“Consent” is a hot word right now. And it should be. I hope it’s here to stay. Because when a date does something against your explicit wishes, it’s game over, right?
But, I’ve noticed the “consent” conversation largely hovers around sexual consent only (and the trauma caused when consent is absent and sexual assault occurs). —
Yet, men often show you on the very first date whether they care (or not) about honoring your boundaries.
A 52-year-old woman I know shared this story: “I knew he wasn’t the guy for me two minutes after we sat down in the booth. He talked about himself incessantly, and he didn’t ask me a single thing about my life. When he offered a second drink, I said, ‘no.’ But when the server came, he said,’‘Two more, please.’ In total, he ordered six glasses of wine — three for him and three for me. I left that last one full, sitting on the table.”
The sad part is — the pressure to speak up and tell the server, “Excuse me, please bring just one,” was too great for this woman — a situation many of us surely relate to.
From a distance, it seems like one of those “duh!” no-brainer moments, yes? But, nearly every woman I know, from my clients to my friends, tells me one story after another each week that involves a cardinal dating sin: not speaking up for themselves. (And I’ve had plenty of moments when I’ve said nothing, as well.)
The pressure to “go along to get along,” not rock the boat and avoid displeasing the other person at all cost is the cultural training many of us received as little girls. It touches us to our core. Our inner self whispers, “Just get through this. Be nice.” Unfortunately, some people (let’s just call them what they are: jerks) count on this and are more than willing to take advantage.
It’s a true dating dilemma. One that’s even tricker to address when your boundaries are violated by a man you truly like.
While writing this article, my phone rang for a coaching call with a client who filled me on a great date she had that, sadly, went awry.
“We have so much in common, and we have this uncanny rare connection!” Sandra said. “He’s attractive, charming, quick-witted, and he’s on the same par with me intellectually — finally. Except there’s one problem; he wanted to go a little further sexually than I was comfortable with this early on.
I told him I wasn’t ready for where he was taking us, but he pushed. When I called him on it, he deflected and didn’t own what he was doing. I decided to give him another chance because I saw real potential with him, and I can usually go with the flow. But he kept trying to take the date to places I just wasn’t ready for. Do you think it’s wrong of me to stop seeing him or should I give him another chance?”
(Once again, it’s alarming how difficult it is for so many women to say “no,” or speak up for themselves at all.)
So, how do you know which men are likely to violate consent boundaries?
Spotting a dangerous man when you don’t like him is easy. But noticing his negative traits gets a bit fuzzy when he’s hot, or smart, or funny, or charming, or, oh boy, all four. In these cases, I have a pro tip for you, sister:
No matter how “nice” he is, if a man doesn’t honor you saying “no” on the little things — RUN!
Because, nice ass(ets) or no, he has just committed the #1 dating no-no! He may as well have said to you, “I care more about what I want than what you need.”
Of course, this behavior shows up differently from guy to guy. I put men like this in three categories:
1. The ‘Nice Guy:’ This guy would never intentionally push your comfort levels if he knew you wanted to bail, or that you need to slow things down.
2. The Sneaky Good Guy: This guy is basically a decent person who is heavily steeped in bad information. We cannot discount the huge impact our culture has on training young men to believe women “play hard to get,” and that, with any sign of waffling on her part, it’s perfectly OK to push her further. You know, because women “secretly want it.” (Oye, giant sigh!)
3. The Total Asshat: This jerk hears you say, “No, thank you”, loud and clear and orders you another drink anyway. Or sticks his hand where it isn’t welcome. Yeah — that guy. By disregarding your explicitly stated wishes, he’s practically slapping you across the face with that red flag.
Want to know how a man will treat you long-term?
On the very first date, clearly articulate a need or boundary. (Yeah — it’s that easy.) How he responds to your boundary or request shows you how he’ll treat you now and in the future. If he doesn’t honor your “no” about a second glass of wine, he’s unlikely to honor your “no” sexually.
Drawing a line in the sand is never easy or fun. I know, I’ve failed epically at it dozens of times. But I got better at it with practice, and you can, too. Practice saying “no” and holding your boundaries with a close friend or in front of the full-length mirror.
Go ahead: try getting these words out with some grace and strength behind them:
- “No, thank you.”
- “No, this is my last one.”
- “No, thanks. We’re only here for drinks, not dinner.”
- “No, I’m not available for that.”
- “No, I’m not ready for this yet.”
- “No, I’m not OK with you putting your hand there.”
- “No, I won’t be staying.”
Seriously! … Practice this in your every day life, as much as you can. I double-dog dare you, because when you need to use that “no,” to be fair to your date, you’ll want to state it clearly. And to be fair to you, you’ll want to mean it.
“No” might seem like, well, a negative word, but it’s actually one of the most powerful tools you have.
Being confident in your “no” shows others they can trust your “YES!”
I’m Wendy Newman, a media-celebrated author & trusted dating, sex & relationship advisor. Pick up my book, 121 First Dates: How to Succeed at Online Dating, Fall in Love, and Live Happily Ever After (Really!) here!