The Art of Saying No

How much bad sex has been the result of a fear of making it “awkward”?

It’s not the first time I’ve heard the story, but it’s the first time I’ve heard one this bad.

You know the one? When you best friend starts a date with high hopes and by the end of it, hopes are crushed, but for some reason, she still has sex with the guy anyway?

I’m not talking about a situation where she’s afraid to say “no.” I’m not talking about crazy men who take you away to a secluded area and give you no easy options to leave, or block your modes of entry.

No, I’m talking about a completely different situation — one we make for our selves, and makes absolutely no sense. It’s a situation defined by how we think others view us, and how that influences how we see ourselves.

My favorite version of this story is told by Annie Lederman in her stand up spot on Comedy Central.

In a cringe-driven moment of comedic brilliance, she describes how she meets her childhood crush from camp and has the chance to have sex with him many years later.

Of course, the downside of nostalgia is that the people we knew from one period of our lives is not nearly the same person we meet later. While Annie Lederman is ready to consummate her adolescent mental affair with camp counselor Mark Parker, once she sees him in the flesh as an adult she immediately regrets her decision, but is unable to turn him down.

More than any other sector of society, women are taught and encouraged to see their value and self-image as being likable, nice, and most of all, kind. Saintly, in fact. And telling someone no, especially if you feel like you might owe them something in the first place, can start to get you into murky territory about what qualifies as “nice”.

It doesn’t help that there’s a sector of men who think buying a drink and a plate of food is enough to secure a “yes” — but a beer and bar food has never obligated anyone to let them inside of their body. Can you imagine if a doctor gave a man a burger and then said, “I’m glad you enjoyed it, I’d like to open up a part of you and shove something foreign inside. Will only take a minute.”

And women say yes. Many women say yes. Because it’s more than just about saying no — it’s about how saying no means we have to abandon our Good Girl status. The cost of our honesty is to no longer be kind, to be loving, to be caring, to be a saint. We’re pushed into a space where the choice is a hard one: do what you want to do and be perceived as heartless, or do what you don’t want to do and preserve your ideal version of yourself as perfect.

Not long ago, I went on a date with a guy I liked. We never made it as far as the bedroom, but I could see how easily we could have landed there. By the time we got to the end of the night, I knew already that I wasn’t attracted to him.

How was I going to tell him that?

I knew the terms we left on were going to depend on which reason I chose to give him.

The fact is, most people hate rejection — whether receiving or giving it — and most people are so incapable of dealing with it that “ghosting” has become a cultural norm, the path of invisibility we choose rather than face ourselves.

I knew it would be crueler to end the night as though everything were fine and give him false hopes when he tried to contact me next and instead hear nothing back.

The feeling wasn’t there, I told him. I felt more like a mother than a lover.

Were there other reasons? Certainly. I broke it to him gently. He was hurt but understood, and we parted ways as friends.

It wasn’t easy. I certainly had an ideal image of myself as a Good Girl. But the truth was, I would rather be a Bad Girl and have the sex I wanted with the guy I wanted, then lead someone on because I had too much of an investment in a persona that was never real anyway.

Don’t Go For The Thirsty Lover

Julian Assange’s Undercover Romance is Exposed, Teaching Us About The Hazards of Love In Captivity

Source: By Cancillería del Ecuador —, CC BY-SA 2.0,

We primarily know Australian Julian Assange as the rogue journalist founder of Wikileaks who enjoys upsetting nations everywhere when it comes to airing out their dirty governmental laundry. But this post isn’t a political post. Instead, it’s about love in literal captivity, and reasons you might want to avoid it. Hear me out.

The South African lawyer Stella Morris revealed via the New York Post on April 11 that she had become Assange’s lawyer, then friend, then ultimately, lover, and mother to two of his children (yes, conceived during his isolation in the Ecuadorian Embassy!)

My principal fascination with any person of interest in news or entertainment is the odd twists and turns of their personal lives, and I immediately honed in on this one. Forget Wikileaks and it’s paradigm changing presence in the world of government conspiracy in the age of the internet. Can we talk about the screwed up decisions we make in romance when we have no access to a wide variety of choices?

Stella Morris by all accounts appears to be a wonderful, hard working woman, but you can’t help but wonder why she chose a wanted man with a dubious future as the father of her children. What I didn’t wonder was why a man imprisoned in an embassy would have chosen to begin a romance with her: because no one else was available.

I know it sounds harsh. But we can’t possibly ignore that Assange’s dating choices are bit bleak, considering who he is and his inability to freely move about. This is not a man who will be buying you drinks or opening the car door for you anytime soon.

One of the most overlooked elements of love life in popular culture is environment. That said, many of us understand the challenge environment poses early on. After all, it was not that long ago that dating in a small town for a woman meant you were limited to the men who showed up at the local dive bar. If you didn’t like what you saw, your options were slim.

Fast forward to online dating, to swipe apps, and the equation changes radically in your favor. You have more options. Your pool widens. You don’t have to hope that Icky Mickey or Angry Angelo will strike your fancy and do something to impress you, despite the long list of deal breakers that are already on display. Now you can click a button or swipe on Ravishing Roberto or Well Educated William who are already ticking off your boxes.

Having more options means you’re less likely to visit that dive bar, and you’re less thirsty if you think the desert plain isn’t so empty after all.

Call me crazy, but engaging in a romantic relationship with a guy who can’t leave a building for fear of extradition to a foreign country is an unequal power dynamic for the same reason. Assange is a thirsty man who doesn’t know when the desert will end. That sounds all right for a fling, but doesn’t the create the conditions for a lasting love if one partner was chosen simply because …. they were there. You know. The same way if I crawl out of the desert with my throat on fire, I’m not terribly picky about the first water cooler I come across.

And while the situation between Assange and Morris is surreal and seemingly the stuff of tawdry spy novels, we often see it played out closer to home. I’ve seen countless office romances unfold beneath this guiding principle: because the other partner was there. People rely on what’s easy and convenient, and what’s easy and convenient is usually a matter of geography. And the other person had no desire to seek any further than the local dive bar I mentioned above.

Makes you feel special, right?

The lesson in all this isn’t that love or romance needs to be a struggle, or necessarily that what’s closest and easiest isn’t a good option for those who find love there. Some people are happy at the local bar. They aren’t interested in finding more beyond that. The problem is when someone isn’t actively electing to be in that relationship. Will it breed resentment? Will the situation change, or stay the same? What happens if all the elements that made the relationship easy, geographically accessible, suddenly go away?

We’ve all seen what happens when an office romance is interrupted — either by a breakup, or one leaving for another job. Some survive the changes in this power dynamic, and some don’t, and that’s a part of life.

More importantly, when we know it, we realize that we ourselves don’t have to go into our relationships thirsty, either.

Photo Source: By Cancillería del Ecuador —, CC BY-SA 2.0,