Oct 25, 2018

In the No Part 3

In the final episode of our “In The No” series, we sat down with several different groups of college-age women to talk about their sexual experiences. And we found that despite colleges now being steeped in conversations about consent, there was another conversation in intimate moments that just wasn't happening. In search of a script, we dive into the details of BDSM negotiations and are left wondering if all of this talk about consent is ignoring a larger problem.

Further reading:

"It's all about the Journey": Skepticism and Spirituality in the BDSM Subculture, by Julie Fennell

Screw Consentby Joe Fischel

 

This episode was reported by Becca Bressler and Shima Oliaee, and was produced by Bethel Habte.

Special thanks to Ray Matienzo, Janet Hardy, Jay Wiseman, Peter Tupper, Susan Wright, and Dominus Eros of Pagan's Paradise. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

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JAD ABUMRAD: A quick note before we start. This episode contains graphic language and descriptions of sexual situations, may not be suitable for all listeners.

 

[RADIOLAB INTRO]

 

JAD: I’m Jad Abumrad, this is Radiolab. And this is the third and final part of our series In The No, about sex and consent. We started a couple weeks ago with some excerpts from a podcast called The Heart produced by Kaitlin Prest. And then last week had a long, at times difficult, conversation with education consultant Hanna Stotland. Heard a bit from some college-aged men in that episode. Today ...

 

WOMAN: Yes, can I take off my shoes?

 

SHIMA OLIAEE: Yes. If anyone wants to take off their shoes, get comfortable.

 

JAD: We’re gonna start with some college-age women.

 

SHIMA: If you need to stretch you can, like, be like, "Hey, it’s been too long." Like, we can do yoga. No.

 

JAD: Because what we ended up doing sort of midway through the process, was gathering together a whole bunch of different groups of men and women -- college-aged men and women -- in three different cities. And just asking them general questions about how they were thinking about this stuff.

 

SHIMA: Are you excited? No.

 

JAD: I ended up interviewing the men, so I’ll turn this part over to Becca Bressler and Shima Oliaee who were with the women.

 

BECCA BRESSLER: Okay, so I’m just gonna, like, dive right in.

 

BECCA: Yeah, so the average group that we talked to was maybe a dozen women. We tried to make it as diverse as possible.

 

BECCA: You saw it? You saw it coming? Why did you--how did you see it coming?

 

BECCA: And the first thing that really struck us, I think, Shima tell me if you agree, is that there was sort of a disconnect. Like, on the one hand it seemed like affirmative consent for almost everyone we talked to seemed like second nature.

 

WOMAN: Yeah, so I actually teach, like, a workshop on consent for high schoolers.

 

SHIMA: Some of them were even teaching classes on it.

 

WOMAN: Yeah, PHE. Yeah okay, so you know. too, yeah. So, like, a clear and concise "yes" at every step of sexual activity. I think that’s, like, amazing that we’re teaching kids that now. And, like, I do feel like it’s my generation’s problem to change it, and change the narrative about it.

 

BECCA: So a lot of them were really committed to actually changing the way consent looks, the way that these sexual experiences go, and how they’re navigated.

 

SHIMA: But then when we would, you know, focus in on what they were actually experiencing in their lives, what we saw was much different.

 

WOMAN: My friend and I ended up at a bar, and, like, the bartender was really cute, and we were, like, flirting. And he, like -- I don’t want to give any identifying information, but we were just, like, vibing and I, like, hooked up with him. And then, like, immediately after I started hooking up with him I was like, "Oh, this is not what I want." But, like, at that point it’s kind of like saying no would be, like, much more of an uncomfortable situation than just, like, going through with this, and, like, understanding that I already regret it kind of.

 

WOMAN: I don’t know why I didn’t leave, but eventually I was just like, "Okay, fine. Like, whatever." Because they would just be like, "Please. Like, come on, please! Like, you know you’re turned on a little bit." Like, and I would be like, "Fine, whatever. Like, let's -- fine, let’s fuck."

 

WOMAN: I think he was going down on me, and, like, had asked me if I wanted to have sex and I said no. And eventually, like, I just, like, kind of wanted to be, like, over with, like, the entire interaction. And I was just uncomfortable. And then I was like, "Okay, like, let’s have sex." Just because I thought that, like, that was the easier way to, like, make him happy, make -- like, get done with it, and then, like, it be over.

 

BECCA: We just heard a lot of stories of people having sex that they didn’t want to have, you know, where maybe affirmative consent was in effect. They did say yes. But it was either because the guy wore them down, or they were way too concerned with how he was feeling.

 

WOMAN: Like, it would make him feel really, really bad. I know that, like, if he would have known that I felt that way, he wouldn’t have gone through with it. And like, I just didn’t want to, like, hurt his feelings, and be like -- and make him feel like he, like, took advantage of me or whatever, when I knew that there would be no possible way that he would know that I was feeling that way.

 

SHIMA: Some women told us that they say yes sometimes when they don’t want to because they’re scared.

 

WOMAN: Part of the fear in saying a hard "No," is that that hard "No" can then be violated, and that’s like -- that's, like, a terrifying thought. Like, to say, like, a hard "No," like, that’s more traumatizing to me, like, in my head almost than having, like, a soft "No," just sort of like slid past.

 

WOMAN: It’s like having fear of future trauma.

 

SHIMA: Wait, say it again?

 

WOMAN: It’s like having a fear of future trauma.

 

SHIMA: I take that to mean, if your aim is to stay in control and you feel like you might be out of control, then the best way to still be in control is to convince yourself that you are cool with what’s going on.

 

JAD: Wow.

 

BECCA: I walked away feeling like many of the young women felt frustrated both with their world, but also with themselves.

 

WOMAN: Yeah, afterwards I would feel, like, very disappointed in myself, because I would feel like I had compromised my own needs for other people.

 

BECCA: That they would walk away from a situation, and they would have regretted how it went. They maybe didn’t actually want to do it, but didn’t stick up for themselves.

 

WOMAN: And then I -- and then you fight, like, a battle with yourself, because it’s like wait a minute, like, I’m, like, strong. Like, I know I can, like, just stop it, or, like, why -- but it’s so hard, like, in that moment to find, like -- I don’t know, like, the words just to say it, you know? Because then sometimes you’re just like, yeah, it is just easier just to be, like -- let it -- like, just, like, let him finish, that’s it.

 

SHIMA: Like, it was clear for most of these women that in the moment of these encounters, there was some conversation that needed to happen that was not happening.

 

BECCA: But then there actually was this one young woman that we spoke to ...

 

WOMAN: Some people -- I think a lot of people talk about consent as if it's, like, awkward and weird, and like ...

 

BECCA: She just said ...

 

WOMAN: Consent has really become popularized, and is really well-advocated for by the BDSM community.

 

BECCA: BDSM is an abbreviation. So it abbreviates bondage, discipline or domination, sadism, and masochism.

 

WOMAN: Because you constantly have to make sure that somebody’s okay, and be like, is this rope too tight?

 

BECCA: She told us -- I mean, the BDSM community has this figured out. And then she started talking about her own experience. So we’re sort of like, "Hmm. What does that mean that the BDSM community has figured that out?"

 

[BUZZ]

 

JULIE FENNELL: Hello?

 

MAN: You got a buzz there?

 

JAD: Oh, yeah. It’s like the B-52 bomber buzz.

 

[BUZZING STOPS]

 

JAD: Oh that sounds better.

 

JULIE FENNELL: All right.

 

JAD: Okay, hi!

 

JULIE FENNELL: Yay. Hi.

 

JAD: We did it.

 

JULIE FENNELL: We did it!

 

JAD: Don’t you feel like we're -- I always feel like after these technical snafus there’s like a bonding that happens. I feel bonded to you guys.

 

BECCA: I feel it.

 

[laughs]

 

JULIE FENNELL: Well, it’s actually a statistically true thing that people suffering together feel bonded to one another.

 

JAD: Well there you go. Who are you by the way? What do you do?

 

JULIE FENNELL: My name is Julie Fennell. I’m an associate professor of sociology at Gallaudet University, and I have been studying the BDSM community since about 2012.

 

JAD: We called up Julie because she is one of the, I think it’s safe to say, leading academics when it comes to the BDSM community and all of its subcultures. She has written papers, she has done surveys, and she has done it from the inside.

 

JULIE FENNELL: A lot of kinksters like me pretty much feel like we were sort of born this way. And it’s really common to talk to a lot of kinky people who will tell you the same thing. Like, I was five and fantasizing about tying up people’s genitalia.

 

BECCA: Wow!

 

JAD: Whoa!

 

[laughs]

 

JULIE FENNELL: It’s deep stuff, right? I didn’t know what genitals were.

 

JAD: Anyhow. One of the things that we heard from Julie -- and we subsequently heard this also from a lot of academics that we talked to after her -- is that the whole consent conversation, in many ways grew out of BDSM.

 

BECCA: A lot of people will trace, like, the history of BDSM in the United States to the Leatherman community.

 

[CLIP: 1940s pop song: "Have a, have a, have a, haven’t you heard ..."]

 

JAD: This is World War II era, by the way.

 

BECCA: These gay men would hang out in -- in biker clubs, at bars. They would socialize. They were a really tight-knit brotherhood.

 

JAD: Over the decades the brotherhood grew into this much bigger community. And then it really exploded in the '80s, but there’s a problem.

 

BECCA: At the time, no one had ever really formally distinguished between BDSM -- a practice between willing participants, and violence.

 

JOE FISCHEL: BDSM I think had to make the case to the vanilla community, to the non-kink community, that they were not insane, that people were not getting off on hurting people, that it was about roles and role-playing and power.

 

JAD: This is Joe Fischel. He’s an associate professor of womens, gender and sexuality studies at Yale.

 

JOE FISCHEL: Consent was a slogan to convince non-kink people that what they were doing was not violent or a crime.

 

JAD: The full slogan they came up with -- and this was in the '80s -- was "Safe, sane and consensual." And it really stuck.

 

BECCA: To this day you can find it on tee shirts at any -- at any BDSM community event or play party.

 

JULIE FENNELL: Parties that are organized at formal spaces. They’re called dungeons, right?

 

JAD: So getting back to Julie, we asked her, "Okay, if it is true as that one woman said that the BDSM community -- if it is true that they have figured something out about how to do it better, well, what is it?" And she told us a couple of things. First, drinking.

 

JULIE FENNELL: To my way of thinking, that’s incredibly risky.

 

JAD: Very frowned upon in the BDSM world.

 

JULIE FENNELL: In the BDSM scene in my mind, that’s what we’d call edge play, which is like kind of the things that people do where you’re like, "Ah, it seems like a bad idea." Negotiating sex when both people are really, really drunk with somebody that you’ve never met before qualifies as really, really risky.

 

JAD: And speaking of that negotiation, another thing that was an interesting contrast between the quote "vanilla world" and BDSM, is that when two people are negotiating, they’re trying to figure out if they’re gonna get down, in BDSM that conversation is formalized and it’s often public.

 

JULIE FENNELL: Generally speaking, most of what’s happening is out in the open.

 

JAD: These days, you have people called consent monitors that sometimes roam around these parties.

 

JULIE FENNELL: It’s also not uncommon to be standing there negotiating with someone where your friend or their friend is right next to them.

 

JAD: The idea is that that kind of social monitoring makes things safer. Anyhow, I asked her to zoom in on a specific consent conversation. How does it usually go?

 

JULIE FENNELL: People with different experience levels are better and worse at this, typically. Like, let’s say I was going to play with you, right? Like, you’re telling me you've never done anything like this before, right?

 

JAD: Yeah, zero.

 

JULIE FENNELL: Zero. So I like to knife-top, which is a way of describing the fact that I like to do things with knives onto people.

 

JAD: Actually cutting of people, or -- or threatening of cut -- or no?

 

JULIE FENNELL: No. This is just dragging knives along people, and sort of threatening with them.

 

JAD: Got it.

 

JULIE FENNELL: Like, playing with knives. And in truth, the thing that I do to make it more interesting is I like to cut people’s clothes off of them.

 

JAD: Okay.

 

JULIE FENNELL: Like, I teach a whole class on how to cut people’s clothes off of them with knives.

 

JAD: Are they -- are they, like, serrated?

 

JULIE FENNELL: Uh, they can be. So some of them have rough edges, and some of them don’t. And that’s actually one of the questions that I would ask you. So I would ask you if you -- you maybe would be more interested in sort of a poking type sensation or more of a scraping type sensation, based on just hearing that.

 

JAD: All right. I’m going to go with dragging.

 

JULIE FENNELL: I would select my knives accordingly at that point. Because I have separate knives for these purposes.

 

JAD: Okay.

 

JULIE FENNELL: And then I would -- if I was gonna cut your clothes off for example, I would ask you -- I would let you know that there’s -- I’m pretty good at what I do, but there’s no way that I can guarantee that I won’t cut something that you don’t want me to. So if possible, it'd be great if you could take off the thing that you wouldn’t want me to cut, right? Like a necklace or your socks or whatever.

 

JAD: Okay.

 

JULIE FENNELL: And I also, like, warn people going into it, like, I am pretty experienced at this, but I definitely have accidentally have cut people before, so you know, I just need to let you know that this is not a 100 percent guarantee. If that’s something that you absolutely cannot tolerate, then -- then we probably can’t go forward with this. Or if you say, "Well, I mean I’m fine with it as long as it isn’t on my arms, because I don’t want to show up for work." Then I say, "Great. Like, well I'll just restrict what I do to not your arms.

 

JAD: She says sometimes she’ll even get a pen and make a tiny little dot on all of the places the person says are off limits, just so she can be super-duper sure she’s respecting their wishes.

 

JULIE FENNELL: There are actual classes on it.

 

DOMINUS EROS: Hello everyone.

 

JULIE FENNELL: Most well-organized BDSM scenes in the country ...

 

DOMINUS EROS: You guys are allowed to talk here, believe me. I know we have mics around.

 

JULIE FENNELL: ... have weekly or at least monthly classes.

 

JAD: And we actually went to one.

 

DOMINUS EROS: How many people here have taken any of my events before? Raise of hands. There we go. So everyone else is new.

 

JAD: It was in Manhattan, a small studio space. About 15 people were there. And the instructor, a guy named Dominus Eros was sort of at the front of the room in a leather kilt with these two leather straps across his chest.

 

DOMINUS EROS: Now is everyone here familiar with consent? Please? [laughs] All right good. Does everyone know the difference between consent and enthusiastic consent?

 

JAD: One guy in the back raised his hand.

 

DOMINUS EROS: That’s sort of a new thing that’s sort of coming up in a lot of clubs. If there’s a moment of hesitation in that person’s brain, you should automatically be picking that up and be like, "Do you actually want to do this thing with me?" And generally within the first 10 seconds someone can tell if they want to have sex with you. You’re not gonna convince someone otherwise. You’re not going to be like, "I’m going to wear them down." The wearing-down technique, it pisses me off. At a party, nobody owes you anything. Everyone on board so far?

 

JAD: A lot of nods.

 

DOMINUS EROS: Good.

 

JAD: And then he sort of demonstrated how all of this works in action. First ...

 

DOMINUS EROS: Look at the table.

 

JAD: He took everyone over to this table, showed them the toys, different kinds of whips, floggers, a little stick with a feather on the end.

 

DOMINUS EROS: Let me grab what is going to be my little tool to play around with.

 

JAD: He grabbed one of the floggers. And then he and a woman named Bella, who was in black lingerie, they walk over to this giant cross-looking thing in the corner of the room. She then leans against it.

 

DOMINUS EROS: Good. So I currently have Bella with her arms spread on the St. Andrew's cross. Her legs need to be a little bit wider. Bella is not that tall. Now we’ve already had our talk. "Hey, what’s cool? I just met you. Am I allowed to put my hand on your ass, your shoulders, your skin? Do you want to keep your clothes as is, or do you want to sort of slowly undress as we play?" Get all your things, because you don’t know where they’re at. They could totally just want to be like this. Bella has told me she does not want to take any more clothes off. Correct, Bella? Bella also doesn’t like a huge amount of pain. So then we go with that. You feeling alright? Looks like your shoulder's a little funky. You want to warm them up. You don’t go to the gym and do your heaviest set right away, correct? You’re going to sort of warm up the muscles. I do light touching, light hitting.

 

JAD: He starts slowly whipping her shoulders.

 

DOMINUS EROS: Get some nice movement down here. [whipping sound] I’m sort of just observing. Waiting for their body to sort of tell me some notes. When I do impact, their body’s going to tell me something. If I go a little heavy, there’s a little bit of a turtling in. So the hips crawl in. If the ass comes right back out right away that’s saying, "Daddy, hit me again," right? If this stays turtled in, I’ve went a little hard. I can come in and stay, and again your talking can be sexy. Is that a little too much for you baby? Does daddy need to go lighter?

 

BELLA: Yes please, Daddy.

 

DOMINUS EROS: Keep it sexy. You don’t have to say, “Hey, was that too hard?” You can totally keep in very sexy and see how it goes. Staying engaged is very important. If you’re in a space that’s loud you can’t fucking hear anything, so I can’t hear if she’s moaning or if she’s like “ow,” you know? So I want to be able to get my ears in close, see how they do. Then I create this sort of cadence [whipping sounds], play around a little bit more, [whipping sounds] and then from there I’m combining between using impact play and sense play. We’ll go a little more in-depth once you guys start playing around a little bit. And I’ll go around the room, because I want to get to the workshop aspect ...

 

JAD: Dominus spent the next hour sort of moving around the room, helping people as they paired off with their whips and their floggers, learn how to better read each other. And for a moment it felt like oh, we should all be doing this. I mean, maybe not using whips and having sex in public, unless that’s you thing. But finding ways to help each other be explicit and communicative, and to have a code for what words mean. When we talked to college-age men and women a lot of them were like, "We need a script. We need something written down." Because one of the things that’s been found in surveys is that there’s very little agreed-upon language. For example, a phrase like "slow down." When surveyed, many college-aged women will tell you that means stop. Many men will say, no it just means go slower. Well, in the BDSM world, they seem to have sorted some of this out.

 

JULIE FENNELL: So like, I was at a play party and it said on the thing, house rules say yellow means you should check in or pause, red means stop. And if somebody says safe word, that means that you’re calling for help from one of the people that’s around.

 

JAD: It all seemed so clear. And sensible. And dare I say, uncomplicated. But Julie was like, "Yeah, no."

 

JULIE FENNELL: Not really.

 

JAD: When we come back, Julie rains on the parade that we were throwing her.

 

[CALLIE: This is Callie calling from San Francisco. Radiolab is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org]

 

JAD: Hey, I’m Jad. We’re back. Third installment of In The No. And Julie was about to tell us -- Julie Fennell -- that even in the BDSM world, with its very clear rules and safe words, like "red" and "yellow," things to wrong.

 

JULIE FENNELL: The actual real problem with that yellow-red situation is that in public, people almost never end up using red. Like there’s -- one of the huge problems that the BDSM subculture basically has, is that there’s massive, [laughs] massive social repercussions to calling "red" in a public place, basically.

 

JAD: And as we talked about this more, it started to sound a lot like what we heard from the college-aged women. That saying no, even, you know, when it’s buttressed by all of these rules and norms, can still be really hard. There’s a cost.

 

JULIE FENNELL: One of the worst situations that I ever personally found myself in was, I was tied up and suspended, and -- so all of my feet are off the ground. And I’m having a great time. I had negotiated ahead of time that there was to be nothing genital happening. I was very clear about that. I was like nope this is -- this is not a thing.

 

JAD: Then she says the person who she was playing with, who tied her up, decided to try some genital stuff.

 

JULIE FENNELL: And I was really caught in that moment, because we're in a very public place. I could yell "red," but in that place yelling "red" means the whole scene has to stop. And I didn’t want the scene to stop. I liked being tied up, and I’m also cognizant of the fact that this guy is my friend. I really like him. And I don’t want him to get in a ton of trouble. But if I yell “red” really loudly in this public place, there’s a pretty decent chance he’s gonna get banned from the event. And a pretty decent chance he’s gonna get banned from a lot of events.

 

JAD: What did you do?

 

JULIE FENNELL: I kicked him in the face. And he stopped.

 

JAD: 'Cause I was going to say, you’re tied up. That’s very -- the whole point is you’re in a compromised situation.

 

JULIE FENNELL: I am in a compromised situation, but it turns out it puts my feet a lot closer to his face.

 

[laughter]

 

JAD: Even though she navigated that one fine in the end, she says generally speaking, the BDSM community is, in terms of the consent negotiation, not a utopia. In fact, what she experienced in that moment was for a long time not uncommon.

 

JULIE FENNELL: So I should explain that the scene actually got its own Me Too movement about three months before the Me Too movement hit. Like, it didn’t have that hashtag, but exactly the same thing happened where a bunch of high-status people got outed as consent violators in the scene.

 

JAD: These are a bunch of dudes or ...?

 

JULIE FENNELL: Yeah, they’re all men. There’s definitely a lot of consent violations that happen with women, but people don’t pay attention to it. And I have a whole other rant about that. But people who got a lot of attention on them were men, and pretty much that everyone they had hurt was women.

 

JAD: And that’s part of the reason that Julie is, in the end, a little suspicious of all of the rules that we were just enamored of. Or I should say, she’s a little suspicious of placing too much faith in those rules.

 

JULIE FENNELL: It’s not -- it’s not foolproof, right? Like, so I mean I definitely know people who, they don’t want to tell you anymore that they’re not having fun. So there’s a real sense of, like, I don’t want to disappoint this other person. So one of the things that I also will ask in these types of negotiate -- my version of negotiations is like, "Do you feel reasonably certain that you will be able to tell me if you don’t like what’s happening?"

 

JAD: The more I thought about that question, like after we’d done the interview, I was sort of noodling on that. It occurred to me, like what -- that’s a key question. Can you say no when you need to? Some of us just are people pleasers. I am one of those people. It hurts to say no if you know it’s gonna bum someone out. Others have no problem with that. So she asks, "Which kind of person are you right now?" It is situational. "Who are you at this moment?" If they say, "Yeah, right now I’m not good with the no's," then she goes one direction. If they say, "No, no I can tell you."

 

JULIE FENNELL: Then I’m like, "All right. Can we both agree that we are adults?"

 

JAD: That we don’t have to get into all the stuff we don’t want to have happen.

 

JULIE FENNELL: "And that we will take responsibility for actually communicating how we’re feeling in this situation. And if we fail to communicate that, that we will also take responsibility for that. So are you okay with kind of whatever, and you’re gonna tell me if you’re not?" And the other person goes, "Yes. That’s how I want that to go." At that point, our conversation changes from what am I not allowed to do to what do you find hot?

 

JAD: One of the things we kept running into again and again, was this sentiment that was maybe best captured by a guy that Becca and Shima spoke to.

 

MICHAEL LISACK: I’m Michael Lisack. I’m the director of Empowering Victims, and I’m one of the people who came up with the concept for the We Consent app.

 

JAD: That app was actually the one that a guy last episode sort of jokingly referred to.

 

MALE COLLEGE STUDENT: Hello, would you be -- like, can I record you on my cell phone of you saying you’re down to make out right now?

 

JAD: Turns out it’s actually a real app that this guy made.

 

MICHAEL LISACK: There’s no really good -- the problem is that we’ve got a meme. And the meme is already well-established, and the meme is consent. Unfortunately, that meme frames the entire question the wrong way. Consent means that you’re giving someone permission to do something to you. We don’t do sex to someone else. We have sex with someone else.

 

BECCA: Are you saying that that’s the, like, dictionary definition of consent? It’s interesting, because I’m curious if this is just, like, a semantic issue.

 

MICHAEL LISACK: The dictionary definition of consent is giving someone permission to do something to you or on your behalf.

 

SHIMA: Yeah I just looked it up and you’re so right. Compliance or approval of

what is done or proposed by another.

 

MICHAEL LISACK: It’s the wrong word.

 

JAD: And Joe Fischel, the academic that we heard from earlier ...

 

JOE FISCHEL: It doesn’t capture ...

 

JAD: ... agrees.

 

JOE FISCHEL: ... what I think is probably the biggest problem for young people and for sex on college campuses, which is all of the sex is consensual but unhappy and unpleasant and unwanted, and people -- typically women -- endure. The core issue may not be non-consent and it may not be sex discrimination. It might be the fact that men are leveraging their positions of power to extract sex from women that don’t want to be there. And I think it’s hard to target that problem if you call it non-consent.

 

[MUSIC IN]

 

WOMAN: It was a second date. I went home with him, and I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to sleep with him, and I was kind of going through the motions. And at one point he pulled away, because he could tell I was, like, not entirely there. And he was like, "Do you want to have sex?" And I kind of said like, "Uh." Like, I didn’t even say yes or no, and he just stopped entirely. And we just like -- and that was it. And I remember being, like -- like, relieved first and, like, really surprised. Because he read my body -- like, second date, like, read my body language, respected me and, like, didn’t push.

 

MAN: I was at a bar a couple weeks ago, and I was with this girl and, you know, she was -- we were both, you know -- we're both pretty drunk, and she was like, you know, "Hey, you want to go back to my place?" And I was like, "Yeah, I can’t do that. Like, I’m drunk, you’re drunk. Like ..." She was like, "You’re right." And just kind of like moved on. And we continued, like, dancing, and it was fine. We had a fine night. And then, like, I woke up the next morning and she had texted me and was like, "Hey, thank you so much for, like, not taking advantage of me. Like, that means a lot." I was like, that was really easy.

 

WOMAN: I’ve been lucky in the regard that, like, if I’m uncomfortable having sex with, like, my partner, like, like, right when I’m about to be like, "I can’t. Like, I don’t want to do this right now," he always catches, like, my eye and is like -- like, he’ll stop immediately, and like -- you know, I’ve had, like, my own sex trauma stuff, and he, like -- I’m gonna cry. But, like, he will stop. It’s so nice to have a partner that can, like, read your body language and be like, "This doesn’t feel, like -- feel right. Are you okay?"

 

JAD: This episode was reported by Becca Bressler and Shima Oliaee and produced by Bethel Habte. Very special thanks to Kaitlin Prest and the team she worked with at The Heart to produce that series that inspired this whole thing for us. To all the men and women who shared their stories with us. Thanks to Jimena Priato, Roy Volchek, Samantha Shahee, Lainey Goodwill, Don Black, Margo Weiss, Dominus Eros and Pagan's Paradise.

 

JAD: I'm Jad Abumrad. Thanks for listening.

 

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JULIE FENNELL: Hi, this is Julie Fennell. Radiolab was created by Jad Abumrad, and is produced by Soren Wheeler. Dylan Keefe is our director of sound design. Maria-Matasar Padilla is our managing director. Our staff includes Simon Adler, Becca Bressler, Rachel Cusick, David Gebel, Bethel Habte, Tracie Hunte, Matt Kielty, Robert Krulwich, Annie McEwen, Latif Nasser, Malissa O'Donnell, Arianne Wack, Pat Walters and Molly Webster. With help from Shima Oliaee, Katz Laszlo, and Mo Asebiomo. Our fact-checker is Michelle Harris.

 

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