There are a lot of different ways for a person to say no. My female friends and I often say that ‘no’ is the weakest word that you can use against an aggressor. Even in today’s age of ‘No means no’ where rape can happen against spouses and the words sexual assault can ruin a person’s life, the word ‘no’ often falls on deaf ears.
My best guess is that this is because when the person being attacked or adversely persuaded says ‘no’, the aggressor gets the message that they are in control. According to Nigel Barber, PhD’s article The Human Beast, “date rape is a sexual crime but it is also about who controls the interaction, an issue of great concern for feminists, and for women in general.” Once that person understands they are in control, it doesn’t matter what the attackee says.
But what to do when a person you’re getting intimate with says, “I’m not comfortable with this?”
The answer is: Stop.
If you really care about the person – if you really want to get to the next level – stop. That person may come around – or they may not. But, if you continue on, after they have stated their discomfort, you are no better than someone who says ‘no’ and is ignored. At that point, you, too, are implying that you have the control and the person who is uncomfortable does not. Even if you get that next step -whatever it is – a level of trust has been broken. The other person now knows that no matter what happens in the future, their wishes will be ignored.
I had been friends with Bad Timing for a long time and we started making out. I wasn’t really into going very far, but he was. I tried to hold back, but he persuaded me to keep going. Suddenly, I found myself in a place that I was not comfortable with. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I said, “I’m not comfortable with this.”
This is a story I can tell many times over. I had to be insistent with Bad Timing, but I finally walked out and it mostly ended our friendship. Other cases have ended better – and some worse. But, the take away from this is, if you love your partner, stop after they say they’re not comfortable with ‘this’.