sex, dating, & relationships

Let’s Call It What It Is

I’m in the middle of reading LAID by Shannon T. Boodram — fabulous project, by the way, in which teenage and young adult contributors relate stories of their specific sexual encounters. The stories are divided into chapters based on theme, and they each start with an introduction and end with FAQs and a self survey. It’s a great read — and designed to work pretty well as a sex ed text!

I want to respond to the first chapter: Hookups That Fell Down. What do you think it would mean for hookup to fall down? I thought maybe it meant that hookups are hard to negotiate and often end in confusion, hurt, and conflict.

Actually, the so-called hookups described in each story were full of confusion and hurt from the start. The thoughts and actions described in each tale demonstrate an apparent lack of consent. I didn’t really want to… I said let’s slow down… I figured I might as well go along with it… followed up by lots of bad feelings and other negative results.

In my line of work, we don’t just call that a hookup. That is potentially rape and sexual assault.

However, I don’t want to label other people’s experiences. It wouldn’t help the writers of these stories to feel pressured to identify as rape survivors. But if the point of the book is to educate others, which it is, then the author has a responsibility to educate accurately.

When someone tries to hookup with you without your explicit and enthusiastic consent, that’s not okay.

A post for another day: in order to keep hookups from falling down this badly, we need to teach and promote better communication skills, clearly.

Published by Mimi Arbeit

applied developmental scientist, antifascist community organizer, sexuality educator

3 thoughts on “Let’s Call It What It Is”

  1. shannon teresa says:

    Hey Mimi,

    Thanks so much for picking up LAID and I love the post!

    I'm not sure if I agree with the stories in hookups that fell down being potential sexual assault cases (other than She's Pigeon Toed and Wears a Scarf, a story which always lends itself to an in depth conversation about what "date rape" is).

    While I do agree that consensual sex is anything with an enthusiastic yes, I'm not sure if I would say that a luke warm yes should be viewed as a sexual attack.

    I do agree that a lesson in communication and expectation management is absolutely needed for both sexes. Conversations like the one you have begun today and continue to do in your daily work are a terrific step in the right direction.

    I am so proud that the book found it's way in your hands. Keep in touch!

    Shannon T. Boodram

  2. Sarah Elkins says:

    Without having read the book, I'm also not sure that I'd agree that "I figured I might as well go along with it" amounts to being assaulted.

    To me, the overarching issue with those quotes is pressure. The pressure to hook up in the first place, the pressure to go farther or faster than comfortable with… Feeling pressured into an act is, to me, what leads to the negative feelings. But I'm not sure that these writers were pressured by their hook-up partners.

    My guess is that most of the pressure comes from 'society'. "What would my friends think?" "Maybe I should do 'grown-up' things…" "Will he still like me if I do/don't do it?" Each of these questions have floated around my mind at some point in my teens. And never were they triggered by my hook-up partner making me feel bad for not wanting to go further. The pressure I put on myself was far more potent and effective at getting me to act in a certain way.

    Never once did I feel as though taken advantage of or assaulted, even when I went 'farther' than I would've liked too.

  3. Desh says:

    Just picked this book up, and read it the past couple of days. Thanks for mentioning it here!

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