No means no. We know this. We also know that regardless, many women say yes when they mean no and for a myriad of confusing reasons, they also say no when they mean yes, and this (understandably) confuses the hell out of men.
Men are currently caught in two very valid learning curves.
Honoring women’s no’s, as women become more comfortable setting boundaries and consent, and learning how to read between the lines and ‘sense’ what a woman might be expressing that is different than her words.
I wrote this piece and made this video to give men a way to begin practicing both of these skills at the same time and in a way that doesn’t put them at risk of misunderstanding and hurtfully crossing the boundary of a true ‘no’.
Let me start by saying women are responsible for saying what they mean. We have the right and the responsibility to say no when we mean no, which is a massive piece of learning and liberation, and also a huge piece of work I do with women in my Fierce Grace program and Sacred Sovereignty weekends. However, we currently live in a reality where women are still regularly saying yes when they mean no and not just in sex, but in making muffins for the class treat, running errands for bosses, agreeing to organize all the meals for that group vacation, or over-committing to work responsibilities that may not even fall under her jurisdiction. As women, we absolutely have a responsibility in shifting these paradigms. We have to be willing to say no and possibly be disliked so that another woman or girl won’t have to bump up against the same thing 15 years from now.
That being said, there are some (major) things men can do to help.
In my experience of working with thousands of women, and in my own experience as a woman, something I’ve noticed is that women are often less clear on exactly what they want, especially when it comes to sex. This is a result of many things like history, culture, messaging and pressure, but during times when things are happening fast, it can be hard to distinguish between biology and messaging and wants, needs and true desires and this is often what leads to a woman saying yes when she actually means no.
The first thing a man can to help is learn how to read her. Starting with noticing when her Yes might actually be a No.
All men have the capacity to notice, at a deeper level, whether it actually feels like her true yes and whether it does not, and in those moments, you can be the one to hold the no that she may or may not even be fully consciously aware of.
Learning how to pay attention and read her signs is crucial. This is absolutely something that can be learned. While all men have this capacity, very few have developed it. How to actually feel a woman at a deeper level is only one of the many pieces John Wineland & I teach in The Embodied Relationship Training Salon.
Most women are often on edge trying to decide, moment to moment, whether they really want to keep going—especially romantically and sexually—which limits us from being able to really let go into the experience we’re having. Sometimes, we’re thinking throughout the entire date about how far are we’re going to let the night go. We can really want to kiss, make out, maybe even be in bed with a man, but not quite be ready to have his penis in our vagina, and that means yes to one thing and a no to another, and trying to navigate that situation can be confusing for everyone!
If, as a man, you’re able to stay connected and feel these layers that are going on inside her, you have the opportunity to slow things down in a way that allows her to relax, which means a better date (and better sex, when the time is right) for everyone! If you’re a man who desires a woman who is fully surrendered, then learning to read when her yes is actually a no is where you need to begin.
Watch the video below for an example of how a male colleague & I use this practice between the two of us.
The second thing a man can do is hold an even larger boundary than she does:
There is literally nothing sexier than a man holding a boundary so I don’t have to. Let me say that again: There is literally nothing sexier than a man holding a boundary, so I don’t have to.
I cannot overstate the impact this has on a woman’s nervous system. This is absolutely one of the greatest gifts a man can offer a woman.
Women spend their whole lives keeping people at bay, in order to stay safe and to be in the space of a man who is 100% honest about his attraction AND also holding a ‘no-sex’ or ‘I’d like nothing more than to take you home and have my way with you, but that’s going to have to wait until next time….’, etc… boundary is one of the hottest experiences you can give a woman.
In the video below, I share a personal example of this.
Culturally, we’ve set up the scenario where the man is supposed to do the pursuing, asking, pushing but this creates a world in which women are constantly on guard. None of us actually wants that. So, while yes, women have a responsibility in learning how to trust their intuition in order to know when to let their guard down, you can be the man who sets the boundary perhaps even just a little farther out than she would and then invite her to come closer. Draw her to you, rather than pushing for more. Rather than erring on the side of yes because you think that means you’ve ‘won’ something, err on the side of no.
Winning a yes is not a success; allowing her to relax her nervous system so fully that she can’t help but let go is the real prize.
This doesn’t mean you should only be a ‘nice guy’, or withhold yourself. It’s neither your fault nor your job to hold someone else’s boundary, especially when they don’t even know they have one. This a gift you get to give, not just to an individual woman, but the larger world of women, if you choose to. A powerful gift; a priceless gift. One she will never forget. The gift of noticing: Is her body opening? Does she seem lit up? When you pause, does she reach for more? If not, stopping doesn’t need to be a collapse, it can be an engaged invitation.
The invitation I want to make here is multilayered. Every layer is its own thing in and of itself and when they’re all together it’s really amazing. In creating a culture that supports the truth, especially of women, but really for all humans, one layer is the work we do shifting the paradigm regardless of gender. The second layer is for women specifically, we have to learn to distinguish what we want and to set our own boundaries. Thirdly, developing your capacity as a man to let go of your own ideas about how you want things to go, to pay attention and be willing to be the one holding the boundary, is one of the most massive gifts you can give a woman.
In the process, you will have changed that woman’s life and, in doing so, even if you never see her again, you will have changed the lives of all the women around her as well. You will have literally created a cosmic shift far beyond the two of you.
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Be a good book for you to write layers of presence. Create a starter kit with with you so with John that includes practicing the awareness muscle you’re asking me to engage in growing.
Add in how to work with resentment, ambivalence and emotional layers on your book.
How to work with your addiction to being right.
Great idea Tim!
Thanks for this article. In the last 7 months I’ve grown as a man and person thanks to a group of guys. One of which posted this article to our fb group.
Reading the underlying meaning and intent from my wife was very difficult until I started to stop making everything about me. Once I could see and hear what she was saying I got better at reading her yes’s no’s and “I do t know’s”.
So glad it’s helpful Will!