There’s a man who inspires me with his writing. And I’m in good company… millions around the world adore Mark Manson. He’s a personal development guru with many viral articles to his name and a coach who has clear guidelines about life, dating and self-worth. All in all–at least on paper–a pretty good guy.
He embraces life with the law of ‘Fuck yes, or no‘. It’s one of his most popular articles to date, and outlines a policy for dating where consent is unambiguous and decision making is taken from the gut level. If you don’t feel a ‘fuck yes’… then it’s a no. Like many in his tribe, I’ve taken a lot of his advice to heart – because whilst he speaks predominantly to the hetero-male world – his principles make sense for others too. They are designed to nurture healthy, honest relationships, they are intended to prevent abusive situations. But on practising what he preached, I found that this, one of the most clear cut and honest tactics for managing sexual relationships didn’t always apply to me.
Making out with a girl at your house and every time you go to take her shirt off she swats your hands away? That is not a “Fuck Yes,” my friend, therefore, it’s a no and you shouldn’t pressure her. ~ Mark Manson
This is great advice. Because consent is not a question you ask right before you tear someone’s panties off. It’s not something you ask when you’ve already got the condom on. It’s a space and a context where the question shouldn’t even be necessary. It’s ‘fuck yes.’
If someone is playing games with you, playing hard to get, or pressuring you into doing something you’re unsure about, your answer is now easy. Or as I often like to say in regards to dating, “If you have to ask, then that’s your answer.” ~ Mark Manson
Fuck yes represents his definitive answer about consent. But I can advocate it until the cows come home, yet it doesn’t make it true for me.
Some people will rarely experience that hopping up and down to have sex. Some people will never feel a ‘fuck yes’ about anything. They will make their decisions based on past experience and educated guesses more than a soul-thrilling desire to go for it. They are the emotionally blind. And there’s more of us than you might think.
Scientists are still disagreeing about how emotional blindness comes about (and that’s unlikely to change). It’s correct term is Alexythmia and manifests itself on two dimensions… “a cognitive dimension, where a child or adult struggles to identify, interpret and verbalize feelings (the “thinking” part of our emotional experience). And an affective dimension, where difficulties arise in reacting, expressing, feeling and imagining (the “experiencing” part of our emotional experience). Emotional blindness like everything else exists on a scale. You can be emotionally blind in some areas and not in others.
If you don’t have a strong gut reaction, if your body has been long since cut off from your mind’s mental survival models then your ability to say ‘Fuck yes’ (or indeed no) is impaired, maybe permanently. If you cannot feel your own emotions unambiguously, then you may also be suffering from emotional blindness. ‘Fuck yes’ also depends on a high sense of self-worth, which a large proportion of the population don’t have. Can it be repaired? Perhaps. But not without a lot of personal development. A lot. And who has time for that?
‘Fuck yes’ also depends on a clear knowledge of your own boundaries. Can you develop them as an adult if you have been taught that your voice is unimportant and that your consent is not needed in decisions which involve you? Maybe. But many current day parenting techniques diminish the consent of a child, and often belittle their ambitions as unrealistic. In particular, women are susceptible to this type of repression, always acting the part of the good girl and suppressing themselves to fit into a man’s world. And our adult world doesn’t help with that. That means rejection from the in-group, something which we – as survivors – are hardwired to avoid.
On the other more masculine hand ‘Fuck yes’ requires the ability to identify subtle emotional cues of others and identify emotions in yourself – something which many men have been taught is not the behaviour of a ‘real man’. They have never learned it and have few tools to help them do so (I would advise them to go and read Mark’s blog).
One wonders whether this ability can be learned later in life, if it has not not been encouraged from a young age. ‘Fuck yes’ requires all in all, a vastly different society to the one which exists today. ‘Fuck yes’ is a great ideal to aspire to. But too great a change for any but a small segment of those passionate about personal development – those who are unafraid of speaking with their voice, those who know who they are and what their purpose is… to practice on a day to day level.
I tried the ‘fuck yes’ approach to life for a while. It resulted in a lot less sex, something which as an individual ambiguous about her own ability to consent, I initially thought was a godsend (although less so for my partner). I finally felt like I was standing up for myself. My self-worth increased. But there were other ramifications. Less sex of course had a negative impact on my relationship, at least initially. Sex when it came was great. But it also highlighted in sharp relief a totally incompatible level of mutual sexual desire following children. And surprisingly ‘fuck yes’ also had a counterbalancing negative impact on my self-worth. It was a zero sum game.
I stopped seeing myself as a sexual being and because I rarely felt a fuck yes, let’s fuck (small children and a full time job will do that to you). It made me feel unattractive, and stuck in a sexless rut. I had trouble clarifying the difference between when I should ‘go for it’ on both sexual and non-sexual levels – to push myself out of my comfort zone felt highly counter intuitive. To have sex even if I was exhausted (which I have been for several years) and felt ‘meh’ was sometimes rewarding in many ways. I felt like me again. I felt alive. Less the mother, more the woman. So even if my gut was telling me no, I found that in many instances my gut was tired, afraid, or even plain wrong. And sometimes my gut was just silent. In vain, I would ask myself
‘What do you truly feel?’
And the only answer I can give came back, ‘I have no idea.’
It wasn’t a fuck yes. And in the words of Mark Manson, if it isn’t a fuck yes, it’s a no. But ‘no’ meant never pushing myself never confronting my fears, never moving outside of my comfort zone. It meant procrastination. And I had a life to live. A life to grab with both hands.
I am the woman who needs to cross her own boundaries in order to even know they even exist and even sometimes not then. That’s ok, as long as I can emotionally process it all with those involved afterwards.
Where ‘fuck yes’ involves other people’s consent then, I take his advice on board. If they cannot express their boundaries, if they don’t feel quite right about something, if I perceive the minutest of non-verbal clues – well – they are the expert on them and I won’t second guess anyone. Nor will I be party to an abusive situation. In my relationships I request clarification and direct communication. I don’t assume. But where ‘fuck yes’ applies to me, I am the expert on me.
The development of my ‘intuition’, gut feel – or whatever you want to call it – has been diminished by many formative experiences. It has resulted in a very poor ability to know what it is I am actually feeling. It’s a boon for an advice columnist… I literally can’t judge many actions, only deliver an opinion. Through years of processing my emotions through writing, I’ve reduced the period from ‘never knowing’ to feeling a tiny bit of discomfort a few weeks or days after my decision and realizing that it’s possibly only the tip of the iceberg. I feel something, but I’m not sure exactly what or why. Will it ever disappear? Will I ever be able to live a ‘fuck yes’ life? Who knows. But I’m not going to stop living everything that life offers me in the meantime.
I still have a finely tuned understanding of my emotions at an intellectual level to help guide me through the quagmire of decisions that I make on a daily basis. Most of the time I take every opportunity I can, even if I feel ambiguous about it. It works, let’s say, 80% of the time. Where my decisions lead to a higher sense of self-worth, accomplishment and emotional satisfaction, I pat myself on the back. Job well done. Where it leads to pain, guilt and recrimination, I remind myself that there are gifts of self-knowledge to be found even in the darkest of situations. It’s my own strategy, and it’s not always a ‘fuck yes’.