The False No and the Real

Something that often comes up in Amy Jo’s sexuality workshops is the question of “How can I really understand what is a no, and what is just my fear talking?” or the converse: “How can I understand what is really a YES for me and not just me doing what I think the other person wants?”

Cut off and dissociated from the source of own life-giving eroticism, is it any wonder that we have lost touch with our own internal signals of yes and no? We live in a culture of mixed messages in which sexuality is both shameful and titillating. Stories from men: “I started to put my hand up her shirt and she said ‘no,’ so I stopped; and she asked me ‘Why did you stop?'”
For many of us, the sense of wrongness emerges from childhood. Our early sexual memories are a melange of childhood sensuality and the deep sense of wrongness we felt from adults–the repression, the discomfort with their own adult sexuality displaced onto the inherent eroticism of their children.
And as adults, we live in a world of media in which depictions of dubious consent are so normalized. In which breathlessly panting “no” in the ear of the co-star is written to be part of the come-on. No wonder we adopt those scripts for ourselves, in our teenage bedrooms, in the back seats of cars, under the bleachers, in the dim rooms of our own sexual explorations — and then wonder why we don’t feel the way we think we are supposed to feel. Truthfully, seduction without consent is just violation. The real deliciousness comes, not from overpowering someone else’s no, but from the mutual awareness that we both want this, even though it scares us.
So which one is the false no, and which one is real? The only way to tell is by feeling it in your own body; knowing it, trusting it, making it real through voice and action. And that is something you will never learn from a book or a magazine or a movie or the casually practiced gossip of your more sexually experienced peers. You will not feel it in yourself until you can unlearn the numbness and detachment and find your way back to your wild, wanting heart.