A red flag is shorthand for a signal or warning of danger ahead. While discussions about general relationship red flags are commonplace, an examination of warning signs that are specifically sex-related are not as frequent. Here are some to keep in mind.
Anger when sex is off the table
A popular video online depicts a man losing his cool and stalking off in a rage when his girlfriend announces she just got her period while they were on vacation. The video is supposed to be one of those funny couple videos. It’s not. The comments attached to it reveal how very real men’s anger is when they are expecting sex but for whatever reason, it’s put off the table. Many of the women who commented were in abusive relationships. Anyone who gets upset, because sex is no longer on the table, is dangerous. If they can be angry about something that is not within your control, like periods, they are unlikely to understand and respect your consent. Consent is an ongoing activity, and it can be withdrawn at any point. It should be able to be done without being afraid of someone’s temper or other repercussions. If you worry about how your partner will react to your withdrawing consent, you are not safe. That is not a safe relationship. It’s a flaming hot red flag.
Their pleasure is all that matters
A story is told on Twitter of a man who asked a lesbian woman how lesbians know that sex is over. The underlying implication is that heterosexuals know sex is over when the man orgasms. Heterosexual sex is oriented around men’s pleasure which explains the existence of the orgasm gap. If your partner doesn’t appear concerned about your pleasure as well as theirs, what even is the point? What are you doing with them? Relationships are supposed to be about giving and receiving, about mutual pleasure and satisfaction. If there’s no sense of mutuality, what is the point? People are different and you may have to learn what works for your partner. That’s normal and you get better with time. However, if you tell them what does it for you and they won’t listen or they get angry at your feedback, that should concern you.
They pressure you to do things
One in 3 women and one in ten men have felt pressured to engage in sexual activities that they weren’t necessarily on board with. Men especially are socialized into pressuring women and wearing women down to get them to engage in sexual activities. Society already sets women up for this with ubiquitous statements like “men have needs” and “if he doesn’t get it from you he’ll get it elsewhere.” Then women are also not supposed to be so available and forward so that men can chase them and convince them. This combination of ways of thinking leads to men badgering women, threatening infidelity, as well as other forms of emotional blackmail to get women to engage in sexual activities they’re not okay with. If someone insists on pressuring and manipulating you, that’s a warning sign you need to take seriously. This refusal to listen and insistence on wearing you down is linked to worse behaviour like rape.
One study found that 31.7% of college men would force a woman to have sex if they could get away with it. When asked how many of them would rape a woman, using the word rape not force, only 13.6% responded in the affirmative. The same logic that allows men to think forcing women is different from raping them is the same as the one that thinks it’s okay to pressure women into performing sexual acts.
Other sex-related red flags include:
- They’re only nice to you during and after sex
- Zero kissing
- Pump and dump: Refuse to cuddle and engage in any aftercare
- They don’t make eye contact during sex
- Refuse to wear a condom, giving reasons like they can’t feel anything etc.
- Kinging it: It’s all one-sided, for example, only he gets oral sex
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