May 16, 2020

WTF is Unwanted Arousal? Consent 101.


Relephant read: I asked women: “At what age were you first sexualized or abused?” This is Our Story.


“My genitals do not tell you what I want or like. I do.”

That quote jumped off the page when I clicked on the transcript to Emily Nagoski’s TED Talk, The Truth about Unwanted Arousal.

I invite you to watch her video below. As a sexual abuse survivor (and almost thriver) hearing that the shame around being aroused while being abused didn’t actually mean that “I wanted it” or even “that I was asking for it.” This is one confusion many of us have.

Whether we’re with a guy who is obviously aroused but still says no, or with a woman who is wet and wants to stop mid-make out session. The physical response to genital stimulation is not a “yes” it never was and never will be. It just means, as Emily Nagoski says, “…that genital blood flow can increase in response to sex-related stimuli even if those sex-related stimuli are not also associated with the subjective experience of wanting and liking.”

And, “Is it sex-related to have pressure directly against your clitoris? Yeah. Does that tell him whether she wants or likes what’s happening? Nope. What does tell him whether she wants or likes what’s happening? She does!”

We only place this shame and burden on physical responses of the body when it comes to sex. As Emily says, “And we only do this around sexuality, because arousal nonconcordance happens with every emotional and motivational system we have. If my mouth waters when I bite into a wormy apple, does anybody say to me, ‘You said no, but your body said yes?'”

If you read no further, at least read and understand this message:

“Genital response just means it was a sex-related stimulus; doesn’t mean it was wanted or liked, certainly doesn’t mean it was consented to.” 

And then tell everyone you know about this: “Say it to a judge you know or a lawyer you know, or a cop or anyone who might sit on a jury in a sexual assault case.”

Consent is not like this: “She was with a partner, a new partner, glad to be doing things, and they reached a point where that was as far as she was interested in going and so she said no. And the partner said, ‘No, you’re wet, you’re so ready, don’t be shy.’ Shy? As if it hadn’t taken all the courage and confidence she had to say no to someone she liked. Whose feelings she did not want to hurt. But she said it again. She said no. Did he listen to her words?”

May it be of benefit, and watch to learn what “squick” means:



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