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19 Ways a Gay Man Can Say 'No'
Consent always matters. Read why below.
You're on the dance floor. He's cute. Eye contact. Hold it. He's holding it, he's interested. You get closer. You scratch his chest, he scratches yours. Then he's in your arms, or you're in his. Around this time he may offer his name or ask, "Where are you from?" He shouts it in your ear and you can barely hear it over the music. You start touching. And then his fingers dive for your ass.
You like touching, but you don't want to get fingered. You already have a slight connection, so you gently pull his hand up and shake your head -- not roughly, not angrily, just a nonverbal way of saying, "Ass is off-limits." Most guys will get the message and keep dancing. If he attempts again, I let go and start dancing away. I move to another guy, to a different part of the floor, or to the next room. This is the way it goes at every loud gay circuit party in the world.
In these spaces and others like it, consent is often nonverbal, situational, even murky. As a person with a long list of kinks, I'm accustomed to talking about the careful ways consent is given, when it's given, and how. You can always say no. That's how we keep sex (and sexy spaces) fun.
In a time when more and more abusers are being revealed in the national spotlight, it's vital to talk about consent. Consent always matters. It's also vital not to let our outrage devolve into sex panic -- being desired isn't the same as being assaulted. Good sex people -- kinky folks, polite flirts, and leather bar cruisers -- know consent is the dividing line between good advances and bad ones. Here's 19 ways to tell him "no."
A word of warning from Alex Cheves
My name is Alexander Cheves, and I am known by friends in the kink and leather community as Beastly. I am a sex-positive writer and blogger. The views in this slideshow do not reflect those of The Advocate and are based solely off of my own experiences. Like everything I write, the intent of this piece is to break down the stigmas surrounding the sex lives of gay men.
Those who are sensitive to frank discussions about sex are invited to click elsewhere, but consider this: If you are outraged by content that address sex openly and honestly, I invite you to examine this outrage and ask yourself whether it should instead be directed at those who oppress us by policing our sexuality.
For all others, enjoy the slideshow. And feel free to leave your own suggestions of sex and dating topics in the comments.
Hungry for more? Follow me on Twitter @BadAlexCheves and visit my blog, The Beastly Ex-Boyfriend.
1. Look somewhere else.
Humans communicate through gaze. It's how we indicate who has our attention, what we're interested in, what we like. If someone is showing you unwanted attention, look elsewhere. It's a surprisingly effective way to say "no," regardless if you're on a dance floor, in a sex club, walking through the corridors of a bathhouse, or even in a sling (worked for me).
You can turn around, look past him, or better yet, walk past him. If someone has misread my gaze, I'll scan the area behind him and move my head a bit, which reads as "searching for someone" -- not him.
Flirting depends on gaze. The lost art of in-person cruising is a gaze game. You see him in a coffee shop and he's cute. You make eye contact. You gauge interest before making a move. You get permission to approach through eye contact first. People often forget this.
There's some talk today about flirting -- some are quick to equate it to abuse. Let's not lose flirting. Maybe this is a side effect of a digital culture in which eye contact is replaced with a swipe left or right. Making eye contact with someone is the most important step in human connection. You don't undress someone with your eyes. You don't stare at their body. You meet their gaze as an equal, complicit in looking.
2. Turn/pull away.
People have an annoying tendency to assume you're game for kisses when they're drunk. I don't want to say gay men have any greater problem with this than the general population, but gay men are the only drunk crowds I regularly walk into. It's annoying to walk into a bar later in the night and dodge lip kisses from half the men I meet.
I'm not a heavy kisser. I reserve kisses for select friends and lovers. If they're someone I like but don't want to kiss, I'll turn my head and let them kiss my cheek. If they're someone I don't think much of, I'll pull away. Pulling back makes it clear that you don't appreciate the gesture and may draw attention from people nearby -- and it should.
3. If you’re kinky, always play with a safeword.
A safeword is a word used in a roleplay/BDSM that means "STOP." If you're in roleplay, particularly one designed to feel nonconsensual, one that involves overpowering someone sexually, submissives need a "way out" -- a way to stop the scene if things feel too frightening or intense, or if they need a break. Saying "No," "Stop," or "Don't" might be part of the scene ("sexy pool boy gets kidnapped by rope-loving biker daddy"), but if you shout "watermelon!" -- or whatever safeword you choose -- play ends immediately.
If your dominant suggests a punishment for using your safeword, find a new one. A safeword is a get-out-free-without-repercussion card. It's a sign someone needs care, not punishment. It's an all-encompassing "NO" used by kinksters who enjoy extreme (awesome) sex.
One fear that many submissives have is whether or not someone will obey their safeword. How can you know for sure? Any dominant whodoesn't respect safewords is considered dangerous and will be cast out,/unwelcome in the kink community. These dominants are few and far between. In a community that stays tight-knit and community-based partly for this reason (to keep each other safe), they will be weeded out, remembered, and watched for.
Never get incapacitated (hands and feet tied) around someone you haven't played with before and don't know decently well. With new dominants, start mild -- light bondage (or no bondage) until a few sessions have happened and trust is developed. As always, take considerable time (multiple meetings) with new dominants to discuss limits, interests, desires, expectations, and aftercare before you start playing -- this is when your safeword is chosen and agreed upon.
4. If he asks for your name and you’re not interested, practice a polite “no.”
Read intent. It's one thing to be forward and direct. It's another thing to be rude and disrespectful. It's another thing entirely to touch someone without their permission.
I've noticed that different gay men from different cultures have different practices to coming up to someone directly. I've appreciated the bold, confident introductions some guys have made. I've also been in the uncomfortable position of having to turn them down.
I appreciated their bravery, even if I wasn't interested. There's a polite way to talk to a stranger and an impolite way. If he introduces himself politely and asks for my name and number, I say something like "I appreciate the gesture so much. I don't particularly like giving out my number to strangers, sorry." If he presses it, I say, "I'm sorry, but we're not a match and I have to leave it at that, but thank you for being direct. Most guys don't have the courage to do that."
Be firm but polite. If he keeps pressing it, he's crossed a line, and you have the full right to tell him to fuck off.
5. In loud venues, practice nonverbal, gestural communication.
I'm deaf in my right ear. I can't hear half my coworkers at the office, let alone a hot leather daddy in a floor-vibrating circuit party. Learn to say "no," "yes," "I'm interested," "sorry, not interested," "you OK?" and "I'm leaving" without words. Even without talking, you can be very clear and direct.
6. Be aware of situational consent.
Situational consent is when you waive a degree of consent by being in a particular place. The best example of this is walking into a lights-out backroom (which still exist in some gay bars in the U.S.) where guys are groping, sucking, fucking, and feeling in the dark. These spaces are intensely hot, but they can be uncomfortable for people who don't understand them or don't like anonymous, grab-in-the-dark sex.
By walking in, you forfeit a degree of consent. You will get touched. That's the point. Even in situations like these, you can gently push guys away who you aren't interested in, and you don't have to have sex of any kind. If someone's being fucked -- a low, breathy moan in the corner accompanied by the wet slap of skin -- you don't have to join. Watching is fine -- most guys back there will be. There is a backroom code of conduct -- see number 14.
7. Be aware of nonverbal consent.
Nonverbal consent is heavily relied upon in certain spaces. Know what nonverbal consent looks like.
Here's an example of nonverbal consent. You walk into a dark room with fuck benches along the wall. The only light is one red bulb over the doorway. You vaguely discern a guy bent over with his ass up on one of the benches -- a wordless invite to come fuck him (especially if he's wearing a blindfold). This is nonverbal consent.
If you go to gay sex clubs, backrooms, fetish parties, sex parties, and so on, you will encounter guys bent over or laying in slings or sitting in front of gloryholes. They are all giving nonverbal consent with their body language, their placement, their situations. This is real consent. Just like all forms of consent, it can be revoked at any time. He can leave the fuck bench. The guy can climb out of the sling. He can stand up from in front of the glory hole. And they should -- so other guys can have their turn.
Nonverbal consent is given in less extreme cases too. On dance floors where it's too loud to have a conversation, if someone comes up to you, you come up to them, and you gently touch each other's chest (the gay "chest pat" or "chest scratch," a playful "you're cute" move between the pecs or on the shoulder), you've given each other nonverbal permission to get a bit closer, to explore more. This does not mean you can instantly grab his bulge; I normally start with scratching or petting his forearm. He can easily move his arm away -- message loud and clear. He can also take my hand and place it on his body where he'd like me to touch him.
Like all forms of communication, nonverbal consent can be misread, misinterpreted. If you misread someone's body language or they misread yours, go back to Numbers 1 and 2. You can always pull/look away. So can he.
Pay attention to body language. Make sure you're always respecting someone's nonverbal consent, always reading it correctly.
8. Know the “cut” gesture.
There are no universal gestures -- one exception being the shoulder shrug with palms up to mean "I don't know" or "nothing is hidden," a submissive gesture that is universally nonthreatening.
Most guys in the U.S. will read the gesture of moving your hand across your neck in a "slicing" motion to mean "cut," "nix," "out," "done," "no more," "stop," etc. It means something is wrong or something needs to end. This is useful in dark, loud spaces where you're dependent on nonverbal communication.
9. Know the universal “stop” gesture.
Again, I don't know if this is truly universal, but most cultures will read your arm relatively extended, fingers up, palm facing out to mean "stop" or "no."
10. If you're gagged, establish a “no” beforehand.
Nothing gets me in submissive mode faster than a gag. I'm a talker, so when someone takes that away from me, my body becomes butter in their hands.
Gags force you to use nonverbal tools. The previous gestures work, but you might have your hands tied, in which case you can snap your fingers or slap whatever part of your body your hand is closest to (or tied to). The more incapacitated you are, the more attentive your dominant must be, so only do this with guys you've developed significant trust with.
11. If you're blindfolded, know the risks, and know your “no.”
Getting blindfolded makes nearly any sex act hotter. It forces you to feel your way around and to give up a hefty amount of control.
You can still say "no" or "stop" if you don't like something -- and you should. You can always use whatever hand gestures/words you want. Just don't freak out and forget to use them if things get too scary. Don't let the blindfold make you think you're stuck. Some people freak out when they can't see. A good dominant will lead you into the scene, earn and build your trust, and put a blindfold on you when you're ready.
If you go to a sex club or backroom where someone's blindfolded, again, situational/nonverbal consent dictates that they likely know what they're doing and are there to enjoy anonymous sex. If you don't feel comfortable indulging their fetish without asking first, ask. I've been in that situation many times and have always appreciated the kind guys who lean down, whisper in my ear, and say, "Hey, can I fuck you?"
12. If someone isn't reading your nonverbal language, be verbal.
You can always tell someone to fuck off -- as loud as necessary.
This is true regardless if you're on a date, at a bar, out with friends, or anywhere: The best, most effective "no" is simply leaving. Is he asking for your number? Deliver a French exit. Is someone monopolizing you at a sex party and you want to fuck other guys? Go do it. Someone chatting you by the bar stool? Bye! Someone needlessly touchy in a backroom? Lose them.
14. Learn backroom etiquette.
I touched on this earlier, but backrooms and lights-out, anonymous play spaces (which exist in some bars and in every gay sex club I've been to) have rules all their own. You can't go in there reasonably expecting not to be touched without your permission -- these places exist as sex spaces where groping gets a free pass -- but you can swat someone's hand away if you're not interested in what you see/feel. If he reaches again (some will), be more forceful or move away from him. You don't have to do anything sexual. You can simply be present there, be in the energy, and watch/touch.
Case in point: I don't like blow jobs. So it's a little irksome when guys pull my dick out, dive to the floor, and start sucking. But I know where I am and what happens there. I pull out and pat them on the shoulder -- my way of saying "no, thanks." If guys don't get the gesture, I bend over and say in their ear, "I don't like blow jobs." Or I just move away.
If I'm getting fucked by a guy and someone else tries to take over, butt in, or push my top aside, I'll more forcefully, wordlessly push him away -- and so should the guy fucking me. Which brings me to another backroom "code of conduct" rule: Watch, but don't think you have instant permission to involve yourself in everyone's sex. Some guys disappear to dark spaces to solely play with each other. If they "invite you in," sure, join, but don't assume your proximity or you watching equates to a participatory role when you want it to.
Other backroom etiquette rules: Don't turn on your phone or produce a light. This will be blinding to a group of guys whose eyes have adjusted to the dark. The only exception is if you absolutely must because you've dropped something important -- your ID, your cash, your poppers, your wedding ring (why you'd be wearing it, I have no idea), or something else valuable.
Final bit: If you're in a dark backroom at a gay bar -- and I've never heard of backrooms existing in sports bars or Top 40 dance clubs or wherever straight people congregate -- then you can safely assume most people in the dark space will be gay and bi men who are there to touch and play with other gay and bi men. Act accordingly.
15. Be aware of how drugs and alcohol inhibit your ability to communicate.
Nonverbal communication gets harder to read with more substances. This is a risk you take in playing on drugs. People are less attentive to body language and less attentive to nonverbal consent, and will generally be more forward, more aggressive. Know that.
16. You’re allowed to say “no” to your boyfriend.
Someone has crossed the threshold from stranger to playmate, playmate to "someone," and now you're in a relationship -- whether that relationship is with a boyfriend, fuck buddy, cuddle buddy, sex pal, lover, husband, and so on. This doesn't get said enough: Consent still matters when you're with someone. This is true regardless if you've fucked before, regardless if you fuck regularly.
If you're not in the mood, you should never feel pressured into sex. Pressuring someone into sex is grounds for breakup. If you're never in the mood -- if you've "lost the spark" -- tell him. This conversation can sometimes be the best thing for couples. You may decide together to try something different sexually. You may decide to open the relationship to other people. You may decide to break up. You may do a million things to save and improve your relationship after the sex has become lackluster and predictable -- and it will eventually for most people.
Tell him "no" as honestly and frankly as you can. "I do not feel like having sex" always works, with this optional addendum: "I'm not sure why I don't feel like having it, but I'm willing to talk about it."
17. You’re allowed to say “no” to your dominant.
Even if he barks orders and says to be there at a certain time and be ready. Even if he's your "master" or whatever title you call him. Even if he's a cash dominant or someone you surrender total control to for weekends at a time -- or longer. You are always free. You don't have to play with him if you don't want to.
I'm personally against 24/7, live-in submission for this reason. It's too easy for it to become abusive, too easy to let it fuck with your head, and I don't think it's healthy. Some kinky people make it work -- submissives who move in with their dominants and serve them day and night -- but I don't think their play is healthy, and I worry about them.
There's ongoing debate in the kinky community about what passes SSC and RACK -- two mantras that delineate which kinks/fetishes are permitted and acceptable and which ones are not. SSC stands for "safe, sane, and consensual," which was the working mantra until someone realized that some kinks done consensually may not be "safe" in the strictest sense (getting whored out and taking countless anonymous loads, extreme fisting, gut-punching, extreme suspension bondage), so RACK -- "risk-aware consensual kink" was coined. Generally speaking, as long as you are as aware and informed as much as possible of the risks in doing what you want to do, you're allowed to do it as long as you consent to it freely and willingly (and sober).
As you can see, consent always matters -- especially to kinksters (kinky people) with extreme fetishes. I have a rape fantasy -- I fetishize rape scenarios and enjoy simulated rape/rape roleplay -- and I still care about consent. It's the line between an intense fetish and actual rape. I want to get degraded, roughed up, and fucked hard. I don't want to know exactly when it's going to happen. I want it to hurt. I don't want it to be real.
18. If it’s bad sex, end it.
There's no participation prize for making sex happen when it's not enjoyable. You don't have to keep going. Even if he's nice and sexy and checking all your boxes, you can say "no" mid-fuck. Bad sex rarely gets better.
Good sex depends on many things: chemistry, connection, attraction, mutual interest, skill, communication, intimacy, honesty, disclosure, and good headspace. That's a lot of stuff to align and none of it has to do with your body. Pro tip: Worry less about your body, because your body looks fine and knows what to do. It is an instrument that, with enough training, can do incredible things. It knows how to feel pleasure and give it.
Emotions and "head stuff" are a harder battleground. The best sex happens when you get out of your head and into your body. That said, you shouldn't ignore your emotions, your "head stuff." Sometimes you can't put them away. Sometimes they make sex stop. This isn't to say that "bad sex" is always a phenomenon in your head. If he's bad at it and it doesn't feel good, halt.
It's supposed to feel good. If it doesn't, call it quits. "I'm sorry, but I have to stop." You don't have to give a reason -- you probably won't be able to produce a clear one in the moment -- so put your foot down and say it's over for the day, and your decision is final.
19. Go out with someone you trust.
When you go to a sex club, party, or bar you've never been to, go with someone you trust -- someone who'll leave if you need to leave, who doesn't mind seeing you get drilled by three tops taking turns, who'll check in to make sure you're doing OK, and who will let you go off and play on your own without getting clingy or overprotective ("Let's meet by the soda machine in about an hour").
If you're doing substances, they check in on you, get water with you, and sit with you if you get too high and need a break. If the night takes a bad turn -- if drunk or high guys ignore your "no," get pushy, follow you around, or worse, find your friend.
Sometimes "no" doesn't work -- he's high and aggressive, or you're high and loopy, and somewhere, someone crosses a line. It happens easily, especially on substances (consider going without them).
Sometimes well-intentioned advances make you uncomfortable in the wrong space or when you're outside your comfort zone. Sometimes you're simply not comfortable and need to get away from the fun, because it's no longer fun. This is when you need someone to check in with.
These are the rare buddies, the golden ones, the ones you keep. For gay men and for good sex people everywhere, they're more than lovers -- they're family.