BootsnAll Travel Network

“Yes” means yes and “No” means no

Many years ago now, I was taking a long car trip with a woman friend, and we were having one of those “car conversations”–those long discussions that one has on a long trip, at least in part because everyone understands that there is the time that it takes to talk about something complicated.  At the time I was single, and she asked me about my erotic life–she knew I’m gay, and she also knew that I was sexually active. 

So I explained that there are a whole variety of places where gay men can go to connect for sex.  I explained that, depending on the venue, it’s quite uncommon to know very much about one’s partner-of-the-moment.  She couldn’t believe that it would be possible to do this.  After a while trying to puzzle out what the confusion was for her, it became clear that the thing that makes these places work is that everyone understands that “yes” means yes and “no” means no.  So it’s possible to engage in some activity on the briefest of acquaintance without worrying too much about the activity becoming something that is unpleasant, or worse.  Usually, it’s enough to say “This isn’t working for me” to extricate myself from a situation.  And part of that freedom is that everyone knows that there are plenty of other guys around–so if this one didn’t turn out so great, I can try someone else.

On the other hand, I met some real friends and lovers at sex clubs.  When I was living in Massachusetts, I would occasionally go to the bathhouse.  Once, I met a guy, and we went back to his “room” for some great sex.  And that was that.  A month of so later, we crossed paths again at the bathhouse, and we wanted to connect again, but neither of us had a room yet.  So we sat around and started talking about who we are.  It quickly became clear that we had a lot in common.  After a while, he got a room, and we adjourned for some more sex.  He invited me to stay over at his place, so that I could drive home in the morning–it was a bit of a way.

The next morning, a Sunday, he asked me to drop him off at the Quaker meeting.  At that point, we started to understand just how few “degrees of separation” there were between us.  I asked if he knew my first boyfriend, who was active in the Friends for Gay and Lesbian concerns–and of course he did.  He found out the college where I was teaching, and he told me that his best friend from high school was one of my colleagues–in the same department.  Later I told her about meeting him, she said that she wondered if we would run across each other, because we were “the smartest and sleaziest people she knew”.  I took that as a compliment.

To return to the friend on the car trip, she explained that, in general, relations between men and women are not characterized by this kind of straightforward communication.  And it does seem that there are a lot of messages telling men to believe that when a woman says “No” it means maybe, and when she says “maybe” it means yes. 

I suppose that the best way to tie this up is to refer to “What part of No don’t you understand?

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