14 Nov 2018

Saying YES to one thing doesn’t automatically mean YES to everything else

Women need the freedom to negotiate sex -- to say “no” to things we don’t feel like doing and to speak openly about our sexual needs. Sex negotiation and enthusiastic consent are a women's best tools for control and truly enjoyable lovemaking.

Wysokie Obcasy
Joanna Keszka Wysokie Obcasy, Global
Saying YES to one thing doesn’t automatically mean YES to everything else - NewsMavens
Woman in water, PixaBay

The following fragments are from an article by Polish sex educator Joanna Keszka which first appeared in the Polish weekly “Wysokie Obcasy” in August 2014.

I know many women who compare sex with their partners to being swept away by a river: they stay afloat but are not in control of the direction they move in. They agree to have sex that doesn’t satisfy them because they feel too ashamed to refuse it and too embarrassed to express their own desires.

Society has neglected to help us learn the techniques of sex negotiation and nobody has explained to our lovers that female sexuality doesn’t belong to men.

Let’s start with the basics. Have you ever wondered what percentage of a woman’s body belongs to her? How many things would you refuse to do in bed if your partner asked you first? Or what you would suggest if he showed more interest in your preferences?

The problem is, they usually don't ask. We live in a culture where a man is traditionally encouraged to decide how far he can go when reaching for a female body.

Supposedly, he “can tell” how much he’s allowed to do with a woman. From a cultural perspective, our opinion on what’s going to happen to our body doesn’t really matter. Many men still believe that if a woman says “no” she actually means “yes”.

Enthusiastic Consent is a loud and clear YES

Most females I know have at some point in their life experienced sexual violence -- including myself. Yet there is still no concerted effort to teach women, men, girls or boys that the enthusiastic “Yes, I want it” is the only acceptable form of consent to an intimate touch or a sexual encounter.

But it is important to remember that even if we say “Yes”, our partner needs to keep listening  -- because what if we start saying"No" afterwards?

Our patriarchal society treats girls and women as bait used to stimulate and satisfy men’s lust. It fails to see them as living, intelligent sexual beings. Across Europe, women’s right to decide about their bodies is being increasingly limited. This contributes to a common disregard for women’s opinion on their own physicality -- there’s always someone who knows better than us what (and how much) we are allowed to do with our own bodies. This is how the idea of “enthusiastic consent” was born.

The rules of Enthusiastic Consent are simple: do not initiate sexual intercourse until you’re given enthusiastic consent from your partner.

Enthusiastic consent is the only determinant of a respectful sexual encounter. When I say respectful, I don’t mean sex with a person who’s uncertain, anxious or embarrassed or with someone who is quiet and doesn’t react -- even though they’re not actively objecting. I’m talking about good, enjoyable sex -- the one towards which we work together with our partner. Receiving a loud, clear and vocalized “YES” is the only valid consent to sex.

It should also be stressed that consent isn’t constant -- just because your partner agreed to sex before doesn’t mean you won’t have to ask them again in the future.

Saying “yes” to one thing doesn’t automatically mean “yes” to everything else. Just because I came back to your house doesn’t mean I’ll have sex with you. Perhaps it’s something I wanted half an hour ago but I’ve changed my mind. Maybe I thought about having sex with you but I don’t want to put your penis in my mouth. Perhaps I felt horny but I don’t anymore, not in the company of your friends.

We need to agree that saying “no” to a sexual request is as valid and correct as saying “yes”.

SEX negotiation ED

Get to know your boundaries and stick to them. Most females I talk to are surprised by the number of situations in which they would have refused to be touched if only they had been asked and given a chance to say “no”.

Respect yourself. The stereotype is that a woman who “doesn’t respect herself” is the one who enjoys sex. This is not true. I’d like to propose a different definition: Respect yourself -- don’t sacrifice yourself or don’t be too generous hoping that it will make somebody like you.

Refuse. Turn down a meal, drinks, gifts, touch and sex if you don’t want them. “No, thank you” with no further unnecessary explanations.

Trust your own decisions.

Ask for what you wish for, not for what you think is appropriate.

Be honest and good to yourself and expect the same from others. Treat yourself with the same love and respect that you express towards your loved ones, and believe that you deserve to be treated this way by the men in your life.


Joanna Keszka is a Polish sex educator 

Translated from Polish by Martyna Kardach


Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
Is something happening in your country that Newsmavens should cover?
Zuzanna Ziomecka
Zuzanna Ziomecka EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lea Berriault-Jauvin
Lea Berriault Managing Editor
Jessica Sirotin
Jessica Sirotin EDITOR
Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko EDITOR
Gazeta Wyborcza, Agora SA Czerska 8/10 00-732, Warsaw Poland
The e-mail addresses provided above are not intended for recruitment purposes. Messages concerning recruitment will be deleted immediately. Your personal data provided as part of your correspondence with Zuzanna,Lea, Jessica and Ada will be processed for the purpose of resolving the issue you contacted us about. The data provided in your email is controlled by Agora S.A. with its registered office in Warsaw Czerska 8/10 Street (00-732). You can find more information about the processing and protection of your personal data at