I met with a guy at a hotel, which he paid for. When I didn’t have sex, he said that I should pay towards the room.
The thing is, that evening before I turned him down, so much was going through my head:
‘He paid for the room so I should put out’
‘He’s a nice guy and doesn’t deserve the rejection’
‘What if this gets nasty, I’ve had a drink and can’t drive home, who do I know close by’
‘I’m an empowered woman so shouldn’t feel like I need to do anything I don’t want to do’
‘If he decided it was his right to have me and I resisted, no one would be believe me - I would be seen as the slut who got what she deserved’ - my mind returning to the scenes from Prima Facie starring Jodie Comer who plays a barrister who is raped by a colleague. It shows how the legal system is basically created in a way that women don’t receive justice in sexual assault and rape cases.
‘This is about consent and I have the right to withdraw consent at any time’
‘I will be seen as a dick tease’
And there it was. It was all returning to the surface. Feelings and contradictory thoughts that confused me in my 20s had made an appearance again. As I drove home the following morning the words ‘dick tease’ continued in my head.
It took me back to situations I would find myself in when I was younger. Chatty, bubbly and considered a warm person to those who knew me. I would get bought a drink and thank the man buying it for me. When he then reached in for a kiss and I said ‘no’, I would get ‘you’re just a dick tease’. This was the confusion in my earlier years of going out. Not fully understanding ‘the rules’. I quickly learnt though not to accept a drink from a guy unless I had the intention of kissing him. And definitely not more than one - I wasn’t ‘that sort of girl’ - so I wouldn’t want him to get the wrong impression and think I wanted sex. I learnt it was safe to only accept drinks off men who were relatives, friends of a boyfriend, or my friends’ boyfriends.
It was to protect myself. I was learning that receiving meant giving. I was learning that people-pleasing and placating a man would keep me safe. It’s one of the reasons in my 20s that I didn’t get to fully explore my sexuality.
Because I would find a husband more quickly if I was ‘wife material’ - and nobody married a slut
If I don’t sleep around and I’m not a slut, then I would be safer. If anything happened to me, as a ‘good girl’ I was more likely to be believed.
Number 2 was partially also due to the fact I was sexually molested on the bus on the way home from school as a teenager. The boys weren’t given detention or suspension, no punishment, and those around me believed I must have done something to encourage them.
No. It wasn’t safe. Shutting down my sexuality was the only answer.
Society had taught me that I was responsible:
That I was responsible for how men felt and reacted to my attractiveness and sexuality.
That I was responsible for the feelings of a man who has been rejected.
That I had to protect men from rejection by not acting in a way that would create an interest in me.
That I was responsible for how I was treated based on my behaviour and how I dressed.
That it was all my fault.
And this conditioning I have since realised started young.
You see when we are children and we play with a boy and are good friends with them, the adults around us sexualise it. I admit, I did this too with my eldest when he was younger and have since learnt differently. We are always learning. So we say to the boy or girl - ‘is that your boyfriend/girlfriend?’ Unconsciously teaching children that it isn’t possible to be friends with someone from the opposite sex as it means something ‘more’. We sexualise their relationship. So when a guy is older and he does something for a woman, it makes sense that he has been conditioned to expect something back - and as men and women can’t ‘just be friends’ then romance or sex it is.
We are also conditioned that it’s OK for boys to not listen to and accept consent. If a boy pulls a girl’s hair at primary school, it’s often dismissed as ‘he fancies you’ and the behaviour is rarely if ever, corrected. So little boys grow into men thinking that it’s acceptable to take something if you want it. That body consent is not important.
I also want to touch upon something else I noticed, too. I was at the park with a friend who has two young girls. We were talking about nail varnish. Her husband doesn’t agree with it on their girls as he believes the next step is make up. It got me thinking and I shared my thoughts with her. There is a shop in the UK called Matalan and it sells boys’ t-shirts which are the exact same as men’s. One t-shirt for the boy and the same one for daddy. Little boys being like their fathers is seen as something to be celebrated. It’s a positive if he grows up to be and dress ‘just like his dad’.
Little girls however, don’t get that privilege. Because little girls who dress like their mothers are sexualised. Make-up and nail varnish, rather than being seen as a form of expression for oneself, it is seen as an attempt to get the attention of men. The objectification and the sexualisation of women means that when a girl copies her mother, we are seen as sexualising the girl. When in fact, the root is the sexualisation of women. What the ‘role’ of women is for men. My invitation here is that when you next see a little girl with a crop top and nail varnish and you judge her or her parents, that you explore your own relationship to a woman’s sexuality.
Children like copying adults. It’s how they learn to be in the world. 2 year olds following their parents around with the duster. 8 year olds listening to their father talk about football and who their favourite player is and repeating the same conversations in the playground.
But for girls and women, our bodies are not for us. As we bloom into womanhood we are quickly taught that our sexuality is not ours. That it’s there to be used by those around us who have a right to access it.
I want to speak to the photo that I consciously chose to use for this piece. It took courage to use it. There will be those reading this who will understand the photo shoot was an expression and celebration of my body and my sexuality - for me. There will also be others, and it’s the judgement of those who had me second guess whether or not to use the photo, who see my sexuality as a commodity, something to be consumed for a man’s gratification. I have resources below for both men and women to explore further what this has brought up for them - if you are keen to grow and learn.
My husband summed it all up perfectly. When I got home and explained what happened and the exchange of messages from the man he said - ‘he sounds very entitled’.
And that was it.
I remember doing a course by my men’s sexuality teacher Cam Fraser called Man Myths (link to course at the bottom). It is a course for women to better understand the men in their lives. In that course he covered ‘entitlement’. That morning in my Facebook newsfeed a friend shared a book with the word ‘entitlement’ on the front cover and that is exactly how I would summarise what happened.
In further unpacking it with my husband, I said to him that part of me knew I shouldn’t have gone. That I had started feeling anxious before leaving to meet the man. Understanding me so well he said, ‘you were already feeling under pressure before you left.’
Yes I was.
And I ignored it for fear of upsetting and letting down the man who had gone to so much trouble to organise a hotel room.
Because society had taught me that he was entitled.
And if I changed my mind, I would be a dick tease.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to Lace and Pear Boudoir Photography
Other articles and resources which are supportive around this topic are: