With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, a lot of folks are wondering about the impact #metoo is having on romance and dating.  Many men have expressed anxiety not knowing if or how the rules have changed.

In spite of the confusion, the monumental significance of the #metoo movement cannot be overstated.  The consciousness raising accomplished by the courageous women who risked reputation and careers by breaking the silence and speaking up about their abuse is historical in its importance.  Going forward, despicable behavior which in the past hid in the shadows will now be brought out into light and confronted. Going forward, women’s complaints which were once met with incredulity will now be believed and once common sexually abusive behavior will no longer be tolerated.

Thanks to these brave women , our society is undergoing a profound and much needed consciousness raising about inappropriate behavior by men towards women.   While much of the media attention was understandably focused on situations where men used their power over women’s careers to extort unwanted sexual contact, it is also true that other #metoo confessions involved out of bounds behavior in dating situations.  As a result, many men wonder and worry how romantic persuasion may be pursued in the wake of our culture’s new consciousness.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you navigate the romantic waters in this new era.  First and foremost #metoo has not ruined romance. Also, the rules haven’t changed.  The “rules” are what they always have been, common sense.  It’s just that, unfortunately, they have been ignored by too many men.    Getting back to basic decency, however, presents men and women with an opportunity to develop trust and respect for one another.   Women still love romance and want to have sex … but there a few things that both men and women must remember when courting in this new era:

  1. Sex is a consensual activity. It is not all about male pleasure or needs.  Men must not simply be concerned with their desires.  Romance in the new age must be sensitive and responsive to a woman’s feelings.
  2. Both partners need know themselves and what they each want. Being coy doesn’t cut it any more. Being direct with your wishes and respectful of the other person’s is the best way to avoid misunderstandings and unpleasant situations.
  3. If you aren’t sure about what you want, don’t be naïve. Avoid situations that provide access and opportunity for intimacy.  Until you are clear that you want sex with the person, don’t put yourself in situations which could become problematic.
  4. Know your partner before having sex. Sex by its very nature is emotionally complicated and provocative in both positive and negative ways. Sex with someone you don’t know very well is emotionally as well as physically risky because one never knows what  hidden issues may resurface.  For many, sex is overlaid with past trauma. If you don’t know your potential partner, having sex is like walking through a land mine field.   For example, a partner who has experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse may react in exaggerated or unexpected ways which could be very unpleasant.    
  5. When signaling that you are in the mood, pay attention to your partner’s responses. Immediately after a flirtatious or suggestive comment or gesture is made or received, notice how you and the other respond . What signals are you getting from him/her about sex ?    Is the other person pleased or not ?  Is the other person giving you a green light ?   Don’t ignore stop signs and don’t try to run amber lights.  Remember: In the new age, amber lights are, in fact, red lights. After noting the reaction, proceed accordingly.
  6. Sexual Myths: It is important for women to know, no matter how much that the man protests, that he will not die or even injured be if he becomes aroused but does not have sex.  At most he will experience a temporary and slight discomfort from vaso-congestion.
  7. About the limits of romantic “persuasive”  behaviors: Charm is fine but introducing alcohol, drugs , threats or other emotional attempts to manipulate are not.
  8. Respecting yourself and the other person. Keeping perspective when you are sexually aroused is difficult but none the less must be done. There are more important things than being able to have sex. Maintaining your self respect and respecting the other person are two of them.  No matter  how much you want to be sexual with the person, if they are not receptive, think , “Is a few minutes of excitement really worth the shame and consequences of not respecting her/his feelings ?”

Sexual attraction is a great mystery of life and the fact that attraction is often not mutual makes courting complicated. Given this frustrating reality, having realistic expectations is essential to avoid unpleasantness and problems. Getting to know a person well and developing a genuinely caring friendship before having sex is the best way to ensure a loving and satisfying experience which can lead to a lasting relationship.

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC    2 2 2018

Attribution for photo:  www.BonnieBlingBadges.com