How feminism helped me be okay with being gay

It’s LGBT+ History Month and, as I often find myself doing during this month, I’ve been thinking about sexuality. More specifically, my sexuality and how being a feminist at UEA has informed it.

I’m gay. Well, I actually prefer the term queer because of spectrums and fluidity and all of that fantastic stuff, but I use the two terms pretty interchangeably. I didn’t immediately decide that queer was the word for me; being a feminist and surrounding myself with feminists who regularly talk about the fluidity of sexuality led me to a label that I’m comfortable with. I guess that might not sound like much but it means an awful lot to me considering that a year ago I was still resisting labelling myself as gay. Coming to terms with my own sexuality was a relatively peaceful experience for me but I still, as many people do, have trouble with certain aspects of it.

The main problem I seemed to have was how other people – my parents, friends, strangers – viewed my sexuality. I didn’t mind being queer, but I really cared about how other people felt about it. Feminism and being a feminist at UEA has taught me a brilliant lesson: who I am, how I act, and who I sleep with is nobody’s businessbut my own. I realised that my sexuality has nothing to do with anyone else; the issues other people might have with my sexuality are borne out of a patriarchal, homophobic society and don’t actually have anything to do with me at all. Feminism taught me that I don’t have to apologise for what I’m wearing if I look a bit ‘too gay’; it has taught me that who I sleep with is not grounds for any kind of judgement, and it’s taught me that what I do with my body is my business.

Before I thought about it with my feminist hat on, men staring at me while I kissed girls made me feel pretty awful, like I was doing something risqué or subversive. Now when men stare at me in clubs I start yelling about patriarchy and how my sexuality doesn’t exist for their enjoyment just because I’m a woman. The sexualisation (by, largely, men) of women who sleep with other women angers me on a daily basis and sometimes that can be exhausting, but I’d rather be angry at patriarchy than angry at myself for being queer. Feminism has enabled me to channel this anger, and to turn what once might have manifested as fear and self loathing, into something personally useful and politically powerful. I think a lot of what feminism taught me boils down to this: the problem isn’t me, the problem is them. In a world that tells women pretty much everything is their fault, realising that no, it isn’t, was revelatory for me. Learning about sexism and becoming more accepting of my sexuality have become so intertwined that I cannot separate my feminism from my sexuality. Being unapologetic about my feminism allows me to be unapologetic about my sexuality, so I feel like I owe feminism (and UEA Feminism) a lot for how comfortable I feel in my own identity.

 Jess Brown: Unapologetically Queer

In Defence of Male Feminists

Until very recently, the idea that men couldn’t be feminists had never particularly occurred to me. I first identified as a feminist whilst studying the Suffrage movement at school. We began with the role of John Stuart Mill and I suppose from that moment on I’d never thought to question the idea. Having encountered several blogs recently which express discomfort with men identifying as feminists, preferring titles which emphasise a more sympathy focused role such as ‘feminist allies’ however, I’ve had to reassess. While the arguments put forward interest me a great deal, especially in light of the male-centric start to my feminist education, for the large part I can’t help but disagree.

A number of those writers uncomfortable with the ‘male feminist’ point to those who abuse the title for less than equality minded agendas. Be it in an attempt to steer the debate, inject some ‘strong male leadership’, or simply get laid, I don’t deny these men are sadly out there somewhere, tainting the movement in their own horrible way. Of course there’s no denying the case here; these men aren’t feminists. But that doesn’t have to mean no men are. Or that they never can be.

Though this in no way speaks for the whole movement, I define myself as a feminist because I believe in an absolute equality between the sexes. For this reason a feminism that denies half the population access to the movement, takes on in my eyes the appearance of an exclusive club. A club that strives to attain equality of the sexes whilst simultaneously not letting one through the door. To deny men access to this ‘club’ of feminism is problematic for numerous reasons, not least because this exclusionary mentality makes feminism feel so cliquey. It seems fundamental, that in a fight against our society’s long history of gender discrimination, we reach out to all genders when it comes to involvement, education and voices within the community.

I agree that men will never have the same level of insight into the feminist struggle as they have simply not been the victims of that gendered oppression that sees women oppressed by men. Undoubtedly. However to refuse that men could identify as feminists seems to miss something crucial. For men to become leaders of the feminist movement undeniably would be wrong, for absolute male power and leadership is the exact history feminism looks to transgress. But surely men can and in fact must be of its number to ever achieve real change. To watch from the side lines isn’t enough. Men must fight alongside women in order for the reach of feminism to ever be total and to do so as ‘allies’ just doesn’t seem strong enough. Change must be accomplished by men and women together, as equals, as feminists, for real equality to be achieved.

It’s not a secret that feminism remains controversial. That such an overwhelming number of people can agree in principle with gender equality and with the same token reject the term ‘feminist’ speaks volumes for the isolating effect the movement can sometimes appear to have. Of course this resistance is largely down to its systematic discrediting by misogynistic medias, but at the best of times feminism can also seem to isolate all but a privileged few; those who have read the literature, studied the thinkers, know the history. To cut even more people from a group already so select can surely only be regressive. On even a semantic level, to re-brand men as ‘allies’ becomes an act of alienation, of placing men one step removed and forging a gender barrier between them and the cause which goes against the entire goal of unity. To segregate, to allow one group access to a discourse and deny another, does not seem conducive to an end goal of absolute equality.

In the words of the far more eloquent Helene Cixous; “Phallocentrism is the enemy. Of everyone. Men stand to lose by it, differently but as seriously as women. And it is time to transform. To invent the other history.” To negate the significance of male feminists is to miss the way that a patriarchal society can and does claim male victims along with its female. Patriarchy is the enemy of everyone and in this way I can see no alternative but for men to be welcomed together with women in the fight against it, not as leaders but as comrades. They must become a part of the movement not as allies, not as helpers, but as absolute and in their own way instrumental, equals.

Anna Walker

Five Reasons Love Actually is Actually Horribly Sexist

Love Actually is generally considered a classic British Christmas film. As a nation, it seems to be a widely held belief that Richard Curtis can do no wrong, hence his festive offering to cinema is all over television every Christmas. Personally, it was never one of my favourite holiday films, although I could never pinpoint why. Recently I read a Jezebel article entitled ‘I rewatched Love Actually And Am Here To Ruin It for All of You’, in which Lindy West points out what, in her opinion, are the film’s many flaws. It’s not the best article I’ve ever read, but while I didn’t agree with all of West’s points, it did make me stop and realise that Love Actually is, actually, a horribly sexist film. Beyond the various plot inaccuracies and other minutiae that West focuses on, the women in the film are treated terribly and it is rife with misogynistic attitudes.

1. It’s a man’s world

This film is about straight, white, powerful men chasing and winning attractive women. Nearly every single male character holds an important, distinguished job: prime minister of the United Kingdom, managing director of a design agency, rock star, writer, videographer, the list goes on. While the female characters all assume stereotypically feminine roles: mother, housekeeper, secretary, member of the prime minister’s staff (What does Natalia even do? Her role is so unimportant, it doesn’t even seem to have a name, plus she loses the job for being too sexy and distracting soon anyway.) Immediately, we are shown that men are the powerful ones, assertive and in charge of things, while the women do their less important women things, like look after children and bring the tea and biscuits.

2. None of the women talk

All of the women who are considered conventionally attractive in the film barely speak. This is where West really got it right in her article, stating: ‘The less a woman talks, the more loveable she is.’ Colin Firth’s love interest? Doesn’t even speak the same language as him. He falls ‘in love’ with her only when she strips off (totally unnecessarily – he’s allowed to remain fully clothed when he jumps in after her) to dive into the pond in order to save his important manuscript. Again, this emphasises how important Firth’s character’s role as a writer is – women must disrobe and dive into scummy pondwater to save his serious, influential work. Then there is Thomas Sangster’s character, the sad child whose mum has just died. His love interest is only shown on screen once, at the end, and barely says a word. All she does is smile and sing. There is no communication between these men and the women they claim to love. We don’t learn about any of them as people, the only defining quality we are made aware of is their beauty.

3. Women, especially, do not talk to each other

Not only are these women not speaking to the men chasing after them, they’re not even talking to each other. Few of them even know one other. One of the film’s central devices is the way every character is connected to each other through some kind of elaborate show of the six degrees of separation. However, everyone knows a male character. No one is connected to another character through a female character, apart from Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson but we’ll get to her in a minute. It seems these women have no friends or lives to speak of beyond the men who fancy them. Women are shown speaking to each other maybe a handful of times, and it’s about men when they do. This film is miles away from passing the Bechdel test.

4. When the women do talk/act, they are punished

The only rounded woman character with a lot of lines is Emma Thompson. She is shown as the sad, nagging housewife and punished for her agency when her husband goes about buying jewellery for his young, attractive secretary. Then there’s Laura Linney’s character, who is caught up in a bizarre ‘no one likes someone with mentally ill relatives’ plot-line that is for another blog post entirely. Socially ostracised and busy ensuring her brother is okay, she will never be able to find happiness with Karl, her office love, whom she has never spoken to. When she does finally get the guts to pursue him, she ultimately fails and goes back to being sad. Once again, Richard Curtis shows us that women with agency do not end up happy.

5. Whereas men can do literally anything and still win a woman

Meanwhile, the men in the film are off doing creepy, inappropriate things that overstep socially accepted boundaries, like filming an entire wedding video of only close-ups of Keira Knightley’s face, and still being praised for it. This only furthers the concept of men doing strange things that are not okay and basically constitute stalking, (see also Lloyd Dobbler in Say Anything, outside your window with that boombox), and this being misconstrued as ‘romantic’. Whatever men do, however bizarre, they still end up with their love interest in the end. Liam Neeson’s character only has to bump into supermodel Claudia Schiffer in a school corridor before it is implied they are now ‘in love’. A mere five weeks after the death of his darling wife. Real nice.

This is not to say you cannot ever watch Love Actually again. Personally, I attempted to rewatch it this Christmas and turned it off after ten minutes in disgust. But that’s just me. So many things are problematic. If we restricted the things we enjoyed to solely non-problematic things, we would all probably end up sitting around twiddling our thumbs a lot because there would be nothing to watch or read or do. You can watch problematic films and still enjoy them, you just have to acknowledge that they’re problematic and not make excuses for them. There’s no excuse for Richard Curtis creating a film where there are no well-rounded women characters with a comparable amount of lines to their male counterparts. Does this suck? Yes. Does it mean you can’t ever watch this film again? Probably not. That part’s totally up to you.

Rachel Knott

Feminist Fatigue

I’ve been ‘out’ as a feminist for at least the last 4 years, although I’d held feminist values for a lot longer than that. For me, being a feminist has become one of the most important aspects of my identity. I’ve actively involved myself in student feminism and most people know me as ‘that feminist girl’. I like that, for the most part. Feminism is incredibly important to me. Without sounding too much like I’m giving myself a pat on the back, talking about and learning about women’s liberation and equality is something I spend a lot of my time doing. That’s the thing about being a feminist. It’s not a hobby or a part-time thing. It is a 24/7 commitment to constantly reconsidering the way you’ve been taught to think about things. It is constantly learning and relearning because it is a movement that is incredibly multi-faceted and constantly changing. It is being called out and eating humble pie, a lot, and not complaining about that because that’s how you learn how to be a better feminist. It is realising that your favourite TV show is really problematic or that the song you can’t stop humming degrades women and the lyrics actually make you incredibly uncomfortable.

Being a feminist is also dealing with people’s reactions to your beliefs. You find yourself having a lot of the same conversations with people, constantly clearing up the same misconceptions about feminism, and answering the same questions over and over again. A lot of the time, the people who ask these questions mean well and want to learn about feminism, they just don’t necessarily know any better and may not have much experience of feminist rhetoric. We all start out somewhere and asking these questions is another part of becoming a better feminist. That isn’t to say it doesn’t become frustrating. Sometimes the people posing these same tired questions do not care whether you answer or not. Sometimes they just want to tell you they disagree with you and don’t care about your rebuttal. A common example is the conversation I have had with people more times than you’ve had hot dinners: Isn’t feminism all about hating men and women becoming more powerful than men? Sigh. No. No, it simply is not.

In the end, you form your own standard go-to answers. The questions become so frequent, you memorise it like a script. And then there are other times, when you just don’t want to answer at all. Because you are tired and you’ve been asked this a million times before and the person doesn’t really care about the answer anyway, and that’s okay. It is no one’s obligation to educate anyone about feminism if they don’t want to. In involving yourself in the equality movement, you did not also sign up to be a teacher and life coach after all.

Generally it’s fairly easy to take it all in your stride. It’s part of talking about your politics. You can’t please everyone or expect everyone to agree with you all the time. Sometimes, however, it can all get a bit much. The questions wear you down, people’s ignorance and rude comments don’t slide off your back like they usually would, and sometimes it all just seems a bit futile. I like to refer to this feeling as feminist fatigue and I am no stranger to it. There have been several occasions recently when, personally, the fight for equality and the backlash I received about my beliefs left me exhausted and demoralised. I found myself wishing I could just forget about everything and curl up in bed and watch a lot of crappy TV and avoid everything.

Of course, it’s not that easy. Turning off the part of my brain that’s wondering whether this romcom would pass the Bechdel test (probably not) or why it isn’t socially acceptable to eat my body weight in Doritos doesn’t work like flipping a switch. As I said before, being a feminist is a 24/7 thing and you can’t just opt out and choose to ignore the inequality everywhere because you’re a bit tired. Being a feminist is bigger than me and it doesn’t matter if I’ve had a hard week and a few people I don’t even know said nasty things about me. Deciding to give up because of those things is ultimately just me being selfish and making everything all about me, when really it’s about doing the right thing, whether it’s difficult or not. So while feminist fatigue sucks, so do inequality and oppression and prejudice and my bad day kind of pales in comparison to those things.

Ultimately, being a feminist can be tough. People will disagree and sometimes it will sting and things will be difficult. No one said it was an easy fight, but it is a fight worth fighting. So when feminist fatigue hits, and it will and that’s okay, the best thing to do is to take a step back and a deep breath and reassess for a moment. Pick your battles. I want to make the world a better place in whatever way I can, but I also know that some things are just not worth the battle and will leave me worn down and discouraged. Surround yourself with positive people who’ll pick you up and remind you that not everyone is against you. And remember that while everyone is allowed bad days, not everything is always about you and that’s okay too.

Rachel Knott

Why You Should Vote ‘Yes’ In The ‘Blurred Lines’ Referendum

On Thursday 7th November, Union Council voted to hold a referendum on whether to ban ‘Blurred Lines’ from being played in Union premises. I am the Union of UEA Students’ Women’s Officer and I made the decision to propose a ban on the song for many reasons, but mainly because women students, my constituents whose welfare I am constitutionally bound to protect, had come to me and told me that the song made them feel unsafe. You can read the full details of the motion I proposed to Council on the Union’s website (ueastudent.com). This is the speech I gave to Council explaining why the song should be banned. I urge you to read it and vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum on this issue. Because women students have the right to feel safe in Union venues and, as Women’s Officer, I will do everything in my power to protect that right.

“As a Students’ Union, I am proud of our values on the need for sexual consent, and I’m proud of the work we do to create a safe environment for our students. We have the right to choose what we play in our venues, based on its reflection on our values. We are not stopping students from purchasing Robin Thicke’s record, or listening to it elsewhere. We simply choose not to play it in the LCR or student-run media. Following the recent successful motion to play Livewire in Union premises, this policy will make it easier to control what is played in our Union premises.

This song contributes to rape culture and its normalisation on our campus. What is rape culture, you may ask? Rape culture is the condoning and normalising of physical, emotional, and sexual violence against women and girls and marginalized subjects. It is the production and maintenance of an environment where sexual assault is so normative that people ultimately believe that rape is inevitable. 1 in 7 women students have been the victim of serious physical or sexual violence. 1 in 4 women students who have been assaulted said it had a negative impact on their studies. The rape conviction rate in England is 6%, which is only for the rapes that are reported – which are in a minority. Still today when women are raped, the first thing they are asked if what they were wearing or what they were drinking. That is rape culture. We live in a rape culture.

There are no ‘blurred lines’ about consent. Let’s be clear, Council, the lyrics of this song trivialise the need for consent and promote the normalisation of themes of sexual violence against women. The language used in the song mirrors that of sexual predators and rapists, and has been documented by rape survivors as being the exact words their rapist used. This Union upholds the need for sexual consent and the need for a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment, and would look like a hypocrite if it continued to actively support this song’s message through playing it in our venues. The right of people to use the language of rapists should not take precedence over the right of our students to feel safe in our venues. We are a Students’ Union that recognises that ‘no’ means ‘no’, victim-blaming is never okay, and that rape is not ‘blurry’.

The first Student Union to choose not to play ‘Blurred Lines’ was Edinburgh, followed by Derby, University of West Scotland, University of London – the largest Student Union in the country, and Leeds, among others. This shows that it is has been recognised as a wider problem right across the UK. This is the student movement collectively saying that rape culture and the trivialisation of consent is not acceptable and that we can do better.

The question of whether this motion will create a ‘slippery slope’ has been mentioned to me. Of course other songs are problematic. These do not go unchallenged either by the media or feminist organisations across the world. But this song was the fastest selling record of the summer, reaching Number 1 in 14 countries worldwide, and also created international controversy around its content. If you are concerned about other songs being problematic, that is a separate debate – these things must all be decided on their individual merit. We are not out to ban all songs we disagree with – this individual song is symbolically and politically important.

Disagreements are okay in politics and ideology but I ask you, Council, is rape okay? Is promoting the trivialisation of consent okay? I say no. No, it’s not. I’m sure you as Council say no, it’s not okay and if you don’t think that it’s okay, then I hope you’ll join me in voting for this motion.”

Rachel Knott (UEA Women’s Officer, Vice-President of UEAFS)

union.womens@uea.ac.uk

Why I Love Your Body But Hate Mine

I told Tilly I would write this months ago, and each week when she’s asked where my post is, I’ve shrank away with muttered excuses of ‘too much work’ and ‘nine articles to edit by tomorrow morning’.

And this is part of it of course, the unending exhaustion and boredom of third year, but the bigger part, the part I didn’t tell Tilly, was that I don’t know the words to choose to talk about the body that I carry around with me each day. I don’t know the words I can use to talk about my fear of it, my occasional hatred of it, my awe that it has brought me this far.

It’s a complicated thing, this relationship we have with our bodies. They are the one constant of our lives, we are born with it and we will die with it, it is inanimate at the same time as being the most animated thing we hold in this world. It has no feelings but it expresses itself with every emotion that flickers through our brains throughout the course of the day.

And yet for all its wonder, for all the amazing things it can do, as women the discourse that surrounds our bodies is invariably to do with the size of them. ‘You’re so tall, I’m so jealous’, ‘Wow, you’ve lost so much weight’, ‘I don’t want to sound like a bitch but she’s put on a couple of pounds recently, hasn’t she?’

I can’t remember the last time I heard myself say the words ‘My body is so strong! It helped me swim twenty five lengths in the pool today without stopping’, or ‘My body needed a rest today.’ However I can tell you that I say things like ‘I am so fat’ (and unfortunately, I am not one of those women who can happily accept her fat, even at a size 12 I am constantly bullying myself to fight against it) and ‘I can’t believe I didn’t exercise today’ on an hourly basis. Why? Why do I do this to myself? Why do women do this to ourselves?

I think it’s because we’ve been taught to value ourselves primarily for our bodies, and for that belief to be validated, they must look and act a certain way. We’ve been taught by the media, by society and by our mothers that our body is what must be developed and punished, that we need to occupy a small amount of space and our bodies need to compress to fit it. We’ve been taught that our bodies must always be a work in progress, that we will never be the complete and perfect finished product. We have been taught that eating a lot of food is ‘greed’. Men are taught that eating a lot of food is ‘manly’. Look at the example of Joey from Friends, compared with Monica. Joey’s overeating is endorsed, he is a character we laugh WITH, yet he miraculously stays skinny. Monica, on the other hand, presented as an overweight teenager is a character we are encouraged to be relatively disgusted by. We laugh AT her because she is fat, and her ‘significant character growth’ into an adult is not represented by her financial or emotional development. It’s represented by the fact that she gets her eating ‘under control’ and becomes skinny.

My one, flawed, example is presented time and time again not only in the media but in real life. Two years ago, I became very unwell with anxiety and depression and lost one and a half stone in the space of six weeks. Even friends and family who were aware of my illness congratulated me on the loss, as if it was something to be proud of, as if it was even in my control. My body was being praised whilst my mind was in the depths of self-destruction, and it was the most warped thing imaginable.

I sit, two years on, with that extra one and a half stone plus some, resting on my tummy and hips. And rather than being contented that I’m no longer depressed, I sometimes catch myself looking at pictures of myself in that time and thinking ‘Yeah, your head was a state but damn girl, you looked hot’.

And that thought, whenever it catches me unaware, is so ridiculous, so destructive, that I have to write about it. And I have to write about it to make myself believe that I am my body, and yet I am so much more than it. And that for every moment I spend fat-shaming it, I am dishonouring not only myself but the feminist values that I try my best to live my life by.

Some of us can’t change the way we feel about our bodies overnight. Some of us look on the women who accept their bodies happily with awe and jealousy. Some of us don’t know how to look at ourselves in the mirror and see the great things first. Some of us don’t take joy in clothes shopping, convinced that the cute dress is not meant for women like us.

And the thing is, I’m not just talking about fat women. I’m talking about skinny women, about short women, tall women, women who strike others with envy. Because no matter how we look, there’s always something, something that can be better.

I don’t know what I can do to change this for myself, let alone anyone else. I’ve tried a lot of positivity techniques, I’ve heard every compliment standard to ‘curvy girls’. So I’m going to concentrate on making my body as strong as it can be, for its own sake. I’m going to jump in the swimming pool tonight and work my feminist legs. Because even though, to many of us, they will never be perfect, our bodies will carry us to the places we need to go. And even though I might not love what mine looks like, I’ll try to love it forever for what it can do.

“Honey, not tonight…” Consent in Long-Term Relationships

I read a lot of articles about consent in hook-up culture, about how we should be careful when we’re with a new partner to learn about their boundaries and respect them. We talk a lot about “enthusiastic consent”, and I can see how, if you’re thinking about the first time you take someone home after a date, that would be important. If it’s the first time you’ve had sex with a person, you  better both want to do it, there’s not really room for any grey areas in that regard.

However I don’t read as much about how consent changes when you’ve been sleeping with the same person for a long time. Sex when you’ve been together for a year is different to when you’ve been together for three months, and it’s very different from your first time. You get used to your partner, you know what they like. You’re used to their rhythms. It’s easier to know which buttons to press. You may start to take them a little bit for granted.

I think, in the vast majority of long-term relationships, you begin to realise that one person’s sex drive is higher than the other. I expect many people reading this will immediately know which person out of themselves and their partner wants sex more often. This situation inevitably involves compromise. Before you leap to any conclusions, I’ve been on both sides of this, and I know how both feel. I know what it feels like to know your partner isn’t really as into it as you are; I know how it feels to just feel a little bit too lazy.

If you want sex less than your partner, it might be that, for the sake of your relationship, you consent to sex less than enthusiastically. But I don’t think, in these circumstances, we should be arguing that this isn’t consent. People have sex for a wide variety of reasons – horniness, loneliness, love, revenge, money. If we start putting some of these reasons on higher levels than others, we begin to devalue some kinds of relationships – an asexual person may have sex in order to keep their partner happy, despite having no desire for it themselves. That is their choice.

So, when does compromise become a lack of consent? It’s very hard to say, and it depends on the power dynamics of each individual relationship. If one person is worried that the other may leave them if they don’t fulfil their needs sexually, that’s not OK. If one person feels physically threatened by the other – for example, if there is a difference in size or strength – that’s not OK.

Pressure is difficult to identify in relationships, though, because you can only feel it if you’re on the wrong side of it. And even if one person desires sex more than the other, it is important that both partners have equal amounts of sexual agency; that they both feel equally able to initiate and deny sex. If one person initiates more frequently, it might be important to step back and check with your partner that things are OK – simply asking the question can never be a mistake.

It is also important to remember that “no” means “no”. This is particularly important for men to remember, as they have often been socialised to regard a woman’s refusal as the start of a negotiation. We see it in films all the time – a woman who at first is uninterested in a man’s advances is eventually won over by his persistence (see: Will Smith in Hitch, Zac Efron in The Last Kiss… the list goes on). If your girlfriend says she doesn’t feel like having sex, when you do, that’s tough. Don’t ask again – trust that if she changes her mind, she will initiate. Surely you would do the same if roles were reversed?

So many friends have told me stories of their boyfriends trying to change their minds about things they don’t want to do, from cunnilingus to period sex to anal. Maybe she will change her mind as she becomes more comfortable with you, but if you’ve already flagged it as something you’re ok with, you don’t need to keep asking her. Trust me when I tell you, she will remember the time she told someone she cared a lot about that she didn’t want to do something he wanted to, and if she ever changes her mind, you’ll be the first to know.

Because that’s the thing that makes consent in long term relationships a lot more difficult than in firs time encounters – the fact that you  have grown to really care about your partner. You hate disappointing them. And it doesn’t matter whether that’s not enjoying their favourite film or cancelling a date because of work or not wanting to have sex, letting  your partner down does make you feel guilty. It’s really important that you never manipulate this guilt to put pressure on your partner. Every time you have to answer the same question with the word “no”, it gets harder. You shouldn’t have to ever say it more than once.

Hattie Grunewald