"You've gotta shave your as*hole if you want me to lick it." It was one of the most absurd things I'd ever heard, and such a loaded statement! A guy I was dating just casually tossed that grenade out one afternoon after we'd finished "making love." His words exploded into the air next to my ears, and I was knocked off balance from the boom. Like a soldier under seige in a movie about war, time slowed for me and I went deaf while my vision blurred. In a cacophony of simultaneous thoughts colliding I tried to decode what I'd just heard. I have to shave my what? Why? Do people shave that? Is that a thing? Wait, and you want to do what to it now? Lick it? Why I am getting procedural preparation commands when this is the first time the idea of the procedure has been brought to the table? Am I even interested in this procedure? Why are YOU interested in this procedure? What the hell is happening here?! Fall back! FALL BACK!
I'm sure what I finally stammered out was, "Oh. Okay?" Because what do you say to that sort of thing? Especially when you're not expecting it? This was after he told me that I should wax my virgin pubes and cajoled me into taking a shower with him by telling me, "Get your fat a*s in here," and then smacked my wet butt. His domineering attitude had initially come across to me as sexy, but was slowly morphing into something toxic. I ended up playing the incident off by saying, "You know, I'm not sure if I'm ready to go there, but I'll think about it." (For the record: My salad remains untossed.)
Until about the past 2 years or so, I haven't been great at setting boundaries with people who are invasive. I grew up in an authoritarian household where I wasn't allowed to assert myself, so I learned to accommodate abusive behavior. I replicated that dynamic in many relationships (as one does), and I thought a certain amount of swagger in a man was hot. Here's the problem: it is. Even though I'm now really conscious of having healthy relationships with everyone in my life (family, friends, co-workers, and lovahs), there is no denying that a well-adjusted man who uses his machismo in the right ways at the right time is a major turn-on. But there's a fine line between hot swagger and sexual humiliation. Keep him on the side that makes you feel good.
If your partner says things before, during, after or about sex, or about your body or your sexual performance that make you feel criticized or diminished, you don't have to stay quiet about it for the sake of his pleasure. Though some couples DO use sexual humiliation consensually as part of their repertoire (spanking, crawling, etc.), if you feel humiliated by actions or words that are not okay with you, speak up. A friend shared with me that while she was dating someone of another race, she felt humiliated when "he would say weird racial (not exactly racist) stuff in bed." When she told him she didn't like it, "he would claim I had told him that I wanted that or that I looked up porn about that." She says that was "false. False false false." This denial technique is called gaslighting and is a sign of dysfunction in a relationship. People who behave in narcissistic ways, using denial or projection, employ these tactics - particularly when you're vulnerable - to make you feel unstable. My friend said these comments "would stun me in bed, and I couldn't react or do anything about it." She added, "By talking about my race, he made me feel like he was treating sex with me like a fetish experience and that it was all for him. Like I was fulfilling a fantasy but he wasn't really into me as a person. It was also such a weird and specific experience that I didn't know who to talk to about it, so I felt very isolated."
Non-consensual sexual humiliation, like all dysfunctional relationship behaviors, is about control. Another friend told me, "I was with a dude who grabbed my tits all the time and he thought I should love it so he wouldn't stop doing it." If your partner is engaging in this kind of behavior, assert a healthy boundary. Tell him that this behavior is not okay with you, and if he can't respect that, you'll have to end the relationship. In the end, being with someone who doesn't respect you or make you feel good is much more painful than being alone. There's a good chance that your partner will hear you. A lot of men learn this type of behavior by watching porn and are trying to replicate what they think will make you think they're "in charge" in bed, assuming that's what will turn you on the most. Pickup Artist culture (which is narcissism disguised in a fake mustache and hipster jeans) also contributes to men thinking it's okay to put women down. A relationship with a man who is simply making a misguided attempt at being macho can be saved, but if he's continually insulting you, even in a "playful" way (saying while you're naked, "I like the way your boobs sag") or making you feel dirty or inherently flawed ("I don't like the way your pussy tastes"), then by all means cut him loose. Find a partner who loves and respects you; don't stay with someone who wrecks you, no matter how "good" the sex is. The high you get from intense sex fades quickly, but the sting of humiliation lasts much longer.
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