How often have we as women heard the phrase, “You have to make him work for it,” in regards to sex? It’s so ingrained in us that we shouldn’t just admit that we want to have sex with a guy; we have to make him jump through hoops in order to sleep with us.
Now, let’s think back to a night when you went home with a guy, maybe as a one night stand, but maybe not. Things are starting heating up, he goes to take off your pants, and you say no, but you don’t really mean it. You were thinking how it shouldn’t be easy for him, he has to try harder. So when you said no, you really wanted him to keep going. You wanted him to practically beg to get in your pants, and he does beg. He was smooth and “persuaded” you, and he worked for it, when in reality, you knew you were going to sleep with him as soon as you left the bar.
An alternate, much scarier scenario is a girl who is with a guy, and when she says no, she means no. She doesn’t want him to “work for it,” because she doesn’t want to sleep with him. But he keeps pushing and pushing, because in his mind, no just means try harder. Maybe he gets too aggressive, maybe she gets so uncomfortable that she just stops resisting, and the outcome is he has “sex” and she is raped. Does that scenario sound familiar to anyone else?
In the academic paper “Denying Rape but Endorsing Forceful Intercourse: Exploring Differences Among Responders,” the authors look at data gathered from 72 men. The study aims to look at men’s attitudes toward rape and forceful or coerced sex. In the study, each participant was asked if they would be willing to “use force to obtain intercourse” if “nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences.” Of the 72 men, almost 32 percent responded “yes” to that question. That number drops down to only 13.6 percent when asked if the participant would have “intentions to rape a women” under the same conditions.
The researchers found that there are also distinctively different attitudes towards sex between the men who admit to rape and those who admit to forced sex. Of those that would be willing to rape, the researchers found that they displayed hostility to women, meaning “resentment, bitterness, rejection sensitivity, and paranoia about women’s motives.” However, those who would be willing to engage in forced sex displayed “callous sexual attitudes,” but no “hostility towards women.” The researchers theorized that the men who displayed callous sexual attitudes might have personality traits that enable men to “not perceive his actions as rape.”
The researchers also thought that for the group that is okay with forced sex, “the primary motivation in this case could be sexual gratification, accomplishment, and/or perceived compliance with stereotypical masculine gender norms” and “the woman’s ‘no’ is perceived as a token resistance consistent with stereotypical gender norms”.
Granted, this was an extremely small study, but the results are outstanding. A significant number of men would be willing to engage in forced sex, but yet do not classify themselves as rapists. I am not trying to excuse this behavior – of course any kind of forced sex is completely unacceptable. In order to diminish sexual assault, there are a number of things that need to be done, starting first and foremost with changing men’s attitudes towards women and increased education on the subject matter. But for women, I think it’s time we step up and look at what we can do, starting with stopping the whole “making him work for it” bullshit. When we stop giving the fake “no” and just admit that we want to have sex, we empower ourselves, and help others. We need to stop perpetuating the stereotype that our “no” is just token resistance, because the more we do that, the more we allow men to believe that “no” really means “maybe” or even “yes.” We need to take responsibility for sending clear signals in sexual situations, so that no one is confused. No needs to always mean no, and it needs to start with us..