On rejection

7 02 2011


Swiftly and graciously accepting rejection is a cornerstone of radical consent. It hurts, but if you really believe in sexual autonomy, you just have to suck it up — without pleading or wheedling or demanding answers. You need a reason to be with someone, not to reject them.

Of course, rejection can be based on prejudice. It can be cissexist or racist or fatphobic or biphobic or ageist or ableist or anti-virgin or whatever else. And if someone voices those sentiments, you’re right to call them up on it. But nobody owes you an explanation on why they don’t want to fuck you or date you. I’ve been hearing people assume prejudice in situations where no reason was given, and I tend to think it’s likely no reason was given because no one wants to say “I’m just not that into you”.

In an existing relationship, pressing for a reason can be used to get someone to stay with you under the promise that you will change. But though it’s widely acknowledged that rape and sexual assault occur within established relationships, conversations about consent can tend to focus on the beginnings of things. Even when consent education explicitly resists the idea of perpetual consent, or conclusive negotiations (eg in this questionnaire), people can assume that certain ideas or questions aren’t applicable to their situation. The communication style and power dynamic of an established relationship can complicate negotiations, as much as it can facilitate them.

But coercion can come from a place of disempowerment — eg using your body image or mental health issues to manipulate someone into having sex with you — as much as it can come from the abuse of power. When you feel utterly powerless, it can be hard to imagine that you’re exercising coercion, but that’s exactly what’s happening when you try to beg and trade in the face of rejection.

One of our Basic Rules of Flagging is that we need to be open to suggestion and open to rejection. Consent depends on both — if you are too polite to proposition, too precious to be propositioned, too evasive to reject and too insecure to be rejected, how are you negotiating consent?




7 responses

7 02 2011


Rejection also makes people saying yes a whole lot more exciting, what’s hotter than “Yes, yes! I really want you”.

8 02 2011
The ethical corollary of “sex is a basic human need” is that rape is justified. « Restructure!

[…] On rejection and power by gauche at flagging opinicus rampant […]

16 02 2011
17 02 2011

Here via Restructure, and all I have to say is: oh, hell yes. Thank you for putting it this clearly.

23 02 2011

Thanks for reblogging! xx

5 04 2011
Down Under Feminist Carnival #35 | Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony

[…] not rape-rape” which are infesting the MSM at present, especially since the Assange case. In On Rejection and power, Gauche Sinister, who wins the Blog Name award for this Carnival, asks the Nice Guys™ : “If […]

21 04 2011

I’m here from a link from… somewhere, and I really like this post, and the whole idea of people learning to be cool with rejection. I’ve had to deal with people who keep pressuring after I’ve said no before, from guilt angles, and it’s just… not a good experience.

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