in 1984?

  72. Upon reading, I found myself disagreeing with the author on various points.
    Would you call a man in a FWB situation that misreads his partner’s body signals a rapist, and ask him to be sent to jail for committing an atrocious act of violence, and to be permanently branded amongst his peers? You say it’s not fair yourself, and I don’t think it’s reasonable nor responsible (as per above situation) to think as such. As such, the rhetoric of “rape” is drastically overblown to the point of sensationalism that undermines most of the important message.

    Second, mostly on substance, I disagree with your views on In my mind, this relates strongly to the task of household chores in a married couple. A guy may not want to clean the kitchen, but he can do it anyway if it makes his wife happy. The appropriate reaction is appreciative, not guilt. If someone wants to make you happy, it would only obfuscate joy by refusing what is done. I believe that the same applies to sex. If a woman doesn’t want sex, but wants to make the guy happy, I don’t think that creating guilt is the appropriate response. Ultimately this view adapted into modern view disempowers women, because men can do favors for women (like cleanliness that she values but he doesn’t) but it can’t be reciprocated. [While this example may play on certain stereotypes, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say men desire sex more often (as per the article) and saying women can’t provide favors is just an extent of one poor aspect behind chivalry.]

    Beyond those two (admittedly nitpicky) details, I think that the overall message that couples should open pathways of communication is important. If there’s a lack of communication, it can easily end up with both people uncomfortable, and is not healthy for the relationship nor for either person involved.

  73. Thanks for writing this. This truly speaks to my experience. Sometimes it is so difficult to say “no” – someones I’m not even sure what I want and when you’re already in the middle of hooking up with someone it’s impossible to bring up that emotional mess of uncertainty without completely killing the mood. And what happens next does feel rape-y. But it’s even more complex because you don’t want to blame the guy since you never really said anything. Guys are socialized to “keep trying” the same way girls are socialized to be pleasing. It is a shitty situation for everyone , but hopefully, if we start talking about it, things will improve.

    • Guys aren’t just “socialized to keep trying”. Guys go for sex because men, generally speaking, like to have sex with women they are sexually attracted to. Sure, a small part of this is socialization—but it is overwhelmingly biology. A lot of our culture—with regard to gender—just reinforces our biological dispositions.

      Why is this so hard to accept?

      • Women have as much a a biological drive to have sex as men. It’s the stigma that a woman who enjoys sex is a slut and a guy who is not getting any is less of a man that create the issues in the article. It’s society that has taught you women don’t want sex as much as men and men need to pursue and persuade women to get the sex they want. Most gender roles are not based in biology that’s why society needed to create and enforce strict rules to make people fall in line with gender norms. If it was just biology those rules and penalties that exist for breaking them wouldn’t exist.

        • have you ever masturbated 6 times in one day? have you ever masturbated in a wave pool? have you ever masturbated in your grandmother’s house? have you ever driven 6 hours just for the possibility that you might get to have sex? are you thinking about sex right now? have you ever bought something for someone hoping that they’ll have sex with you? have you ever taken someone on a date with the sole goal in mind of having sex with said date?

        • “Women have as much a a biological drive to have sex as men.”

          Of course, women have a biological urge to have–and enjoy–sex. But it has been proven with study after study after study that men desire sex with greater frequency than women. It is this asymmetry that animates much of the goings-on in the sexual marketplace. No one is saying that women don’t want sex, only that they are generally satisfied having it less often than men are.

          Do you deny that this asymmetry exists? Are you telling me that having 11 times as much testosterone is meaningless? Are you sentient?

  74. Now that we have this expanded definition of rape to include the Accidental rapist category – we’ve officially reached the azimuth of rape prevalence. I’ve just computed that 12 out of every 10 men will commit a rape in their lifetime. I’m struggling with this statistic a bit, as mathematically, this means that men who will never be born are also to be counted as rapists – the unborn rapist.

    What a very sad and stupid article. The author does not represent anything I feel or think. I’ll deal with my regrets and failings as such. Thank you very much.

  75. I usually like Hugo’s articles, but this one is just painful. The term ‘rape’ being used in this context is really, truly awful.

    The only time that ‘yes’ is not acceptable as a form of consent is when a person, for whatever reason, is unable to consent. For example: mentally handicapped people, children, people who have been drugged, and people with guns at their heads. Aside from that, a freely given yes is the standard of consent. Whether or not a ‘yes’ has pep to it doesn’t have any impact on if a rape occurred.

    Yes, there are plenty of social reasons why a woman who is not enthusiastic about sex would consent. If a guy has any reason (body language, previous discussions, etc.) to think that these are coming into play, most decent men would stop and check to see what’s up before going forward. That’s just basic respect for someone.

    But unless there is some reason to think that there’s a problem with the situation, I don’t see why any guy should feel even partially responsible. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was pretty confused when Hugo took FULL responsibility for what happened. If you want to label situations like that as unpleasant or unfortunate, or say that you wish you had done something different, be my guest. But defining something like that as rape is just so many shades of wrong.

    • I’m sure I’m not the only one who was pretty confused when Hugo took FULL responsibility for what happened.

      Because hugo’s brand of feminism is very patriarchial and patronising. it infantilises women. you just finally seeing it.

      reread his articles through the lens of your post

    • There was no “yes”.

  76. Hugo

    Your trigger warning triggered me because I am a victim of sexual violence, then I read your piece and found that it contains no sexual violence, so you used the trigger warning inappropriately and just for effect,and so triggered me for no good reason.


    • Ron, I hope you’re joking. If not then, with respect, if you really can’t cope with even a warning that there might be a trigger without being triggered, you should not be reading articles about rape. I have many many friends with PTSD who have to deal with the triggers of their PTSD (war, usually) on a daily basis; that does not mean that they should go looking for articles about war and then get angry because someone trying to be considerate warned them inappropriately.

      • Hugos not trying to be considerable, he is exploiting the trigger warning system in an attempt to define not rape, as rape.

        • Ron I for one hope you are joking because I find the whole concept of trigger warnings idiotic and laughable bullshit.

  77. Thaddeus’s power of clairvoyance is truly astounding –
    Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette says:
    August 14, 2011 at 11:02 am
    The way Hugo is “unfolding” and revealing himself to The Good Men Project’s readers, like some sort wierd tropical flower, I’m wondering if we won’t soon be hearing confessions, on his part, to date rape.

    God forbid, Hugo, that you actually might look at the woman who says this to you and reply with something like ” You know, darling… are (presumably) an adult, and are (presumably) not intellectually or verbally compromised in such a way that would prevent you from opening your mouth and saying ‘Not tonight Hugo’. ” Why on earth do you not hold the woman accountable for making the CONSCIOUS CHOICE to have sex when she doesnt really want to? Why do YOU absorb the blame and cast women into the role of not having the effing BRAINS to be able to say no?

    Im angry Hugo, and mostly, Im angry because you have put me in the utterly loathsome position of having to defend YOU from YOURSELF

    • The Wet One says:

      It is kinda gross isn’t it?

      Thanks for that comment Natasha! That was without a doubt the best one of the day! No doubt about it!

    • And I’m angry at you, Natasha. Believe it or not, all of us are affected by patriarchy. Verbally attacking a woman who had sex when she didn’t want to do it is very abusive.

      Natasha, have you ever have sex with a man when you really didn’t want to do it? Have you ever had sex with a man just to “keep the peace” in the relationship? Our culture teaches us to do that sort of thing and any woman who thinks she hasn’t been affected by it is lying to herself.

      • Were you affected by the patriarchy when wrote this post? Funny how people who act like women have no agency often blame an omnipotent patriarchy.

        If a women has sex with a women in order to “keep the peace” in their relationship. Then that is still a choice.

      • Marie

        “Natasha, have you ever have sex with a man when you really didn’t want to do it? Have you ever had sex with a man just to “keep the peace” in the relationship? Our culture teaches us to do that sort of thing and any woman who thinks she hasn’t been affected by it is lying to herself.”

        And what about men that are raped in relationships.

        Real rape, not the type Hugo is describing affects men in relationships with women as often as it does women with men.

        Seems a mans right to consent and a womans ability to rape is invisible to you. So its you that is upholding patriarchy, women are pure,men as sinister right?

        How does that fit into your patriarchy conspiracy theory?

      • @Marie-

        I didnt verbally attack the woman in the story, I verbally attacked Hugo.
        I verbally attacked him for being unnecessarily self-effacing and self blaming when really, a response like “I never intended for you to feel that way, of course I dont want you to have sex with me if you dont want to, why didnt you say anything?” would have been far more appropriate…and not obviated the woman of her responsibility.
        This title was misleading, this was not rape, this was REGRET SEX and regret sex is NOT RAPE. She has a responsibility to herself – nevermind the guy shes fucking – to be a better custodian of her own sexuality, *when it is within her power to do so* (that last bit added to prevent rape crazy people from assuming Im accusing women of being irresponsible when they are ACTUALLY raped…that is different).
        Women DO have an obligation to themselves, and to their partners, to not have sex when they dont want to. Own your shit, including your sex. I know its an amazingly mature and difficult thing to ask some people to do, but do it you must.
        Actually, its not that novel of an idea
        If you dont want to have sex……dont have sex

        And Marie…, I have NEVER EVER, in all the years I have been sexually active, had sex when I didnt want to. I would never CHOOSE to have sex in order to “keep the peace”. I dont believe its healthy, and I wouldnt ever do that to myself or my partner. If its not mutual, its not good.

        For the record, being “affected” by the patriarchy, is NOT the same thing as divorcing oneself of all personal responsibility, throwing up your hands and saying “but Im just a poor helpless woman with no choices or power, theres nothing I can do against a big strong man” which is EXACTLY what you are saying Marie….that we are all helpless victims in the face of this ‘patriarchy’
        Youre welcome to it, I refuse

        • Why doesn’t he have a responsibility to wait for a “yes”?

          Why is it super easy to expect women to say “no” to a loved one.

          Why is it super demanding to expect men not to touch sexually until they hear a “yes”?

          All the comments seem to be ignoring that she didn’t say “yes” and if we just had an expectation that a man waits for a “yes” most of this would be sovled. But god forbid we expect men to do something that might make it more difficult for them to have sex.

          • Anona

            I trust you never have sex unless you have got a verbal yes even though other forms of none verbal communication are transmitting yes, otherwise that would make you a hypocrite.

            Grow up, there is no patriarchy, you are expected to be as adult as we are now.

          • @Anona:

            “Why doesn’t he have a responsibility to wait for a “yes”?”

            I believe many things about Hugo, and rarely is one of them good…but I have no doubt that if she had actually said anything remotely approaching no, like “hold on” or “i need to stop for a second” or even a much more clear and to the point “Sorry babe, I really dont want to go any further than this” or just a plain old “Hugo, stop”….I wholeheartedly believe he would have done as she asked. He doesnt seem like the type that would aggressively coerce….and thats neither a compliment or an insult, so dont go getting all excited Hugo.
            The truth is, men do wait for yes…or at least they wait for no. I think that it would be tedious and unrealistic to think that men (or women) patiently sit and wait after each “move” to be flagged in. Foreplay takes a natrual progression…sometimes it stops at kissing, sometimes at petting, sometimes it goes further….especially if no one says no, and all signs (like “oh fuck me”) indicate yes.

            “Why is it super easy to expect women to say “no” to a loved one.”

            ~Why is it super hard to treat a woman like a grown up who CAN?

            “Why is it super demanding to expect men not to touch sexually until they hear a “yes”?”

            ~it’s not, no one said it was. most men do not run around playing touchie feelie with strangers who dont give consent. Even within relationships they dont do this, most couples know each other’s “go signs” and behave accordingly. My partner knows how to read me, and im not going to stop at every touch and say “yes, you may continue” i mean come ON
            We DO have an expectation that PEOPLE, not just men, but PEOPLE wait for consent….but what you dont seem to understand is that consent can be given in more ways than just verbally.

            • “Natasha, have you ever have sex with a man when you really didn’t want to do it? Have you ever had sex with a man just to “keep the peace” in the relationship?”

              Wow men really are invisible to feminists. Did it ever occur to you Maria that men have sex with women just to “keep the peace” in a relationship. Its actually quite common and its exacerbated by the fact that men are expected to always want sex, so if you reject sex a woman thinks something must be VERY wrong or that you don’t desire her. This of course implies that many many men have been accidentally “raped” by women.

              There are other things that are also invisible like the fact that men do not always enjoy sex, sometimes we fake orgasms to please our partners etc. But men are supposed to be responsible for not just our own pleasure but for hers as well. Which means if the sex is bad for us then its because we are dysfunctional. And if the sex is bad for her its because we aren’t good lovers.

              When a woman can’t get wet its blamed on the man…insufficient foreplay. When a man can’t get it up its blamed on the man….sexual dysfunction. Nobody ever says to the woman that she should have engaged in more foreplay or found ways to turn him on.

      • Marie, Ive responded to this, but its in moderation, presumably because I used the word sh_t….

        Hopefully it will be up soon

      • pillowinhell says:

        Let’s take a closer look at the definition of patriarchy…its the silent and invisible underpinning of our culture in which BOTH genders can uphold or enable. His girlfriend was upholding the patriarchy when she permitted herself to have sex with Hugo at a time she did not want it. There were no significant power differences between them, which should have made it a simple matter to speak her mind.

    • Natasha, if a woman doesn’t feel free enough to say no, the man has to ask himself, “How have I contributed to this situation? How can I let a woman know that she doesn’t have to have sex with me to keep the relationship going?”

      Remember, it takes two and just blaming the woman is very male chauvinistic.

      • So men have to take responsibility for their own sexual behaviors, choices and proclivities AND those of their partner? Why do women have no responsibility in your world?

        Ah yes…..ze patriarchy

        • The Wet One says:

          Thanks Natasha. I’m loving it! Keep it up! Woman have brains, personhood and agency too. They can use them. Even while having sex. Even when they’re young (granted, it’s harder, just like it is for males, but they can do it too!).

          • “if a woman doesn’t feel free enough to say no, the man has to ask himself, “How have I contributed to this situation? How can I let a woman know that she doesn’t have to have sex with me to keep the relationship going?”

            Again I feel the need to speak up for the invisible man. Switch the genders in the statement above. This statement applies much more strongly to men than women. Its often men having sex with women to keep the relationship going. Worse with men is that they can’t really express this because they will often get overblown reactions from women who have come to expect that men are sex machines.

      • Yeah it does take two to tango doesn’t it? So what, in your world, is her part in this? Does she bear no responsibility? If she doesn’t have the ability to assert herself and say “no, i don’t want to do this right now” Then frankly, she’s not emotionally mature enough to be having sex in the first place.

        Grow up marie.

  78. Hugo,

    a powerful and eloquent piece, thank you.

    I pondered the story for some time, and one thing that struck me was your disgust at the things that had happened. Surely, had you known her feelings then, you would not have had sex with her on the occasions she did not want to (as, you say, most good guys do, and I think that should generally be an ‘all’). So, she withheld information from you that would cause you to revoke your consent to having sex. Now my question is the following: did she accidentally rape you (in the ethical, not in the legal sense)?

    • No, I do not think she accidentally raped Hugo (in the ethical sense). This sounds like the false parallel technique of defending male dominance.

      • I’m sorry, I did not intend to create an equivalence and should have expressed myself more clearly. Of course they are not equivalent, but I think they share some similarities. Both are bad and do not justify each other.

        I would feel violated if someone got me to have non-consensual sex with them by lying (even by omission). I’d say this should rather argue against dominance and for communication.

  79. Hugo, you’re a rapist. That she didnt bring charges is beside the point. She didnt give consent. Another unreported rape, another rapist walks free. Shame on you.

    • If she kept participating, she gave consent. She was reluctant. I’m reluctant about all sorts of things I consent to. Calling someone a violent criminal because they weren’t as carefully tuned in to someone’s reluctance — not refusal or failure to consent — is morally preposterous. Expecting a grown-up who is conscious and in full control of their faculties to say no is a reasonable expectation on Hugo’s part.

  80. I’m a little distressed by the comments I see here. I think Hugo says very clearly what is at the heart of the issue of consent: that women sometimes don’t know how to say no and that the word “no” is not the only way in which humans communicate an unwillingness to engage in sexual activity. Unfortunately, we teach men to go after sex, to push and push until they get ‘it’. Conversely, we teach women not to be too assertive in relationships, that a woman assumes a passive role in sexual activity, that you aren’t supposed to refuse your man. It may seem old fashioned thinking but even today’s teens have to deal with these same sexual gender scripts.

    And women who find themselves in situations where they give signals, even go so far as saying no but do not fight or forcefully protest, end up blaming themselves and feeling tremendous conflict for having been pressured into sex when they would rather not have, even if at some other time they may have said yes. What so they do then? Is it rape? Is it not rape? Is it just even if it can be proved illegal? What recourse does she have? What is the effect on her psychological and physical well being?

    • Please stop treating us women like little children. We are full human beings with all the rights and responsibilities as men , people believe they are doing the right thing by laying the entire blame on themselves like Hugo did when in fact he is essentially saying his ex was just a little child who didn’t have the courage or maturity to speak up.


      • pillowinhell says:

        About to say that myself!

        Look…the issue of communication is different from rape. I think as a society, we need to teach ourselves about how to discuss sex in all its varieties BEFORE we engage in it. There are certain aspects of kink I enjoy…but each aspect has to be clearly discussed BEFORE any actions occur. There’s nothing unsexy about talking about what you’re looking for in a sexual encounter. In fact, you can whet each others appetite and know that this is what both of you want. And if all it turns out to be is cuddling on the couch, so what enjoy! If you think you’re adult enough to have sex, then saying no to a specific act, or a specific time should not be a problem. How do people talk about pregnancy or stds if they can’t even say “honey, I only have the energy for a heavy make out session”.

        It ties in with the inability to find satisfying sex…talk about it!

      • Yes, we are full human beings, but our culture does not respect women’s inherent human rights. So I take issue with your statement that we have the same rights and responsibilities as men.

        If the United States ever ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment and the Supreme Court puts sex discrimination on the same level as race discimination, then I will start agreeing that women have the same rights and responsibilites as men.

        Until then, we’re still in a patriarchy.

        • So why is it that “patriarchy” is such a semantic stop-sign? It’s a dirty word, to you, clearly. The reality is, nature made men to lead. We’re larger, more physically powerful, more aggressive due to hormonal differences. That’s not to say we’re better, but just to say that men are more naturally inclined to become the leaders of the so-called ‘patriarchy’ that you attempt to vilify here. Women may not have the same rights as men, but neither the expectations nor responsibilities that are placed upon men.

          • So, might makes right, huh? Don’t think so. If that were true, the larger the man, the more powerful he would be. Physical power is not generally necessary in today’s intellectual arena. And women are every bit as intellectually capable as men are.
            Women are just as equipped by nature to lead as men are. It’s patriarchal conditioning that has made some (such as yourself) fail to see that. And yes, “patriarchy” is a very bad thing.
            Also, I don’t know what world you live in where women don’t have the expectations or responsibilities that are placed on men. I would say they have many more than men do. It’s about damn time their rights catch up.

        • pillowinhell says:

          Marie, I apologize. I’m Canuck and history went down a little different here.

          I refuse to play the who’s got it worse game. So while women haven’t got all the rights of men, 3evo says we don’t have the responsibilities. As far as the men have might and therfore the right…well there are societies which are matriarchal, see how much laughter you generate with that thinking.

          As adult human beings, each of us has the responsibility to take care of ourselves. When it comes to sex, women need to speak up when they don’t want it, or don’t want a specific act. There were no significant power differences between Hugo and his girlfriend. So calling patriarchy is overstating things.

      • Janet, do you always have the courage to speak up? When female friends brag about being so assertive, I can usually remember times when they were very subservient to the men in their lives.

  81. Rape has to be binary. Blurring the term of consent is incredibly problematic. By terming this an “accidental rape” Hugo basically made Katie into a rape victim who was complicit in her own rape.

    I feel badly for both Hugo and Katie here. Sex is a powerful thing. Both of them were hurt and its a shame they couldn’t work through it. Striving for open communcation is incredibly important but don’t play with a very loaded word like “rape” in order to make a point.

  82. I cannot “guess”. I must have a 100% guarantee. I don’t give a shit if there are “no guarantees in life” I want a goddamn 100% guarantee that I will be safe. As a disabled person I am afraid that I must demand this or I will pull away. NO DEAL.GET IT?? Not my loss here if I pull away, I am aafer staying home where no body can hurt me.

  83. The Wet One says:

    Ummm, yeah, I thought it would be improper to bring up a prostitution reference here, but seriously, it still applies. It’s the most honest services transaction. I pay you so I can have sex with your body. Such honesty is refreshing. Assuming no coercion, the yes is honestly given. Deed is done, cash changes hands.

    It’s beautiful in its simplicity and honesty.

    As compared to the convoluted mess Hugo is talking about.

    God, I’m glad that I’m generally past the stage of being an inconsiderate jerk, willing to jerk off than have sex with the sweet one and have figured out this particular minefield of male female relationships.

    As for those commenting on the legalities of this, I warn the men, get consent as it is defined in law. It doesn’t matter what you personally (or she personally for that matter) thinks consent is. Consent as defined in law is what it is. Hugo’s situation could have landed you in jail. Sad but true. As a young lad, you might be best to get it in writing with the nitty gritty details (oral, some anal touching, breasts, but knees are strictly off the table). Yeah, sounds ridiculous, but that’s the law (at least where I am).

    There’s more than a few hombres sitting in the clink because the communications were all FUBARed. Lousy situation, but only males face legal liability so get it in writing (or make it a contractual relationship where everyone knows what the deal is).

    Sigh… Such is life.

  84. Accidental rapist? Thats quite a leap.
    Anyways its amazing how society depicts the average male as this sexually starved animal. Some women take a hold of these views and the minute you turn them down.. they turn vile and flagrant.. They are surprised that every erection isnt an invitation to sexual pleasure. They are surprised that a man will has the will power to refuse sex… and so this same women might take it as a personal insult. Im sure this happens in the later stages of life when women reach their sexual peak and the sexual urges of men(on average) are on the decline.

  85. G.L.Piggy is correct. the word rape has legal implications. You can’t use the word and expand it beyond the legal context. It is like saying I murdered someone that was breaking into my house and threatening my life. It is not murder. It is a legal killing.

    What you did was not rape in any way, shape, or accidental form. Rape has a legal meaning that hinges on consent. You had your consent. End of story.

  86. Folks, it’s helpful if we stop thinking about nonconsensual sex as a rape/not rape binary. It’s a spectrum of consent with mutually enthusiastic sex at one end and completely nonconsensual violent rape at the other. The middle area is where the trouble — and the “accidental” rapes — happen.

    • But who is responsible for those ‘accidental rapes’?

      That’s not in the middle… the responsible person who created this situation is the woman.

      She said OK. – And expected the man to GUESS, that she means NO?

      To call this ‘accidental rape’ (RAPE!) is totally wrong.

    • And some of them might be accidental rapes where a girl is actively freaked the fuck out, says no, etc and the fellow doesn’t care. This examle, unless you are withholding information to prove otherwise, doesn’t seem like rape at all. It seems like clueless bad sex with two young people who aren’t really communicating. Women are not taught that they can and should communicate about sex.

      Good girls don’t, right? So women wind up in this really weird position, especially young women where on the one hand they are taught they have all this agency in the world (schools, college, jobs) and on the other they are still holding on to old old stories about what “good” girls do and don’t do.

      I imagine that 20 years ago or so, things were even more so.

      Yeah, you didn’t check in. Neither did she. She did open up and you apologized and both of you could have learned how to move on to much better sex. You didn’t at that time. But rape? I don’t think this seems like rape.

      • Not sure why this comment is on moderation, but I don’t think it’s egregious. Anyway, I don’t think you did anything worth beating yourself up over. Its more….how do we fix the systems in place that keep kids this fumbling.

      • For real, why is this one comment up for modding and none of the others are. Really weird.

        • Its moderated so they can screen out any comments they don’t like. After revisiting this page my comment and a number of others have mysteriously vanished.

          • Well, that seems silly in this case. It was a kind comment. Though I did use a bad word. Maybe I’ll go back and edit and see if it comes back. There are numerous comments saying similar things. I dislike the phrase and the sensationalizing of the piece.

        • Julie, if your comment has multiple links it would end up in moderation.

    • No, Hugo, it IS binary, it’s rape or it’s not.

      Let’s say we’re playing soccer, and I go for the ball, and I accidentally kick you in the nuts.

      Is that sexual assault? No, it’s soccer. Shit happens, and you better be wearing your cup. The key here is not consent of the woman, for that consent is implied by continuing to participate in intimacy.

      In intimacy, the equivalent of a cup is good communication skills, which don’t have to be verbal.

      At any point in the intimate encounter, Katie could have gotten up off the bed or couch or floor, and excused herself from the situation, left the room without even saying a word. Hence, by exiting removing her consent.

      In soccer, if you don’t want to get kicked in the nuts, you leave the playing field. Or you prevent the damage from the encounter by wearing your cup.

      This terminology, “Accidental Rape” is ridiculous. It would never hold up legally, you’re spouting nonsense. You are denigrating actual rape victims by cheapening the term, using it casually. It’s both misandrist and misogynist. Get over it, it’s not rape. It’s not even in the ballpark.

      Wear your cup, Hugo. Just saying.

    • “Accidental rape” is an oxymoron. Crimes require “mens rea” – knowledge that one is committing a crime. If I see chair on the sidewalk that looks like someone is throwing out, and put it in my car, I’m not stealing, even if the owner left it there accidentally and still wants it. It is a mistake.

      In Hugo’s world women are never responsible for anything. Even for something as basic as communicating consent to sex. It is always up to the man to read her mind.

      This of course is part of a new wave of feminism. Feminism in my mother’s time was all about female power and equality. Feminists didn’t want to be seen as fragile victims. My mother was and is that kind of feminist.

      The new feminism is back to basics: Women are back to being fragile flowers. They no longer have agency. And like children are incapable of taking responsibility for anything. Ironically Hugo’s view is that it is up to men to decide, paternalistically, if a woman really wants sex or not, since she can’t be counted on to express herself.

    • Then why did you even use the word “rape” at all, Hugo?

      Here is the definition of a word that we’ll have to create: “an act in which one young person has sex with another young person while tacitly consenting but without being entirely in the spirt of sex.” And an alternative definition, “sex in which an affirmative response – ‘Yes’, ‘OK’, or physical cues – masks an underlying desire not to have sex.”

      Lazily, you call this “accidental rape”. There is neither nothing accidental nor rape-like about it. It is miscommunication. Call it “sex desire asymmetry”. Or a phrase: the asymmetry of sexual desire.

      • Don’t expect any balanced logic behind here. He used the word “rape” here to vilify and demonize men, by any means necessary. As always.

      • What if there is no “yes” no “OK” and no “physical clues” – as is most often a case in this kind of situation. There is also no physical violence or push back from the woman and no “no” and no screaming. How is that consent? But 80% of the comments here are saying that’s consent and the woman’s responsibility.

        • So, if there’s making out, culminating in sexual intercourse, that’s not consent in your book? Do they each have to sign a consent form? You’re not being reasonable.

    • “Folks, it’s helpful if we stop thinking about nonconsensual sex as a rape/not rape binary. It’s a spectrum of consent with mutually enthusiastic sex at one end and completely nonconsensual violent rape at the other. The middle area is where the trouble — and the “accidental” rapes — happen.

      I agree with the jist of this statement, but it’s the last several words that trip things up. If we’re not to look at rape/not rape as a simplistic binary, then why use the term “accidental rape” to describe the scenario you describe? I think what gets people’s back up about this issue is the use of the word “rape” to describe anything short of the best practices in sexual communication. This goes back to the infamous “Antioch Rules”, which were a clumsy, authoritarian, and legalistic attempt to impliment the practice of enthusiastic consent by institutional decree, and has cast a long and not particularly good shadow over the idea ever since then.

      But when it comes right down to it, even if a simple “lack of no” were “good enough”, is that all you would want with a partner? Or do you want to know that they’re being pleased and how to please them? If that’s the case, then simple ascent is not enough. Of course, I’m also a sexual pluralist enough to have no problem with sex acts done simply for the sake of pleasing a partner, but there’s a difference between doing that as a gift versus doing it as an obligation, and that needs to be understood by both partners.

    • But you are still calling them ‘rapes’ hugo -‘accidental rape’ . I think it is a misleading phrase.

    • Hugo – if you continue to use the word rape, whether modified by “accidental” or not, you’re going to continue to get push back on this.

      I dare say most everyone commenting would agree that there is a spectrum of consent. However there is usually a much brighter line for rape. Rape happens when a sex partner has not given consent, has given consent under duress, or is incapable of giving consent. If a sex partner has freely given consent but didn’t really mean it, that’s not rape, that’s misleading your sex partner.

      People give non-enthusiastic consent all the time and for various reasons. If you’re not suggesting that a partner who does not divine the true motives behind that consent is an “accidental rapist” then you’ve done a poor job communicating that (about as poor a job as “Katie” did in communicating her non-consent). If, on the other hand, you are saying that failure to divine the motives behind the consent (Clarisse Thorne had an article here about how it’s sometimes easer to pretend enthusiastic consent even) then I bet you will continue to find few takers to your argument.

      Agreeing that “enthusiastic consent” should be the goal, regret by one partner does not translate to rape by the other, whether you modify it with “accidental” or not.

  87. This is definitely not a rape by any means, but a total misunderstanding. However, I do want to point out that not saying anything at all doesn’t mean ‘yes.’ She did say ‘ok,’ which is where the miscommunication lies because how could anyone assume otherwise? However, if she didn’t say anything at all, that doesn’t give anyone permission to assume she said ‘yes.’

    • What are the definitions of a ‘quiet OK’ and a ‘NO in disguise’?

      This is NOT a total misunderstanding, this woman was creating a dangerous ‘grey zone’ –
      men should expect and receive a clear answer regarding consent and not some reaction they should ‘guess about what it could mean’.

      If a woman says OK (quiet or in whatever form) and after she regrets that, then it was OK and it is NOT HIS responsibility.

      Women are not children.
      Women too, and not only men, are responsible for their own decision, and yes, even in such a situation – OK means OK and not ‘maybe’ and not ‘no’.

  88. “I begged Katie not to apologize; the responsibility was all mine, I insisted.”

    Wow, what utter nonsense. Also the comment is very demeaning to women. Women can act passionately but a man must read her mind or read subtle clues that may indicate she means “no”–if you don’t you are a rapist.

    I think a lot of guys have been told by their partner don’t want to have sex as much as the man, including me. I told her “if you don’t tell me what you want or don’t want, I can’t help you.” I heard a mom telling her whimpering child the same thing other day. Women are children.

  89. HUGO:
    Maybe, I realized, sometimes even a quiet “OK” could be a “no” in disguise.
    I begged Katie not to apologize; the responsibility was all mine, I insisted.


    To call such a situation ‘accidental RAPE’ is very much misleading. What has this to do with ‘rape’?

    Women are equally responsible for their decisions, there is an OK and there is a NO. If this OK is ‘quiet’ or if this NO is ‘in disguise’ is totally irrelevant.

    Why should the man be accountable alone to GUESS correctly or wrongly, if her quiet OK is NO, or if her NO (in disguise) is maybe OK?

    If you guess wrongly what is in her mind, this is ‘accidental rape’?

    Hugo, sorry, but this is nonsense.

    • I guess the lesson here is that unless a woman is screaming “fuck me” in a very, very convincing manner … it may be rape and you should stop.

      Next stop … all sex between a man and a woman is rape.

    • Reminds me of the Louis C.K. bit.

      Why can’t we have a standard of No means No, Yes means Yes, and don’t say “Yes” when you mean “No?” (Unless you’ve agreed beforehand and have a safeword)

  90. I have had this experience myself, and like Hugo, when I learned of it, it really devastated me. I am glad to say I salvaged the relationship by laying ground rules. One of which being “if you don’t want it, say ‘no’, and I’ll go relieve myself and be done with it.”

    I wanted to point out one thing that bothers me in this piece and its responses so far: where is the accountability for the woman here?

    “No” means “no”, and men get that. In fact for most guys, while it is hardly an “off switch” for his hardon, it kills all desire for copulation. Nothing is more viscerally repugnant than the idea that we could be branded a rapist. And women know this.

    I reiterate: Women know this. If they do not want sex, they know they can say “no” at any time. They are adult human beings with a free will and a tool at their disposal. The feminist movement took great pains to create this tool, and give women the accountability and freedom to use it. If they choose not to, and the encounter escalates, as an adult with the right to choose, they are just as culpable as the men who have sex with them.

    The excuse given for this behaviour boils down to this: they don’t want to say “no” because they feel that it would harm the relationship and hurt the man’s feelings. But that is, as has been said, a requisite of being an adult enough to be in a sexual relationship: being able to say “no” to someone you care about. You can has out your differences later when feelings are cooled.

    This is a self-esteem issue, and a maturity issue… funny how often those two go hand in hand.

    And what about the man? Can he be said to be fully consenting in this case? Would any man willingly have sex if he knew it was hurting a woman’s feelings? Has his trust and sexuality not also been violated? And if the woman involved doesn’t think he is mature enough to handle her saying “no” should she be having sex with him in the first place?

    This article has fallen into the trap of forgetting that women are accountable for their actions. The argument treats women as passive agents who cannot choose for themselves, and excuses them from being adults. By holding the men accountable alone for the sexual encounter, aren’t we really ignoring the very core of Womens’ rights.

    As for the term “rape” used here. I am very bothered by it. It is demonizing male sexuality. This is the same sweeping attitudes that create false statistics like the idea that 1/4 college students are rape victims and 1/3 women will be a victim of sexual assault in your lifetimes. If you define rape this loosely, sure they will be: and you can call it a “rape culture”, but is it honest? And would there ever be any hope for men to be anything but? And for that matter, doesn’t it trivialize rape?

    Finally, sometimes sex has to happen in a relationship. Marriages, for example, will fall apart if it doesn’t happen. There are issues of consent so tangled up in that it is almost indecipherable. Sometimes that means to keep a relationship going, like you vowed (again as an accountable adult with free will) to do, you have to bite the bullet and have lukewarm sex, or you let the marriage die. That is true for men and women.

    • Excellent response.

      And just as an aside, you’ve never seen an article from Hugo Schwyzer talking about the responsibilites women have, or asking them to be accountable for anything at all, because that article doesn’t exist.

  91. Thanks for perpetuating the faulty logic that a man is responsible for a woman’s desire or lack thereof. She accepted responsibility for failing to communicate and yet you took that from her and placed it on yourself. Why? Where you went wrong was not in pursuing sex, which is natural, but in shouldering the guilt, which is not. It is something that has been instilled in you from when you were a wee little lad and would be best dispensed with.

    • Roger Durham says:

      Rumour, are you saying that men have no responsibility in the equation? What Hugo owned was his part of it. When he felt Katie’s hesitation, he cuold have stopped and asked about it. That kind of sensitivity and caring may be an interuption to the sexual explosion building inside a man, but it is not an interuption to the wave of initimacy that is building within a woman. It could serve to heighten the wave.

      • Men have no responsibility here. She consented. If she didn’t and he went ahead, it would be rape.

        • Roger Durham says:

          Think about that, Dude. Men have no responsibility here? Really? Where have you ever been involved in anything that was free of responsibility – well, since childhood. The reality is, both men and women have equal shares of responsibility in a situation like this. Hugo claimed his. It sounds like Katie claimed hers in blaming herself for it.

          • Of course men have “responsibility” here…but not blame. And whenever you introduce the word “rapist” you immediately conjure up the specter of blame.

            I’m almost 100 percent sure I’ve been in Hugo’s position when I was younger—I’m sure I’ve had sex with women gave consent but would rather have not. This doesn’t bother me too much. Sure, I would’ve preferred she be 100 percent into it. But the simple truth is that I can’t read minds, and I went with the information I had at the time. When I look back on the possibility, I know I did everything I could to make sure the encounter was welcome & consensual. I don’t feel guilt or shame because I didn’t do anything to be ashamed of and part of the problem with this article is that Hugo is projecting his feelings and motives onto all other men (which he frequently does).

            The solution here isn’t to talk about the “responsibilites” of men. It’s to get women to speak their minds. I might even go so far as to say the behavior of men in this particular situation isn’t even worth of discussion.

            • Roger Durham says:

              That is a staggering last statement you just made. It’s the kind of statement that perpetuates the perception that men “don’t get it”.

            • Everything except wait for a “yes”.

              What is so exceptional about not touching another person’s genitals unless they say the word “yes” or “please touch” or place your hand there? Nothing exceptional at all. But you didn’t do that. And you think it would be unreasonable to expect you to.

              Because not pushing yourself unto someone and waiting is a horrible horrible thing but knowing you did an intimate thing that often feels violating and traumatizing to a woman is eh, fine.

              • “What is so exceptional about not touching another person’s genitals unless they say the word “yes” or “please touch” or place your hand there? Nothing exceptional at all. But you didn’t do that. And you think it would be unreasonable to expect you to.”

                Its the other way around. Its reasonable to expect women to say these things. But we live in an unreasonable world where women don’t want to. They expect us to make moves and initiate. So we do. Don’t blame us for living up to women’s expectations. Waiting for women to initiate is like pushing on a rope. It just doesn’t work.

                What is truly unreasonable is that we are being blamed for doing exactly what most women expect and want us to do.

      • I am saying absolutely and unequivocally that in a situation such as this a man bears no responsibility if the woman he is having sex with doesn’t really want to, but says nothing. If you disagree with that … you have a problem.

        It is this kind of irresponsible article that furthers the culture of false rape allegations and will ultimately land men in jail.

        Imagine the scenario … see the poor little dear sitting in the police station stating that she was raped. “Well, I went along with it, but I didn’t want to.” “No, I never verbally communicated that I didn’t want to, but he just should should have known.” “See even other men agree with me … here is an article from The Good Men Project … and here Hugo and Roger state that he should have known.” “Now … I want him punished for what he has done to me!”

        Fast forward to the hearing. The women on the jury can all remember a time when they had sex, didn’t want to, but went ahead with it anyway. Guilty! A few men on the jury, dealing with their own guilt and self-loathing and irresistable urge to please woman. Guilty!

        Now the poor young man is led into his cell where he will spend years of his life … not being “accidentally” raped.

        • The Wet One says:

          Ding ding ding!!!!

          We have a winner!

          Careful out there lads. It’s a battlefield!

        • Rumour, get your facts straight. I did not say he should have known. I said that both bare equally responsibility. Your argument is built on the assumption that men are too stupid or too insensitive to understand anything other than words. In either case, that is an utter cop out. It is an abdication of responsibility. I don’t pretend to understand the power dynamics that women deal with in sexual relationships, but I do know this, I believe sex to be a mutual engagement. And as such, I believe that both men and women are obligated to assume responsibility for understanding where the balance of power lies. If the two are not mature enough to do that, they have no business having sex.

          You claim that the man, in the situation that Hugo described, has no responsibility. I called that into question. I find yours to be a lazy, irresponsible, selfish and childish argument.

  92. “I liked sex—I loved sex—but I knew I’d rather never have it again than have it with someone who was only doing it to soothe me, to please me, or because she couldn’t find the words to say “no” or “not now.”

    Hugo, I wish more men saw it this way. I know that hindsight is 20/20, and it is hard to get this message to young men. Our incredibly exploitative media messaging about women and their bodies and their sexuality unfortunately sets men up to believe women all want it all the time. After all, look at all the billboards and magazine covers and movies of teenage girls with parted lips, tousled hair, heaving breasts, and come-hither stares. That tells men, “we are sexual objects, we are here on this earth to pleasure you, and we all want it all the time.” Male CEO’s create all these media messages and sell a lot of products. They also sell a lot of bullshit to men and women about how they should relate to each other. Men should acquire sex from permanently horny women, and women should subject themselves to it in order to be sexy, hot, and have value. Media literacy is not a part of the experience of all of these college kids. They have *all* been exploited.

    • respectfully…

      I have never known any guys who believe women want sex all the time. I have met:
      1. a few guys who believe women never or rarely want sex and only use it as a tool for manipulation. I personally think these guys are pretty nuts.
      2. guys who wished the women they are involved with wanted it more often.
      3. guys who are very happy with their partners level of desire. (I include myself in this bucket)
      4. one guy who wished his partner wanted it less often.

      If anything I think our society reinforces the idea that women want less sex than men and that men must “work” for the sex they get. The old gatekeeper thing. If there is widespread truth to this or not- I don’t really know. It doesnt hold true in my relationship with my wife.

    • “Guys think women want it all the time” ??? What men are YOU talking to? If anything the dominant culture teaches that MEN want sex all the time. Did it never occur to any of you that maybe your male partners were feeling pressured into having sex?

      “Don’t you find me attractive??”

      “Whats the matter? Is ‘it’ not working?”

      “Are you gay or something?”

  93. rachel marie says:

    from a perspective of a woman who has had this encounter, i am impressed at Hugo for owning up to what he believes he was responsible for. unfortunately for me, at 16 i gave in to sex with a guy i was dating and didnt even like. i felt very trapped because as we had been making out, i felt as if i had led him on. saying no didnt feel like it was an option, and to this day that is a horrid experience that haunts me. now, i am not saying that i was raped, i didnt speak up and that was my fault. i have never accused the guy of rape or said anything to him about it at all.

    my point is, you could call it whatever but the experience is traumatic for women and men owning up to it takes courage– and i appreciate that.

    • I’m glad you’re not calling it rape because it wasn’t rape. You need to own up and take responsibility for your life. The man doesn’t have to apologize or be ashamed of anything. You consented and now you’re trying to muddy the waters by saying you didn’t want it. You may not be aware of it, Rachel, but men don’t read minds.

    • pillowinhell says:

      Rachel, I’m sorry that your early experience was a bad one. Given that it still bothers you, have you ever considered counseling to help you move past it?

  94. Roger Durham says:

    Hugo – you raise some important questions for those of us who dwell in the massive middle of the bell curve of sexual experience/expression. There is a social contract worked out between people who are sexually involved, whether it is spoken or not. Honoring that contract is tough when it comes to interpretation of nuanced language, whether it’s words or body language. Your article provides a framework for thinking about that. I appreciate your studied perspective.

    • The problem though is that he’s talking about it without working on the terms of discourse. “Rape” is a loaded word that conjures of images of evil men doing evil things. So Hugo may have grounds to broach the topic – I think that young men can learn a lot about social signals and about managing their sexuality. But as you open up the channels of discourse you also have to get a little more precise with the language. They should move in tandem. More detail calls for finer points.

      • pillowinhell says:

        Agreed. This article really touches on the differences of communication, consent and the proper definition of rape. He’s really lumped it all in together. The other thing that gets lost is what might have been her side … Taking care of a partners needs first. Which can be part of a healthy relationship dynamic.

  95. The photo and title are misleading, I’ll agree. Soft core fantasy fodder.

    When I was younger and less experienced I also wound up having I didn’t really want to have. Some of it was fun half way through, some was over quickly and didn’t do much harm to me at all, save to remind me how boring the boy was. I know men who’ve been in the same position. That’s a far cry from raping someone or being raped, in my opinion.

    I’ve also had, as a mature adult, sex that I didn’t mind having, because I knew my partner needed soothing, love attention etc what have you. My partner too has “taken care of me” in various ways even if he wasn’t really into it. And also, both of us has said firm no’s to the other. I don’t think sex always has to be a mutual perfect union. So long as people are communicating the why, the how, and accepting an actual no, I think sex can be utilized in a wide range of communication forms.

    I’m glad you have empathy Hugo. More people need empathy. But you guys were damn young and unless we start really teaching kids in their early teens (hell consent as a concept can be taught to toddlers), about empathy, consent, sexual literacy and communication, we’ll have lots and lots of 19 year old fumblings as you described your time with Katie. Part of the problem is that we don’t teach kids much of anything about sex ed, barely the basics of the plumbing depending on the state. We teach children the nuances of pretty much everything else. Not this.

    As for your concept of sexual legalism, “Call it male sexual legalism, the first rule of which is “All that is not expressly prohibited is assumed to be permitted.” That legalism can turn many men into accidental rapists.” Twisty Faster at I Blame The Patriarchy has been talking about that for years. Women live in a default state of “yes” where consent is assumed unless she says no and fights like a demon. The default for both sexes (in terms of bodily integrity) in her opinion should be “No.”

    Men and women both need to learn to communicate thoroughly in bed.

  96. If you just want to be held, you should say something like, oh I don’t know…. *I just want to be held.*
    This post, while I’m sure well intentioned, is unduly sensational and also irresponsible.

    • Except, it’s not easy for everyone to speak up. Sometimes, generally do to past experiences, someone freezes and is suddenly too freaked out to say no. And this doesn’t just happen to women. This is why I don’t have sex with a man unless we’re close enough to actually communicate about these things.

  97. I am a gay man but I can identify with some of what Hugo is saying. I am ashamed to say that I have occasionally pushed the envelope and put my own desire ahead of sensitivity to the other guy’s feelings. I have also been in the position of not wanting sex, just to be held. And I have had rape fantasies (both active and passive), but I understand that a fantasy is just that–a fantasy. It is important to watch out for signals that sex is less than consensual. Sometimes they are clear, sometimes less so–but they are always there, unless we are too blinded by passion, or wilfully blind, to see them.

    • But Paul some people want to act out their rape fantasies. I have practised S and M sex and though consent is important there, the fact I enjoy being ‘taken’ has meant I have had some sexual relationships where consent has been a grey area. We do not all have meetings to negotiate our desires before having sex.

  98. I think the term ‘rapist’ is over-dramatic and misandrist – I explain why at GMP here:

    The thing is Hugo, we have all had bad sexual experiences and we could all write about them in dramatic ways. But that’s life. It is not a reason to make men even more anxious than they are about how they relate to women, or to suggest all men are potential rapists.

    • that was a good piece.

    • It’s not just a “bad sexual experience”, it’s a situation where a woman felt intimidated and had sex when she didn’t want to. this happens to many women and it can have long lasting effects, feelings of shame and guilt and confusion. It’s important to make a big deal about it so that we can all take note that there’s more to getting consent than simply not saying no, or not saying no strongly enough.

  99. Nearly all romantic films are built around men’s refusal to take the “no” as real no. That’s what they teach men to do. Because women love men, who don’t give up trying.

    Nice guys take first “no” as real, which leads usually to celibacy.

    • Except, if I say no I really mean it. I have sex with someone if, and only if, I feel safe with him and think our connection has long term potential. Otherwise, it’s not happening. The assumption that women love men who don’t give up trying is idiotic. Except for once, when I was young, tipsy and stupid I have managed to never have sex with someone who kept pressuring me. Unfortunately, I’ve done other things under pressure, but never sex. And what I did do was not voluntary and therefore not okay.

  100. I strongly suspect this piece lacks nuance (big surprise given its author).

    I have previously been told, by multiple partners, that they actually enjoy “playing hard to get” from time to time, and that by giving up “too easily” I am ruining it for the both of us.

    My girlfriend explains it by saying “Sometimes I want to be seduced, and seduction takes work. Sometimes I’d rather you get me into the mood instead of just waiting until I get there myself.”

    Aside from past partners, friends of mine (male and female) have shared similar experiences.

    Yet this article would seem to file all of this under the heading of “accidental rape.”

    That just seems silly. Sure, often times “no means no,” but you’re lying to yourself if you believe no woman (or person, for that matter) likes seeing a man (or their partner generally) work for it (on occassion, obviously not every single time or there are other problems).

  101. permanentlooser says:

    “the unambiguous presence of desire” doesn’t exist, because its impossible to know whats inside somebody’s head without them telling you. When your a child your parents teach you to use your words to express yourself and not randomly cry and scream unintelligibly because human beings aren’t mind readers Frankly, sex is an adult activity, if your not adult enough to answer definitively when another adult asks you for sex then you really aren’t adult enough to HAVE sex. Consent is one thing, rape is another, but if your partner is going to initiate a question of sexual interaction and then wait for you to GUESS the right answer then they are behaving like a child, and children don’t get laid, they get left in time out till they can figure out how to communicate like a grown up.

    • This is a great comment. And goes to my point that sex ed in this country is embarrassing. We teach kids a few things about their bodies but we really throw them to the wolves in terms of issues on communication, consent, body language, question asking, checking in during an act.

      Sounds like what happened to Hugo and Katie was a lot of physical miscommunication due in part to a very new relationship, a lot of cultural baggage (good girls don’t talk about sex), and plain old uneducated youth. The real loss here for me is that they weren’t able to brush off and move forward with renewed vigor and communication. Just a whole lot of guilt they didn’t really deserve.

      As for the impression that a man’s drive is dominant over a woman’s need for safety/comfort. Yeah, this happens a lot, even in mature sexual encounters.

      “Don’t tease him.” “He’ll get to a point of no return.” I mean, come on, if things are going groovy and your partner freezes up, stops moving, her breath changes….the thing to do is to pause, check in and go from there, but there are a lot of kids out there who a) don’t pay attention to body language period and b) just want to get to the goal and she didn’t say no with words right?

      What that adds up to, if not rape, is really really bad sex. It leads to men thinking that women don’t really enjoy it and it leads women to feel pretty cynically about a man’s sex drive.

      Anyway, if you can’t talk about it? Say the words? Stay relatively connected before and during the act, then maybe wait until you can.

  102. Well, there’s homicide and then there’s murder. Murder falls under the umbrella of homicide. Some homicides can be excused or accidental. But we don’t say that every case where a person’s actions result in the death of another person constitutes murder. Self-defense, vehicular homicide, rough play gone wrong, etc.

    The same distinction fits other types of crime. Assault, various forms of larceny.

    So why the hell, Hugo, is not taking an affirmative and enthusiastic “yes” as a cue for coitus called rape? Has feminist demagoguery become so rigid that it can’t entertain a definitional spectrum? Hugo, if your goal is to add to the discussion and to improve young men’s behavior, you might want to think in terms of not vilifying and alienating them by lumping them in with rapists.

    You weren’t a rapist when you didn’t read her mind; you were an eager kid who didn’t know that sometimes women have sex even if they don’t really want to.

    • Sadly, as always, his goal evidently IS to vilify men; in this case by trying mightily to call men who can’t read minds rapists.

      • there are certain words that those of Marxist leanings center around – fascist, rapist, racist, bigot, and Nazi come to mind. These words’ emotional impact does all of the heavy lifting and gets in the way of the set of behaviors and attitudes that the word attempts to define.

        Vilify, demonize, and marginalize. That’s the ticket.

  103. FormerWildChild says:

    What I found truly surprising about that story wasn’t that it happens. I think that there is probably more sex that is allowed than there is sex with enthusiastic consent. No, what is truly shocking is your emotional response. And my considerable experience conflicts with yours on this point: I believe it is a rather rare male response to a sexual partner’s confession that she allows sex she does not want..

    I wonder if there isn’t a more important truth behind this story. Is there perhaps something there about what beliefs you had about sex that less common in men of our generation? Maybe there is something there about the value of believing that women have an equal capacity to desire and enjoy sex or that sexuality is a good thing? I am not sure what it is, but it is worth investigating in the hope that we can replicate that sort of a response in other people.

    • The short answer, FWC, is that at 19 I was empathetic and proud. The empathy made it possible to connect with Katie’s pain. And I’d already had sex I didn’t want but pretended to want at this point (with men.) I also had the pride that said I only want to be with someone sexually when they want me as much as I want ’em. The idea of having sex with someone who’d rather be somewhere else made me feel, frankly, undesirable and creepy. And I’d rather be sexually frustrated than be an insensitive entitled creep. That’s not just decency, it’s ego — the sense that I’m worth better, worth being wanted, and that it’s worth waiting to be wanted. So something about the intersection of compassion and narcissism? Not sure…

      • I think you are quite empathetic and compassionate, and yet perhaps still quite a bit narcissistic. I think others notice it too, the way you project your experiences and feelings onto other men, and have made something of a caricature of women in your zeal to protect them. Even in your telling stories of the women you’ve wronged, or think you have wronged, in the end it’s all about you. You can see it in this recounting – rather than explore why Katie felt she couldn’t say “no” you made it about you, how crappy you felt, how the responsibility was all yours. That doesn’t seem to have changed much in the more recent stories you tell, stories where you’ve attempted to make amends, stories about your relationship with your wife. In the end it all comes back to the main story, a story of a deeply flawed Hugo who has done terrible bad things, and who hasn’t quite escaped the specter of his past. It’s an interesting story, but I think it does a disservice when it becomes entangled in feminist advocacy.

        There is a story to tell here, a story about women and how they internalized cultural expectations to be people pleasers, how that leads to some women not feeling they can say “no” to sex. There’s a story about men, about how they’ve been told that “no means no,” and how even following that maxim is muddled with the idea of a spectrum of consent. That story isn’t about Hugo, and I’m afraid when you incorporate anecdotes from your past your need to flail the old Hugo only serves to distract from the essence of the story that others can relate to.

        • “I am not sure what it is, but it is worth investigating in the hope that we can replicate that sort of a response in other people.”

          Huh? The response was that he dumped her, made her feel very guilty to the point of tears and felt horrible himself. Seems like the worst possible response. Who benefited? At least with an entitled jerk the relationship would have continued. And I am pretty sure that Hugo’s girlfriend will avoid ever bringing this up again with any future boyfriend. After all she brought it up and she got dumped.

  104. What an irresponsibly inflammatory title. Using the word rape when it really isn’t is simply irresponsible.

    This can be a problem when you are having sex with someone you don’t know very well. But, if you’ve been married for any length of time, you’ve probably had sex when you didn’t really feel like it, just to please your partner. It’s actually a good thing to put your spouse’s needs and desires ahead of your own.

  105. Well written. Thank you for sharing!


  1. trim down club

    The Accidental Rapist — The Good Men Project

  2. […] Share this:TwitterFacebookTumblrLike this:LikeOne blogger likes this. This entry was posted in Attempted Murder, Domestic Violence and tagged Business, Crime, Hugo Schwyzer, Los Angeles, Oven, San Francisco, Sierra Madre Boulevard, Vodka, Ziploc on February 17, 2013 by bugbrennan. […]

  3. […] not want to find out down the road that his partners were unwilling. (I highly recommend reading The Accidental Rapist, an article that talks about how guys are somewhat trained to think anything that isn’t a […]

  4. […] said yes and later expressed discomfort myself. A while back I read Hugo Schwyzer’s post “The Accidental Rapist” and thought to myself, that sounds distressingly close to a situation that I’ve been in, and […]

  5. […] not want to find out down the road that his partners were unwilling. (I highly recommend reading The Accidental Rapist, an article that talks about how guys are somewhat trained to think anything that isn’t a […]

  6. […] The Accidental Rapist ( 0.000000 0.000000 Share this:Share on Tumblr Pin ItDiggEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  7. […] remarks surface issues that a lack of dialogue can foster.  This article is an interesting perspective on what consent means and how even in the most common situations […]

  8. […] “What do I do with my penis during spooning?” There are creepy headlines like “The Accidental Rapist” and “Why Your Daughter May Be the Most Popular Drug on the Street.” There are […]

  9. […] am frustrated that many of my critics misrepresent my work. My column at Good Men Project on consent has been misread as both a confession of rape and a celebration of victim-blaming. My more recent […]

  10. […] is the New Skinny kept drawing my attention as he wrote on everything from body image and consent to jizzing on someone’s face. And I my admiration for his writing grew: both as a man skilled […]

  11. […] black man could have his status as feminist ally defended while blaming an ex for making him an “accidental rapist,” soft-pedaling his predatory behavior towards female students, or writing that cisgender men are […]

  12. […] discovered Hugo’s writing when our blog cross-posted his piece for The Good Men Project, The Accidental Rapist. Our team was struck by his honesty, progressive takes and eye-opening recollections from his […]

  13. Website Trackback Link…

    […]the time to read or visit the content or sites we have linked to below the[…]…

  14. […] “Accidental rape” and enthusiastic consent: […]

  15. […] This article originally appeared on The Good Men Project’s blog on September 26, 2011 and can be read here.  […]

  16. […] that they have caused pain to someone else (I repeat: not all. Some.). In his article “The Accidental Rapist,” Hugo Schwyzer addresses his challenge, as a young man, to understand and respect subtle […]

  17. […] that they have caused pain to someone else (I repeat: not all. Some.). In his article “The Accidental Rapist,” Hugo Schwyzer addresses his challenge, as a young man, to understand and respect subtle […]

  18. […] The Accident Rapist (The Good Men Project) […]

  19. […] Western world tacitly endorses, excuses and tolerates the many forms of identified and heretofore unidentified rape through it’s institutions, traditions, cultural practices, laws and religions (though […]

  20. […] is  a story recently posted on The Good Men Project under the title “Accidental Rapist“: “I don’t want to hurt your feelings,” she said, “but sometimes I really don’t […]

  21. […] his dues to feminism, Hugo Schwyzer trots out a new rape category:  “accidental rape”.  His post begins with an anecdote from his early college years: At first, I didn’t know what she meant. She […]

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