This post is for “Grace,” and all the women who need to learn to use their voice.
I want you to better understand how powerful you are, and learn to take your power back.
Of course I’m talking about the woman with the alias “Grace” who had the awful experience with Aziz Ansari. Click here for her account if you haven’t read it yet.
I love how Grace, and many people in our culture, are holding Aziz accountable for his uncaring, dishonoring, violating behavior. We need to hold men to higher standards. There are plenty of articles doing a great job of analyzing his very problematic behavior, how Grace was violated, and the problems of consent in our society, such as this one, this one, and this one. So I will not focus on that.
What I want to focus on is how women can come to realize their power in situations like this, so they will never have an experience like this again. (And to be clear, this post is for people of all genders, especially those raised as, or raising, females in our society.) If we are not acknowledging the power Grace had in that situation, and giving all the power to Aziz, we are taking her power away from her. We are also reinforcing the idea that women don’t have power in a situation like that, which will only perpetuate it happening.
I want women to learn how to say things like, “Let’s not leave yet, I’d like to sit a little longer and finish my wine.” Or, “I like to move slower than that, I’m gonna keep my clothes on for now.” Or, “Aziz, don’t stick your fingers in my mouth. I’m not feeling the desire to suck your dick, and I need us to completely stop what we’re doing here because I’m not feeling honored and I don’t want to be sexual with you now.” Or, instead of dealing with 30 minutes of him following her around trying to molest her, I want women to be able to say right away, “It seems like you don’t care what I do or do not want, so I’ll be going now.”
Grace said, “Most of my discomfort was expressed in me pulling away and mumbling….I stopped moving my lips and turned cold.” Those comments indicate to me that her sympathetic nervous system was engaged, and she was experiencing the “freeze” part of fight-flight-or-freeze. For everyone who said, “Why didn’t she just clearly say no?” Or, “Why didn’t she just leave?” Her mind was doing its best to cope with what was happening. It was confusing, and it can be difficult to think clearly when you’re in survival mode. Piled on top of that was all the programming females have gotten about how women should tolerate things sexually we don’t want, and how we’ve actually become inured to it.
YES, we as a society need to teach men to behave in ways that make women feel safe sexually. YES, men DO need to sincerely care about and notice non-verbal cues of discomfort, and recognize ambiguity regarding consent as a LACK of consent, and honor that. And I believe in men’s ability to do this. (I also know many men who are completely safe and trustworthy, and who are already helping to dismantle rape culture.) But let’s not give all the power and responsibility to the men here; instead, let’s also equip women with the tools to stay in their power so they don’t freeze, as females, generally speaking, have been programmed to do in unwanted sexual situations. Let’s teach them how to clearly and firmly say NO, to know that they CAN say no, and to be able to function in these situations.
There ARE instances where women do not have the option to say no, or when using our voice might escalate the situation to a much more dangerous level, and I’m not talking about those situations. But in so many situations, we do have that option, and we need to talk about THAT. Let’s stand in our power!
Check out my videos below for a tool that will help you say no and take your power back.
22 is young for a woman to be able to find and use her voice in an uncomfortable or violating sexual situation. Some women, unfortunately, go their whole lives without ever knowing how to voice their desires, boundaries, etc. There are women even in long-term marriages who are having sex where they’re not really feeling honored or cared about. Women’s voices have been squashed when it comes to sexuality. And men have been taught to ignore women’s voices, especially sexually. We’ll get a bit more into the programming below. But first…
We need to talk about how Grace can feel empowered in situations like this one because how many women have NOT been in a situation like this?
“Grace” is MOST women, at least at some point, and sometimes un-endingly. And “Grace” will be the younger females who are girls and teenagers now if we don’t start teaching women how to find their power and voice in situations like this VERY common Aziz scenario.
Grace, and all women, need to learn
1. a sense of complete ownership over their own bodies
2. that they have the right to say no to things happening to their bodies that they don’t want
3. how to say no
I was 20 when a guy fucked me one night when I did not really want it at all. I did not say anything. I just laid there and let it happen. It should have been obvious to him I didn’t want it, not participating and laying there like I was comatose. But I did not use my voice because I did not know how. I did not even know, at a deep level, that I had the right to… I was taught that sex was for the man, and my job was to be desirable and please men. I was taught this in a million zillion ways, being raised female in our society. I was also in a LTR when I was younger where I was often manipulated and coerced sexually, which I didn’t even fully comprehend until after it was all over. Yes, that person was wrong. He was selfish and did not care about what I wanted or didn’t want. But I failed as well, because I did not advocate for myself. I did not say no. I have forgiven myself for this ~ Please do not hold these things against yourselves, ladies! It’s not your fault, we’ve been programmed to be this way ~ but I also now recognize the power I had in the situation and therefore successfully navigate sexual situations nowadays.
I remember other times when I was younger that I allowed things to happen sexually that I was not truly ok with. A common one I remember is something that happens in a lot of sex in our culture, being penetrated before my body was really ready. There were times when it was uncomfortable or even painful, but instead of saying anything, I just dealt with it. How many of you have done this? Did you know that the back wall of the vagina will actually move up and into the body when a woman is fully aroused, creating more space for a penis, dildo, etc.? If it doesn’t feel good, your body might not be warmed up enough.
I’m not blaming myself, or Grace, or any of us, for not speaking our truth. We’re all just doing our best with the millennia of gender and sexual baggage that has been passed down to us. But I’m so grateful that, at some point, I began to realize my power in those situations, and that nowadays I no longer allow things to happen sexually that I’m not into. And I want all women to get to this point.
More About the Faulty Programming and Bad Messaging
Women are taught to be compliant sexually, and men are taught not to care about what women want sexually. Our culture teaches men to take, and conquest, when it comes to sex, and teaches women to tolerate, and that we don’t have agency over our own bodies. We are taught that we are supposed to be desirable objects to be acted upon. I love this article, and this article, which both explain well how we teach this bad messaging in our culture, and how women have been taught to “freeze” (which might look like them literally not being able to move, or more just finding their voice stifled, or not being able to take action to make the situation different and going with the other person’s flow despite not wanting to). These articles are more focused on male (+ hetero) sexuality, but we ALL receive the same messaging about female and male sexuality. (Fortunately, all the transgender sexuality blossoming at this time is helping to break us all free of the issues of the two boxes!) My first blog, here, also talks a bit about the bad messaging we receive, and how it came to be. And for a laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, check out this video about how we WISH popular movies didn’t model rape culture.
The harmful programming we’ve all received has blocked so many females from understanding their power and finding their voice. Aziz was sleazy and violating. He should have backed the fuck off! And those of us who care about women’s sexuality are sooo freaking tired of the victim-blaming. But for us to pretend like she had no power in this situation is only going to perpetuate the victim-hood of women sexually. I am NOT blaming Grace at all. I understand where she was at with it all too well. But women NEED to rise up and use our voice sexually, so that we are safer, more fulfilled, experiencing more pleasure, etc.
How many times have you disregarded your own feelings sexually?
Ladies, how many of you have given blow jobs when you did not want to? I know a LOT of you have. Personally, I thoroughly enjoy going down on my partners, and it turns me on. But I know many of you do NOT like it, it feels like a chore, and if you cannot find the joy in it, don’t do it. Now, sometimes we can enjoy doing something sexually just because it makes our heart happy to please our partner in that way. THAT would be a reason to give someone oral sex if you’re not super into it sexually. But Grace did not want to perform oral sex on Aziz, and that means she should not have done it, for her own sake. Ladies, this should not come as news to you, but it goes against the grain of our conditioning, so I will say it out loud ~ if you do not want to do things sexually, you should not do them. And it’s not that Grace is “wrong” or “bad” for doing it, it’s that she was doing what she was conditioned to do, and hasn’t yet found her voice and agency. It’s all about learning and growing. What about you?
All this consent stuff is NOT just dependent on men. Please don’t give up your power in that way. Find your voice. And remember, men have gotten the programming too. They’ve been conditioned to play their role, too. The evolution is in the Battle of the Sexes being over, and in all of us coming to a place of feeling that we are all in this together.
So what do we do about this?
In this post, we’re talking about the first two things above that I said all women need to learn:
1. a sense of complete ownership over their own bodies
2. that they have the right to say no to things happening to their bodies that they don’t want
Please ask yourself ~ when was the last time I allowed something to happen to my body sexually that I didn’t really want? E.g., someone moving too fast, someone touching you in a way that was agitating, someone penetrating you in a way that brought discomfort, an experience where you were not liking what was happening but remained silent, etc. Has it been a long time, and you are completely over that now? Or is this something you still need to work on? If so, you are not alone. This happens all the time.
The Truly OK Pledge
The programming we’ve gotten as females in this society ~ to lay back and let it happen, to tolerate things we shouldn’t, to focus on whether or not we are desirable as opposed to focusing on what it is we do or do not desire, and so on and so forth ~ will take some time to undo. We must re-program our minds. It’s a practice. But you can do it. The first step is acknowledging to yourself that you never have to allow or do anything sexually that you don’t want. Let that sink in. It seems so obvious, but it’s one thing to know it logically, but another to REALLY KNOW, in your body and with your whole being, that YOU NEVER HAVE TO DO OR ALLOW ANYTHING SEXUALLY THAT YOU DON’T REALLY WANT. Yes, there are dangerous sexual situations where women don’t have a choice. But the vast majority of situations where women feel violated (especially most micro-violations which are so common and happen all the time), are situations where women do have a choice and they just don’t realize it or don’t know how to exercise it. Let’s empower each other in this area.
I want you to make a commitment to yourself today that from now on you will only allow things to happen sexually that you are honestly and completely cool with. I have created a little tool to help you make this commitment called The Truly OK Pledge. Please take this pledge today, via the video below, in honor of your body, in honor of your pussy, in honor of your heart, your psyche, and all that you are. Please take it with two intentions: 1. to practice it. And 2. for it to plant seeds within you that grow into a more empowered, liberated, and gratified sexual YOU. Also, please share this mindset and information with women and girls and all people you feel would benefit. Let’s stand in solidarity with Grace and each other that we are going to do a good job of advocating for ourselves, using our voice, and stating our boundaries and desires as needed.
The first video below is a 10-minute video that will guide you through taking the pledge, and help you reflect more on the dynamics of the situations we’re talking about here. The second video is a shorter, 4-minute version, and is there for you as a reminder any time you need it, or if you just wanna get right to it.
One more thing I want you to know ~
Learning to use your voice can help even in very dangerous situations.
When I first moved to Hawai’i I did not have a car and I hitch-hiked a lot. I had overwhelmingly positive experiences, but there was one scary night. I lived in a very remote place on an active volcano, and down the road from me was an even more remote place where the lava was coming out. Back at that time, tourists were never there, and hardly anyone lived out there. When the driver got close to where he was supposed to drop me off, he did not slow down. I reminded him, “Oh, this is where I’m getting out.” Still he did not slow down, and instead was driving me off in the direction of the lava. I realized what his intentions were, and said firmly and with conviction, “Turn around now and take me home!” I was quite surprised when he did what I said. But then again, after a minute or two, he turned in the direction away from my house. Again, I insisted, “Take me home now!” And again I was surprised when he turned back in the direction of my home. This happened a few times. To cut the story short, I ended up getting home ok. But that was such a powerful lesson for me. It was amazing to see how that guy kept turning back towards my house because I told him to. Your voice and your will DO have power, probably more than you know. I must say, living on the active volcano Kīlauea definitely taught me about the power of feminine ferocity. Thank you so much, Mahalo nui loa, Pele Ma!!
The next step is practicing using your voice, and encouraging others to do so.
Yes, we need to keep talking about how men need to care about what women want and don’t want sexually, holding them to higher standards, and holding them accountable. But also, women, WE have got to OWN our power in sexual situations, and cultivate our awareness of our power and our voice. And we need to have THAT conversation with each other, as well. Please, use your voice to have this convo with your friends, sisters, mothers, daughters, and gender-queer folks raised as females. Please share this post, as we need to get this information out there. And do use your voice in every sexual situation when you need to speak your truth.
I believe in you. I believe you can have empowered sexual experiences where you walk away feeling honored, respected, cared about, and deeply gratified. I know that you can learn how to be a fully active participant in what is happening to you sexually, instead of just being an object to be acted upon. You are so much more than that. And you are so much more powerful than that. Begin the practice now. Blessings upon your journey!
Btw, I love reading comments, and I’d love to hear from you below!