Saying Yes When You Want To Say No

Saying-Yes-To-Saying-No-194x300Many women agree to sex that they aren’t too interested in. University of Texas, Austin researchers say the reasons vary. Some want to nurture relationship. Some are doing what they think is expected. Others feel pressured. A few want to avoid a fight. It can be a problem. Or, unexpected benefits may arise. Today, let’s look at the downside.

Some women are pleasers and feel uncomfortable saying no. Ironically, one woman’s religion got her saying yes to premarital sex because her church had kept her naïve and encouraged passivity,

Persistence from a partner, emotional games, alcohol, passivity, and difficulty saying no were all important factors. I felt nervous, unsure and confused. I didn’t want to make the other person angry with me. When things didn’t go the way I trusted them to I didn’t know what to do. These experiences all occurred before age 19, after which I got stronger and wiser.

Some fear rejection. As another woman explained, 

I had a friend in high school who made it seem like the only way I could be cool was if I shunned everything I thought was right. I would have sex just so she would have more respect for me. I hated every experience I was having.

More commonly, women fear losing boyfriends, like this young woman,

I was stupid and thought sex would keep my boyfriend around. I was 17 years old and it didn’t work.

Others try to compete with the fireworks of internet porn, which is often distressing.

A few seem more coerced than consenting:

When I was 17, I dated a guy who was 26. I didn’t want to lose him, so when we made out, he would force my head down for oral. He would hold my head there for a long time, even if I was crying. (But I) figured this was part of what I needed to do to be datable.

Agreeing to have sex is a big problem when we feel pressured to perform acts that repel us or that go against our values. Sex that brings feelings of desperation, shame, remorse and self-betrayal only damages our self-respect.

These relationships are best left behind.

All data come from Why Women Have Sex by University of Texas, Austin researchers. 

Note: I’m doing reruns for the holidays.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on December 23, 2013, in feminism, gender, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 39 Comments.

  1. “More commonly, women fear losing boyfriends”

    This is not an idle fear. You will lose your boyfriend with this attitude. Why sugar coat it? You want to lose your boyfriend, don’t pay attention to his needs.

    • Sounds like a couple that is not well-matched. And he should be concerned with her needs too.

      • “I think everyone should be concerned with their partners needs, well-matched or not.”

        And yet you implied that if a man doesn’t think he’s getting enough, they are not a match. So the girls SHOULD be afraid of losing their boyfriends.

        And I guess the boyfriends are not afraid, because… well losing a girlfriend who won’t sleep with you isn’t considered much loss.

        Shouldn’t we be honest with girls on how the world works? We can talk all day about what we think SHOULD happen, but what actually happens is far more important in our decision making.

      • If one person wants sex and the other doesn’t they aren’t well matched. I know couples where is the woman who wants more sex. So she looks for a better match.

        More often it is the man who wants more sex and that is not surprising given how sexually punishing and repress of our society is to women. If you want women and men to both have a high sex drive we need to stop punishing women’s sexual desire.

        See these:
        Repression: Not What You Think It Is

        Sex-Negative Societies & Non-Orgasmic Women
        Religion Shutting Down Sexuality
        Repression Shutting Down Sexuality
        Why Women Stop Being Porn Stars

        Women Are More Responsive To Repression

      • It’s also not surprising given biology. Sex a few dozen times in your lifetime could represent peak reproductive achievement for a woman, who can realistically only give birth to a dozen or 2 children. Men have no such limitation in peak reproductive achivement. Of course, as a social constructionist, the bare facts of reality won’t impinge on your beliefs.

      • Well you don’t find a big difference between men and women in sex life in sex-positive cultures, where women’s sexuality is not shamed and where women’s bodies aren’t objectified so they aren’t so distracted worrying about how they look. Sex-positive cultures tend to be gender equal and have low levels of rape so that women are also less likely to associate the sexuality with something horrible.

    • “Sounds like a couple that is not well-matched.”

      Maybe. But that doesn’t avoid you the choice of playing ball, or taking your bat and ball and going home.

      “And he should be concerned with her needs too.”

      Why? You just told us that if needs don’t align, you’re not well matched, and should call it a day. So no need to be concerned about her, by that argument.

  2. I feel like a lot of men pressure women into having sex when the woman really wants to say “no”. The guy continues to beg and beg until we give in and as soon as we don’t, the guy hates us and calls us names. Sometimes this issue, say yes when you really mean no, comes with age. The older you get the smarter. The guys and girls are obviously more mature and don’t have time for games. They pretty much know what they want, sex or not. But it’s true when you’re pressured into having sex it’s like, I just did it to make you happy not because I was ready and that sucks.

  3. When I was growing up I had a lot of friends that thought this would be a good way to keep there boyfriends around and also would be a good way to keep there boyfriends from cheating on them. When the boyfriend would ask them for sex they would always say yes in fear that the guy would leave them or go get sex from somewhere else. They would always tell me that they really liked this guy and that they really wanted them to like her and my response was always why would you down grade yourself for a guy? If he wants to force you into having sex when your not ready why are you going to stay? And they could never give me a reason besides they really liked this guy. Now when I talk to them they tell me they wish they could go back and change it because it was a dumb way of thinking to keep a guy around.

  4. I think this is all too real these days. Women and also men are forced to have sex because it is “the right thing to do” even if they don’t want to or it goes against everything they believe in. I grew up in a religious home, where I was taught that sex was wrong and that I needed to stay a virgin until I was married. But my parents never talked to me about sex, the only thing that was drilled into my head was that it was wrong and that I shouldn’t do and save myself for my future husband. But then high school came along and everyone was doing it and everyone was pressured to fit in. I was also one of those people. I had a boyfriend who had already been with a couple other girls, and I thought I was in love and didn’t want him to break up with me because I wouldn’t sleep with him. I did it and totally regretted it right after. After that I thought that that is what every boyfriend I ever had was going to want, so I would give in every single time, just so I wouldn’t have to be pressured to the point where I had no choice or it would cause a fight. It wasn’t until after I graduated high school and started college that I realized that I could say no, and if a man doesn’t respect that and keeps trying, he doesn’t really respect me. I was celibate for about five years until I met my current boyfriend, who respected my decision to not have sex until I was comfortable in the relationship. He waited almost a year, and never pressured me or even asked once, and that is how I knew I was very much respected and that he was the one for me.

  5. Yeah I guess, but why does one need to have a camera focusing on a bodypart to have a body part become an obsession or for it to be sexual now? And why would girls need to be encouraged to ooh and aah of men’s asses? I think men would like the attention to their bodies. I just have a strong inclination that even if their were no adds and objectifying from media or no porn on the internet and tv in the US. As long as women wore clothes covering their butts and breasts and even if just simply wearing jeans most of the time. Even if women won’t forbidden from going topless in public, but didn’t and usually kept their tops on and bottoms on, that men would sexualize such body parts simply with their eyes. Like I said, guy’s can still do that now. There obviously isn’t going to be shock value with a woman wearing a tigh dress or tight pants or nice top, as nothing is scantily clad. But the clothes simply showing such nice looking curves, can get guys to thinking sexual thoughts of a pretty woman wearing simple clothes, probably especially if the guy is really horny and hasn’t gotten laid in a while.

    • Well, it doesn’t have to be a camera, in particular. But there needs to be some sort of cultural obsession along with selectively hiding and revealing.

      Why does that have to be case? That’s what social patterns show. The breast fetish develops in cultures that do this sort of things but does not in cultures that don’t.

  6. The tribal men are seeing naked breasts constantly and in routine form. 1980s european men didn’t get obsessed over women, because they saw topless women at the beaches so it wasn’t a big deal. Men got used to the sight there so there wasnt a shock factor. However outside of the beach I’m pretty sure women weren’t walking around topless out in their backyard or in public places in Europe, because in those situations and context it could get men distracted. You could argue if a body part is covered a lot and not shown much it could be fetishsized, even if not revealed or accentuated. That’s why women in burkas and legs being shown could be a big deal to men. In that same sense, men’s bare asses are rarely shown, so in that sense they should be fetishsized by women, but they aren’t

    • But there’s no accompanying cultural obsession. The camera doesn’t constantly focus on a guys behind, for instance. There’s no selectively hiding and revealing. And girls don’t live in a culture that encourages them to ooh and aah over the male buttocks. It’s completely different from the world men inhabit which constantly objectifies the female form in these ways.

  7. Are you sure, isn’t that an assumption. There are girls who are promiscuous in America who aren’t held back by the slut shaming or still fool around. But even these girls, usually aren’t pursuing guys or aren’t quite as visual toward guys as guys are toward girls. Even if these indian women loved sex and they were more open to casual sex and didn’t need an emotional bond to have sex. It’s still an assumption to think, they were visually perving on these indian men and lusting after them and highly distracted and could barely contain themselves seeing these fit guy’s bodies. You can say well the indian men weren’;t that way toward the women either. But that’s because they saw the women naked or half naked all the time, so it wasn’t a big deal. You have these women cover up their bodies a little and suddenly those body parts become highly sexual. Because they are sexual body parts, but are simply allowed to be treated as sexual body parts. You can make anything seem mundane no matter how beautiful os routinely showing it. It doesn’t mean something isn’t sexual. I can’t be so sure if these men started to cover up if these indian women would be obsessed about seeing these guy’s bodies. Women should have such a naturaul inclination,social conditioning or not. Men do, that’s why women simply being clothed can cause men to have such sexual thoughts even if a woman is not even wearing anything provacative.

    • Culture never affects everyone exactly the same. Nearly half of US women have reported sexual dysfunction. Thats a lot and it’s cultural. You don’t find that level of problem everywhere. Or many, many can orgasm without a vibrator. That’s due to repression.

      And if you read my blog regularly, you’ll see that a lot of women sleep around even though they aren’t enjoying the sex. They’re trying to feel attractive, validated, or something.

  8. Women should not need men’s bodies to be selectively revealed and covered and accentuated for it to be fetishsized. As long as women’s bodies are covered and not out and about naked constantly, men will visually lust for certain parts of women;s bodies. The media enhances this natural biological drive. I think it’s combination of the two with biology and socially speaking. You know back in the 1920s or so, men didn’t even go shirtless at the beach and wore these funny bathing suit like tops. Even with this, I don’t believe women were fetishsizing men’s torso’s though they should have on your basis about bodies being covered. Eventually men started going shirtless at public beaches and while it caused surpised when that happened; I’m pretty sure women weren’t mesmerized or obsessed over the new flesh these men were showing at the beach.So like I’ve said, I think women are visual, but there are just biological differences with men and women.

    • Actually, men do need what I said for a fetish to occur. Fetish is different from basic attraction. So a woman could find a mans body attractive, but she likely won’t get aroused just looking at it. Same with tribal men, 1980s European men.

  9. Guy’s don’t have to be in the “mood” or aren’t nearly as fickle with wanting sex or not wanting sex.. I just believe in general, men are just hornier than women, regardless of social conditioning. I think social conditioning causes women to show this sexual side as much or hook up less than they might want to out of fear of being seen as a slut. But, if it was simply conditioning, women should be watching porn as much as men look at porn. Women would be in the mood or not so fickle with wanting sex in commited relationships as much as they don’t have to worry about being seen as a slut as it’s one man. And they are with a man who they love and feel comfortable with, etc, so they should want sex all the time or not be fickle with having to be in the “mood”. But many women even with good husbands can stlll be on and off with their desire for sex. You argue about the tribal women having lots of casual sex as your argument. But that doesn’t necassarily mean women in general are as horny as men are.It can mean simply these tribal women or native america women, didn’t have the stigma of casual affairs so they did much more of it with these men. But there’s a decent chance these native american men, probably still had to “court” these women and be charming and seductive with their personalities or prove their assest to these women, by perhaps the buffalo they just hunted and these women were still “selecting” the best man who courted her.

    If it was the case of women being as horny as men, these women not need to be courted and need these things to check through and would just bang the hot guy they see with their eyes simply. Guys can run very simply like that, because of the visual horminal drive guys have I guess. While many women might feel shamed about their desires, I think many women don’t watch porn like men, etc, not because of shame, but because it’s something they just can’t really get into arousal wise, because they can’t go stimulated or not as much as men by just visual stimuli and need mental stimuli too or emotional stimuli, etc. I think men and women are more similar, but there are differences, and I don’t expect men and women to be the same, That’s why there are the opposite sex. A lot of the difference can be social, but there are some like I said that I beleive are simply biological.

  10. Sex shouldn’t be forced. When there is connection between two people and when love completes gap between them , there arises a feeling of touching your love and feeling them. This feeling is filled with pleasure. And those who are not in love and still feel like having sex with that person they get attracted to, also needs partners consent. Some girls do say a yes to avoid breakup or fear of losing their partner which i feel is not correct.

  11. It’s too bad many girls have such insecurities to feel the need to oblige men when they don’t want to or feel they have to, to get the guy to be with them or like them. But I have to bring this up, because you seem to think men and women are quite similar but condiitiiong causes the difference. To some extent I agree, but this right here makes me feel the biological difference. You keep saying or you think women are as sexual and visual as men and it’s conditioning that is to do and the tribal women thing. But if women are as sexual and visual, why do they need the emotional attachment and for a guy to “like” her. And why does she oblige and do these things hoping for the emotional needs met from the guy, if she is as visual and sexual? Why do these emotional needs have to be met? They don’t have to be met by men usually. Why, all this nervousness and things with women about not really wanting sex and doing this and that, because they wanted to be liked? You don’t see guys doing that.

    Even if a guy wants to be liked; guys are usually not feeling obliged and guys are usually ready to go and don’t need a mental connection. If girls are like guys naturally like you think, they would not do these things to obliged and so many circumstances but just want to bang, the guy they are with. Or not waiting, but be fine and ready to have sex with the guy or perhaps hoping the guy “would put out”. To me it seems like generally women’s attractions and turn ons are more mentally stimulated or a lot driven that way. This seems biological to me. Not that guys aren’t mentally involved, but generally guy’s seem to be genital driven and stirred as far as sex and not needing much to spark them mentally. Chemistry and attracion and vibes seem much more important to stir attraction for women to want sex with a man, whereas, a woman simply being pleasing to a man’s eye is more than enough for a man to desire and want sex with a woman. A relationship with her is another story, where personality matters much more.

  12. Such an important topic- I also think the inability to say no sometimes is a pattern- passed down from generation to generation- on how to be a woman. And then the girl beats herself up for something that is greater than her own will unless-or hopefully until she wakes up to it.

  13. I just scheduled a post on a similar topic for later this week. Issues like this is why there needs to die better sex education for our youth. Specifically, I think there should be curriculum added that defines sexual abuse, rape and other malicious sexual acts. How do teenagers know what is and isn’t wrong when it comes to sex unless someone tells them?

    • Great. I look forward to reading it. Feel free to add a link, if you like.

      Young women so need to know that they don’t need to — and shouldn’t — do anything they feel uncomfortable with.

  14. This is sad. Sex should be fun and pleasurable for both partners. No one should feel obligated to have sex. It’s funny because in some ways, talking about sex can still be a bit of a taboo, yet we are constantly surrounded by it in the media. It’s something you are just expected to be in to and not everyone is all of the time.

    PS Oz is short for Australia!

  15. Merry Christmas from Spain G. Now you know where that is ? 😉
    Oz = Australia
    Ralph xox 😀

  16. Evening from Oz! Came across to wish you and your family and Merry Christmas. 🙂
    Have a great time and catch you back here after Christmas. Hugs Paula xxx

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