saying “no”

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(Mis)Communication And Misreading Refusals

A post titled Mythcommunication over at the sex-positive blog Yes Means Yes raises some fascinating issues about the cultural refusal to hear the word “no” in conversation, and the ramifications for analyzing situations of sexual violence. Drawing on a published study analyzing refusals in everyday conversational language, the post reaches the conclusion that “in sex as in normal conversation, people typically use and understand softened and indirect refusals.” This is important for understanding how people communicate about sex, as there are great cultural pressures especially on women to be polite and not hurt anybody’s feelings. Hence, the women in the study tended to phrase their refusals in terms of inability rather than unwillingness: “I’d love to, but I can’t because…” instead of “I don’t want to.” Continue Reading →