Making Out, Leveling Up
January 17, 2009 9:13 AM   Subscribe

When it comes to the hot-'n'-heavy, which is better: going too far and being told "no," or stopping short?

Suppose I am dating a girl. (Which I'm not at the moment.) God willing, at some point we start making out: kissing, touching, whatever.

Which is a wiser course of action:

1) Push the envelope until I'm told "no," at which point I back off like the gentleman I am.
2) Stop short of what I guess her limit is.

As a neurotic twerp, I've always been obsessed with how my actions influence others' perception of me. I've feared pushing the envelope because I feel too aggressive. OTOH, I've feared stopping short because I feel too passive or that I'm bailing out. MeFi ladies: what does "no" mean to you? What does it mean if you don't have to say it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think dealing with the problem of worrying about where you are with other people will go a long way in clearing up the sixth sense we all possess.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:18 AM on January 17, 2009

Your option 2 is the wiser choice.

And "no" means no. Full stop.
posted by birdherder at 9:20 AM on January 17, 2009

I agree with birdherder. If you stop and she wants to continue, she will let you know. And she'll respect you much more.
posted by xenophile at 9:22 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

When you want to escalate, ask, "Is it okay if I ______?" If you get a yes, proceed. If you get a no, cool it a little.
posted by kitty teeth at 9:24 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Both are OK, (2) is preffered. As long as with (1) you don't 'push the envelope' too soon and you don't try again in 5 minutes after being told 'no.'

And if I'm already making out with you, 'no' usually means 'not yet,' and patience will get you far.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 9:25 AM on January 17, 2009

The middle way?

You may want to inch your way towards the finish line and if the referee blows their whistle just stop cold in your tracks.

But, most importantly and practically, TELL HER this:

"Just tell me if anything makes you feel uncomfortable."

It will probably even be easier for you to get what you want that way. Trust is the most important value, and I'm not suggesting to be Machiavellian about it. Be genuinely concerned and all will go smoothly, hence, "being smooth". =P
posted by theholotrope at 9:27 AM on January 17, 2009

Hmm, I wouldn't ask "is it OK if I...?" I wouldn't care that much myself, but know a lot of girls who afterwards make fun of guys who ask if it's OK. Just try it if you think she's into you enough. Of course, if it's anything weird that you want to try you should ask if it's OK first.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 9:28 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think you really want option #3: Do, and enjoy doing, things where you both are expressing enthusiastic consent. In a youthful make-out session, if you are flirting around with the boundaries of consent, or are having to "back off," you are doing it wrong.

And this:

As a neurotic twerp, I've always been obsessed with how my actions influence others' perception of me

is your real issue here, not the boundaries of consent while making out. Remember all those cliches about self-confidence and all that? That's what you need, not a set of arbitrary rules handed out by anonymous people on the internet.

But back to the make-out question: if she's having an awesome time, and is showing it in every way, from saying "oh god, yes yes YES" to rolling you over and pinning your wrists while kissing you to rubbing her crotch on your thigh, you are doing things right and you should continue what you are doing; make sure you have an equally enthusiastic response to anything new you start doing before proceeding. If you are having to coax and push and whine to get her grudging consent, stop immediately -- sorta/kinda/maybe consent is not what you are looking for here.
posted by Forktine at 9:33 AM on January 17, 2009 [10 favorites]

The main point is that this is a false dichotomy and you should try to stop worrying about it. Obviously no means no, always, and obviously stopping to ask permission at every stage is a ridiculous atmosphere killer; I don't seriously believe anyone really wants to have stepwise negotiations of this sort amid the heat of passion, whatever they claim on AskMe. You take the lead, you judge in the moment, you refrain from obnoxiouness, and you try, if you can, to avoid fretting about it the rest of the time. You won't think your way to a solution to this when overthinking is the source of the problem.

/not a MeFi lady
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:35 AM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

Don't think of her as this thing you are trying to get stuff out of.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:35 AM on January 17, 2009 [25 favorites]

Option 2 is, imo, way hotter and more attractive. It may help her feel more trusting of you and more at ease to recognize and act upon her own desire--an outcome which may pleasantly surprise you!

(...But if you do hold back when you are interested in going further you should tell her how hot you find her so that she does not interpret your restraint as disinterest.)
posted by applemeat at 9:42 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

#1, as long as you're escalating slowly enough for her to call it off before you do anything freaky.
posted by mpls2 at 9:42 AM on January 17, 2009

How about 3) Take it to a certain point and let her lead as the gentleman you are?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:43 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

what does "no" mean to you?

Is this a trick question? It means STOP DOING THAT or DON'T DO THAT.

I really don't think a guy should be aggressive at all until you've had several make-out sessions. Asking if it's OK is kind of a turn-off unless it's something out of the norm ("Is it OK if I wear your panties?"). The middle way is to be assertive. That makes me feel desired without feeling pressured. Watch the movie Hitch, especially the part on kissing. Go 90% of the way and see if she meets you the other 10%. If she doesn't, STOP.
posted by desjardins at 9:43 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Forget about sex for a minute.

Have you ever had one of those conversations where the other person keeps just plowing ahead with their own ideas, and once in a while you'll manage to slip a word in edgewise and the other person will sort of acknowledge it, a bit, before running ahead with what he was going to say anyway, and eventually you give up and it turns into more of a lecture than a conversation? You know those conversations? Not very satisfying, are they?

And then there's the opposite kind of conversation, where the other person doesn't seem to have any ideas and keeps sort of trailing off and falling silent, and you do your best to keep the conversation going but it seems like they're more worried about the possibility of saying something that might offend you than actually being engaged in the discussion? So you either have to just keep talking to fill the silence, or let the conversation wind down to nothing. Those kinds of conversation sort of suck too, don't they?

But once in a while you have a really good conversation, where you're really connecting, you're both playing off each others ideas and the talk ranges all over the place and neither one of you is doing any meta-thinking about oh should I say this or maybe I shouldn't say that, you're just listening to each other and sharing ideas and it can take you places you never would have gotten to on your own. Those conversations are awesome.

Okay, now you can think about sex again.
posted by ook at 9:48 AM on January 17, 2009 [77 favorites]

+1,000 to Forktine, who is wise.

Obviously, no means no. But that's a pretty low standard to be setting for yourself, no? To merely avoid raping her? I submit that if you're making out, and she's just kinda laying there, and not moan-y and pawing at you as well, then you're not doing it right. It may not necessarily be that you've gone further than she wants to go, but obviously if she's not that into it: you may be stroking the wrong place, or using the wrong pressure/tempo, or doing foo when she's sitting there silently wishing that you'd do bar. This raises the chances that she'll end the makeout session well before either one of you are really satisfied, just because it sucks to be horny but stuck petting in a way that feels gross. (For a lot of reasons, young women without a ton of sexual experience are more likely to be a bit passive about the whole thing, and not feel comfortable speaking up and telling you to try something else--they're more likely to just ask you to stop, which is suboptimal all around.)

It seems like a lot of dudes are really resistant to the idea of any talking during sexytime, but I think it's really hot to verbally check in with your partner while playing--and even if verbal foreplay is not your particular cup of tea, when you're starting out with a new ladyfriend, going verbal ups the chances that she's having a great time (and will want to continue the sexytime). You're not a mindreader, right? Unless you're fantastically skilled at doing all the various things that any given woman could like sexually, and have an amazing ability to read tiny body language cues, you're setting yourself up for a less-than-perfect encounter by ruling out the whole talk-while-you-do-it thing. Think less stilted-consent-asking "is this okay with you?" and more breathy-sexy "do you like it when I do this? does this make you hot?" Anything less than an emphatic "YES!" means you should back off, not because you're raping her but because obviously that particular thing isn't turning her crank and you need to try something else.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:00 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Doesn't matter what anyone here says or what the consensus is if the woman you're with thinks and feels differently. Learn to listen and pay attention to that woman, respecting her wishes and desires and you'll be fine.

Don't over think it, women want to have sex too. Just be fun and you'll do fine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:01 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Varies greatly according to the other person. Some people are naturally shy and kinda need some help moving past certain roadblocks. Some people know what they want and resent being pushed. If you don't know the girl well enough to tell which she is, then go with your option #2.

what does "no" mean to you? Most of the time, it means, "Okay, you're going to stop doing that." But I admit, sometimes it means, "Not yet," and (*sigh* I know I'm a bad person for admitting this) sometimes it even means, "Ask again, and maybe I'll give in the next time, but I don't want you to think I'm easy."

What does it mean if you don't have to say it? If I really want it, I'll do it. If we're that far along and you pull back, then I've already formed an opinion of you, and you know what? It's probably pretty good. Don't worry about tarnishing my impression of you when I've already let you see more of me than anyone who isn't my doctor.
posted by Etrigan at 10:03 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Think less stilted-consent-asking "is this okay with you?" and more breathy-sexy "do you like it when I do this? does this make you hot?"
Yes, except the second part of "does this make you hot?" just makes me giggle at how silly it sounds. Apparently guys don't like being giggled at in bed. The question "do you like it when I do this?" sounds more normal to me. But people are different, so who knows.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 10:33 AM on January 17, 2009

If you stop short, there's always next time. If you go to far,...probably not.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:05 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Zambrano, do you live to give bad advice about women?

To answer the question - it's not about 'no means no'. It's about 'yes means yes'. If you're not getting enthusiastic response to your overtures, you need to make sure that the woman is into it as much as you are.

No means no immediately, whether or not the woman is playing games. You can't tell if the woman is being coy or really concerned, so it's best to err on the side of respecting her right to determine what happens to her body.
posted by winna at 11:06 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, all women don't want their man to take control.

If I trust someone, I can "lend" him the control for a little while. That can be really fun.

However, there's that trust thing. Trust takes time. If I man can control himself and back-off when I ask him to, that makes me feel trusting, safe. If a man stops on his own, that is intriguing, I feel that safe relaxed feeling, combined with desire for more... !

Of course, every woman is different, but I think a lot of us have had the first conversation mentioned by ook, and it gets old.

So yes, I would say combine numbers 1 and 2.
posted by Locochona at 11:34 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

All women want their man to take control.

Most women want some men to take control sometimes. Even the most submissive (and I mean that literally) people have safe words for when they're uncomfortable with the situation, or just when they feel like going home and getting some sleep before work the next morning. And yes, even the most dominant dommes occasionally want some beefy lifeguard type to pull their hair. But believing you know those times will get you into trouble a lot more often than it will get you into her pants.
posted by Etrigan at 11:36 AM on January 17, 2009

KateHasQuestions: "Hmm, I wouldn't ask "is it OK if I...?" I wouldn't care that much myself, but know a lot of girls who afterwards make fun of guys who ask if it's OK. Just try it if you think she's into you enough. Of course, if it's anything weird that you want to try you should ask if it's OK first."

Quoted for truth. Case in point; when I first started dating a girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend) many years ago, during our first time I was asking "Is it OK if I put my hand here" and "Is it OK if I do this" because I was trying to be a gentleman and didn't want to fuck this up. Eventually just told me "Stop asking if it's OK and just do it!" So I did. Basically the advice she was giving me was just do what you think is nice and sexy and she will tell you no if she thinks it isn't (and as others have said, yeah, no means no).

But this advice really only applies to the stage where you two are in bed together having mutually decided you want to have sexy sex. Your question, as I read it, is how do you know if it's OK to go from making out to sex without asking "is it OK?" In my experience, and this is pretty much the only answer I think I or anyone here can really give you, is that it really depends on the woman you're with. If you're at the stage of making out, I would hope that you'd know what kind of personality the woman you're making out has and what kind of clues she's given you during the date (or dates) about what she's up for if you two ever go home together. If you pay attention to all of this before you ever even get to making out, then you'll know what's OK without having to ask.

So I guess the advice is pay attention, know the woman you're with and what she'd be comfortable with and then just do what feels mutually good, with the only real rule being that if she says no to something you do, no means no.
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:09 PM on January 17, 2009

I guess I read this question too charitably- I didn't see "consent" as being the question at all. I saw it as more of a timing and how to be a good lover question. Or a "how do I know when it's OK to go for second base" question. To me, it assumed consent is there, and about how not to screw up a good moment.

So, to answer: start to do what you think your partner might like. Think they might like you to touch their [body part]? Brush against it, feel near it, etc. If you guessed right and your partner likes the idea, you will probably get encouragement. If you guessed wrong, you will probably get your hand brushed away. In other words, give your partner the space to give you a non-denial denial. It is non-mood-wrecking communication.
posted by gjc at 2:22 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you pay attention to all of this before you ever even get to making out, then you'll know what's OK without having to ask.

Quoted-for-truth chain.
posted by gjc at 2:31 PM on January 17, 2009

Extra respect to previously-established clear-headed boundaries, should any have been stated. (If it's a given, for instance, that intercourse is not intended, then you double-triple check to make sure she's okay with changing her mind if things are heading in that direction.)

Angry, fearful, sad, seriously confused, or freaked-out "no" certainly means stop, but good lord, part of the hotness of making out is deciding how much to let your hormones drive. Just as screaming oh god is not actually praying, it is possible to demur without wishing said action to be removed from consideration entirely.

Just go slowly and pay attention to her responses. Slower is better anyway, and gives her time to react. As Effigy2000 points out, it really depends on the woman you're with, and by the time you two are making these decisions, you should have enough communication established to be confident that what you're doing is ok.
posted by desuetude at 2:39 PM on January 17, 2009

I think that if you are engaging in sexual activities without having a good idea in your mind where you want the relationship to go, then you are building up problematic habits that unless broken later will lead to suffering.

Become clear where you want the relationship to go. If that's clear, then you understand that any choice either of you makes is forever and you can live with it. Honestly, I don't think you are ready for this, too casual in your attitude. Probably better for you to just let the woman dominate everything until you realize you have to be more serious in your life.
posted by peter_meta_kbd at 5:28 PM on January 17, 2009

Say "put your hand on mine and teach me what you want." then remember it. If you come back from a date and she's wearing a snap crotch teddy...
posted by zengargoyle at 7:13 PM on January 17, 2009

I think you have to sort of judge it by the girl. Is she the shy type who you think is unlikely to speak up? The #2 or just ask her (even though this can be a mood killer, it's not a potential relationship killer which being way way too aggressive can be).

If she's the type to be assertive, then you are probably safe with #1.

However, this is not a foolproof model. As people can be very different in sexual situations than they are in normal life. So the assertive, take charge girl, may be the exact opposite in such a situation and be nervous/feel stupid about telling you to back off. So keep your head in the game, if you notice her enthusiasm begin to wane trying dialing it back a bit and see how she reacts.

Also, I think it's nice that you are thinking about this. Confidence and consideration don't have to be mutually exclusive traits.

Oh and by the way, no of course means no, but there are also other phrases that mean no, including:

"let's slow down"
"yeah can we stop for a minute"
"yeah I like to take it slow at first"
"stop it"
"no really"

This list is of course not exhaustive.
posted by whoaali at 7:46 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why rush things? While there's certainly a time and place for throwing caution to the wind, doing so early in a relationship is probably a poor idea. Better to hold back a bit and focus on learning your partner's nonverbal responses and arousal patterns than risk making someone uncomfortable.

You can always do more later, but you can never go back and un-cross a line. Besides, being flirty without giving all your game away at the starting gate is monstrously sexy and will leave them wanting more.

(In case it's not clear by now, no means no, immediately and without protest.)
posted by fracas at 11:31 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you aren't overly pushy it's generally very easy to tell how comfortable she is taking things further.
posted by Macallister Vagabond at 7:16 AM on January 19, 2009

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