I do love a good conversation. My statement that I would not engage in a lucid dream (a dream in which you have conscious control, are “awake” within the dream. It is very much like performing “real magic” as it can seem 100% real) fantasy of sex without asking permission of the woman in question set off a firestorm of comment, some curious, some offering their own experiences, and others suggesting that such a question was tantamount to sexual harassment. My response was that no one was asking how I chose or approached these ladies, and that I feel confident that they’d have felt comfortable saying “no”. When told I was likely mistaken, I said that I had specific knowledge of them, and felt no compulsion to assume they were too frightened to speak their truth about such things based on a general assumption about women in the 80’s.
One comment struck me as the kind of thoughtful words deserving of a little time, so I decided to post it here on the blog, as it would also connect to my FB page:
Kristina Forsyth said: Steven Barnes, you said “you obviously don’t know the women I knew.” you are indulging in the fallacy of illicit transference. Samson made a statement about women in general 25 years ago, and you refuted that statement with a specific subset of women.
Frankly, I find the idea of asking for permission to ravish women in your dreams (regardless of what sort of ravishing you have in mind) a little creepy myself, even though I understand your point that , in the relationships you had with these women, this was actually a respectful instance of asking for consent. I also agree with those who have said that simply stating your desire to have lucid, sexual dreams about a woman could make her feel uncomfortable, or even unsafe. Indeed, if a woman did feel that way, it is possible she would also feel uncomfortable, or even unsafe, saying so.
First, I’ve admitted that the word “ravish” has at least dual definitions, and one of them is definitely rapey. I admit I could have chosen a better word when I said: “I would ask a woman if I had their permission to pull them into my dreams and ravish them.” Should have said: “make love to them” as it would have conveyed my intent more clearly, while still conveying thoughts or assumptions that could be questioned.
I used a personal experience to buttress a set of general principles gleaned primarily from women. I totally “get” that some women would be uncomfortable with the question, and guess what? A really good question might have been: “how do you avoid asking a question like that of the wrong person?” (or: is it even possible?)
If THAT isn’t the 64 thousand dollar question, I don’t know what is. An excellent question, which is actually a version of “how can you ask a question like that without giving offense?”
May I back up a bit before answering? If you’ll let me do that, I think I can explain.
Here is an assertion only a lunatic would make: “human beings should not request sex of each other unless they’ve already had sex.” That statement is an extinction-level event, clearly.
So the real question is: “under what circumstances may one human being ask another for sex?” And THAT question has been debated and interpreted by every culture in every time, and about 99.99% of the human beings who have ever lived on the planet. It is a GREAT question. And my answer would be:
“The rules under which one human being may request sex from another differ by acquaintance, rapport, level of mutual attraction, availability, relationship, time, place, frame of mind, culture, and other factors. Sensitivity and courtesy must be maintained, and refusal is the right of any human being, and should be accepted with good grace and as a learning opportunity.”
If you can find fault with that statement, PLEASE tell me where. Because it is that basic premise that underlies everything I have ever said or done in relationship with women, from my first kiss to my current marriage. If we agree that this statement is acceptable, the rest is who, what, where, why, and how.
I can believe you would have thought the question was creepy. But I’ll make a bet: out of 100 women, if you ask “can I have sex with you?” you will get fewer “yes” responses than if you ask “do I have permission to dream about having sex with you?”
And if THAT is true (and wouldn’t that be an interesting social experiment? I sure think it would) then the rest is: who do you ask? How do you ask? Under what circumstances is it permissible to ask? How do you frame the question? How do you gain trust and rapport?
And so forth. In other words, the exact same questions one would ask about the actual physical act, only asking the person involved to take less risk.
And since we’ve established that this question has been asked countless billions of times through history, with endless rules and principles and social conventions around it, ranging from raunchy to courtly to “creepy and disturbing” to romantic, from direct to oblique, it is obvious that there are both positive and negative ways to ask, appropriate and inappropriate, polite and ghastly.
No one on that thread, and I mean NO ONE, asked me the who, what, where, why, when, or how of it. If you imagine I’m saying: “hey! There’s a woman on the street I’ve never seen. Like to jump her bones!” and I walked over to her and said “hey, baby, can I screw you in my dreams tonight?” you are making an interesting set of assumptions.
If you agree with the basic premise: ““The rules under which one human being may request sex from another differ by acquaintance, rapport, level of mutual attraction, availability, relationship, time, place, frame of mind, culture, and other factors. Sensitivity and courtesy must be maintained, and refusal is the right of any human being, and should be accepted with good grace and as a learning opportunity.”
Then ask me anything you want about what precisely was going on, how I derived my rules of engagement, or anything else. I can promise you one thing: I didn’t learn them from men. You can certainly say that the women in my family, my circle, whose articles and books on the subject I read, and who I observed were all a limited set. That would be true. But then any set of human knowledge is limited, so it is also not as relevant as it might seem.
I had one single intent: to be courteous and polite, to go beyond the call of duty in being absolutely certain my actions toward women were as clear and kind and loving as they could possibly be. That’s it. Period. If you accept my basic premise, ask anything you want. If you don’t accept it, please tell me where you find a flaw.