Use Me Not

101723980_9d7bbe8c7eNote: this post includes frank talk about sexuality.

Many women (and a few men) are speaking openly about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault. And this has caused a lot of men to ask, “What qualifies as sexual harassment or assault? And have I ever crossed the line?”

I was once cornered as a student by a university department head who started massaging my chest and began working his way downward. (Even if I’d been gay, I’d have been turned off—he had hideous breath.) This was harassment. A few years later, an inebriated audience member at an improv performance dove onto me, jamming her tongue down my throat and her hand down my pants. This was assault. I wasn’t particularly traumatized, but I completely understand why others, especially women, are.

Two years before I met her, my college sweetheart had been a naïve 18 year old who thought she could get pregnant by French-kissing. Three weeks into college she was set straight: her Literature prof introduced her to drugs and sex—on the same night. Two months later she had an abortion. I was the first person she’d ever told. Even though she said yes, under the influence of drugs, this was blatant sexual coercion (the professor should have gone to jail). But it’s not always so cut-and-dried.

Coercion is the grey zone. There’s a squishy, unofficial set of Sex and Dating Rules that goes something like this: 1. Attraction is established—laughing, flirting, kissing; 2. Kissing turns passionate—this could be a yes; 3. Therefore, hands are allowed to wander experimentally; 4. If hands are not pushed away, they are allowed to wander further; 5. If hands are stopped with minimal assertiveness, this could mean, a) no, b) yes, but not yet, or c) receiver hasn’t decided yet; 6. Therefore, after a polite pause, hands are allowed to wander again; 7. If they’re not rejected this time, all systems are go; if they are, it’s a final no. For some, this scenario goes too far. For a few, it doesn’t go far enough (“Women want to be persuaded”). When does it become sexual coercion?

Stop! I’m going to suggest a Rule change that would have been laughable to me as a young, promiscuous (pre-conversion) man: Sex should never be transactional (“you give me something, I give you something”). That’s Harvey Weinstein’s rule. For humans, sex is inextricably entangled with self-worth, and with the need for emotional intimacy and commitment. Even if it isn’t that way for you, it probably is for the other person. To assume otherwise is to do so because it’s to your advantage–truth disintegrates when the “I want” monster enters the room.

So here’s my Replacement Rule: Never, ever use another person–even if they’re willing to be used. That’s not what they’re made for, and it’s not what you’re made for.

I’ll spend the rest of my life learning to undeceive myself enough to live by this Rule. But it’s worth it. So I’m in.

You?

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Use Me Not

  1. alslaff says:

    I’m qualified to address this topic. I was sexually abused by two men at my father’s place of work every week from the the time I was 8 to 12 years old or so. (There was more, but you get the idea.) Your bottom line said another way: No one deserves to be abused in any form–e.g., sexual, verbal, physical, spiritual, etc.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. smzang says:

    “Never, ever use another person–even if they’re willing to be used.”

    In my opinion it’s all about self-esteem; it will keep one from being used
    and it will keep one from using. Forgetting that rule would be to give up
    on self-worth. The problem is that few people have the courage to say it
    straight out. I don’t suggest it is as easy as saying it, but if it is a part of
    values from day one, and the example is set from day one, it becomes as
    natural as not stealing. There are a million excuses to do wrong, but as soon
    as we start making excuses we know we are headed in the wrong direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amen,Mitch! Well said.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Really great post Mitch. Immanuel Kant wrote: “So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in another, always as an end, and never as only a means.” You’ve bravely and accurately articulated the application in such an important domain. Can you even try to imagine Jesus forcing himself on someone? Kind of snaps things into focus.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I love that the replacement rule goes back to love and respect for yourself and others.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Good for you for bringing it out in the open. Many decades ago, I heard that sailors were advising each other to go to church to find a girl because they are naive and are pleasers. Groan.

    Liked by 3 people

    • How interesting! Very timely. Right below this post in my reader is a blog that does exactly that, teaches men how to go to church in order to exploit women.I won’t link because it’s as awful as it sounds, but I’m grateful for your comment. It’s somehow reassuring to know this groan worthy stuff has been around for a while.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. @vapor_sage says:

    Simply Yes! a life-long endeavour

    Liked by 2 people

  8. E says:

    Thank you for addressing this issue so boldly Mitch. I especially appreciate your call to not use others even if they present themselves as ‘useable’. You’re a stand-up man.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. brunniegetchell says:

    Powerful summary of sexual misconduct on all levels. Love the replacement rule.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. ellie894 says:

    Thank you for writing this. So many suffer. So many remain quiet and even confused. Until just a few years ago I didn’t realize how much I had been on the receiving end of such behavior in my life. Did that really happen? What was that? What does “yes” look like? You’ve done a wonderful job with that here. Consented.com (sorry I’m awful with links) is very good resource that I’ve found helpful. Yes and no, affects All areas of every life starting on the playground. One child wants what another child has. No does Not mean, try harder! Yes, looks like a kid on Christmas morning who definitely wants to open their presents! I pray that the need for this conversation will end…but until it does, I pray that we will keep talking and listening so that great healing may occur. Thank you Mitch. Have a blessed day😊

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This rolls out like a hammer hitting on the anvil of the heart! Excellent and needed. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Jennie says:

    Well said, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Erma Byant says:

    “For humans, sex is inextricably entangled with self-worth, and with the need for emotional intimacy and commitment.” What a true and powerful statement. Those that tread sex as just “hooking up” are fooling themselves. This is a great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ann Coleman says:

    I LOVE your replacement rule. It’s simple, easy to understand, and protects all people from unwanted advances and attention.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. davidwfelts says:

    Great insight Mitch, I appreciate your willingness to share your own experiences. Good job!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Diana Reese says:

    Mitch I agree with you but I also think the problem has deeper roots. In my book “She is my Hero” I speak about the importance of good parenting. I come from a family of 7 sisters (including me) and 1 brother. My dad made sure we learned to say YES and NO early in life. My parents taught us that morals are more than a “dreamed career or job venture.” In the case of these women, they tolerate a lot because of their professional dream. It’s not easy to enter those circles by just being talented. It’s sad when many of them were silent when they could have solved the problem in the open with a slap in the face or a kick in the nuts. As women, we need to learn to demand respect.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thanks for the post Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    Right on! Love does not demand its own way. It is patient, kind, etc. Even in marriage we get more out of waiting then getting what we want when we want it. Do it right and sex is what it was meant to be.

    Thanks,

    Gary

    Liked by 1 person

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