Tuesday, January 14, 2020

How to Date During the #MeToo Movement

"Adventure is an attitude to experience everyday things." - Anonymous
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." - Anonymous

Women and non-binary folks should continue to date with their eyes wide open. Although there is more awareness and outrage about sexual harassment and assault, as well as a greater understanding of the detrimental impact abuse and indecent behaviors have on individuals, when it comes to interpersonal romantic interactions changes are happening at a slow pace.

Some of the findings by researchers studying consent and gender point out that there are people who speak up publicly for equal rights and speak out against social injustice yet behind closed doors they act creepy; continuing to pressure or cajole someone expressing reluctance or uncertainty.  When a person's words and actions don't match up, it can take some of us a little longer to process the contradictions in front of us.  They also highlight areas of power imbalance based on age and location - upperclassmen living with a group of friends - and how that may impact a person's ability to think they have the option to leave.

When it comes to sex, there are various reasons why some people feel entitled to get their needs met above considering the experience of the other person.  It could be as simple as someone having an expectation that after going out to a party or nice dinner, they ought to be having sex. Some college age women report engaging in oral sex so that they can leave the room without conflict. Many men report feeling badly after reflecting upon situations where they applied pressure to their partner.

With so many people uncertain about how to connect, not wanting to be accused of assault and also not wanting to perpetrate assault how do we move to the next level where this problem of so many young people being assaulted: give stats

 Persistent asking and applying pressure leaves the responder feeling ignored, unheard, and confused about what they have a right to do next.
Some initiator's lack sensitivity around the responder's predicament, and the difficulty some have saying no to someone they are interested in, or perhaps they hope applying pressure will lead to the outcome they are pursuing whatever the costs to the other person. These are just 2 possible interpretations and many more, intention will vary from person to person.

In a situation where you do not believe you will be harmed, consistent, firm, and clear communication allows the other person to know where you stand and is more effective than deflecting or avoiding.  You are more likely to be heard if you sound sure of your decision and your non-verbal communication, tone of voice and body language, complement your verbal communication. The initiator may get annoyed or angry, and may no longer want to hang out which is their right. Just as it is your right to say no to behavior you are uncomfortable with.

Until you know a person well, and even then, there is no guarantee that you will not experience pressure or even that you will be safe from harm.  When getting to know someone be on the lookout for actions and words synching up. If this is not the case, this may be an early indication of problems down the road when it comes to trustworthiness, integrity, or level of self-awareness. In other words, sometimes people portray themselves in a way they wish to be but they actually are not. The subtle difference here is that they are not trying to be manipulative, they believe something that isn't true or they are on their way to becoming but it hasn't yet fully manifested yet.

In some ways when we meet someone new it can be helpful for us to think like an investigator or reporter trying to discern what kind of person is this? Is this someone who cares about the feelings of others, who enjoys other people's good fortune, or someone who gets irritated when small things don't go there way, etc. It makes sense to assess your situation for safety and danger.  While this challenge is no small feat because when we are drawn to someone, want to be liked by them, and want to make a positive impression it may feel like a real challenge to speak up for ourselves honestly, especially about our comfort level in connecting with them.  Keep in mind the impact our own feelings of desire, vulnerability, and giddiness while enamored will impact how we feel from person to person.

When hooking up, believe it or not, emotional intimacy and fairness are not always taken into account.  A person's state of mind may be altered when sexually aroused and/or under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Individuals' motivations for connection, relationships, and hook up vary.  Misunderstandings are common when people do not talk about expectations and preferences.

While we can be optimistic that the culture is changing in some ways, we still have a long way to go when it comes to intimacy.   Author Peggy Orenstein summarizes her findings after 9 years of research on women, men, and sex stating that women in our culture are systematically disconnected from their bodies and desires, while men in our culture are systematically disconnected from their hearts.

In response to these findings, and in an effort to develop strength, sensitivity, and civility, qualities everyone is capable of inhabiting, women consider spending time thinking about what is important to you, find ways to stay connected to yourself and learn your desires. Men consider wholehearted living, permission to access the full range of emotions, including fear, sadness, and uncertainty, and evaluate assumptions considered socially acceptable in some circles regarding behavior that harms others.  Improving communication skills will improve outcomes. People are at all different levels of a spectrum when it comes to self-awareness, relationship experience, communication skill, and pro-social values.  When we all care for the needs, beliefs, and identity of others without degrading anyone we can move the culture forward exponentially.