Twitter Thread Leads To Heated Debate About Sex, Pleasure & Consent

Photo: Ashley Armitage
In the last few weeks and months we have seen women's sexual experiences come under the spotlight more than ever before. Specifically: the grey areas around sex, pleasure and consent.
The recent allegations against Aziz Ansari and the New Yorker's viral short story, "Cat Person", have sparked conversation about the murky waters of sex in a misogynist world and struck a chord with women everywhere.
Writer Ashley C. Ford recently summed up the vastly different experiences that people have with pleasure and consent, and the reality of being a woman who sleeps with men in a world in which you're expected to acquiesce to their sexual desires.
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In a Twitter thread that has since gone viral, Ford shared details of a conversation she had with a former college roommate whose sexual experiences were very different from her own and, like "Cat Person", has prompted other women to open up about their experiences of similarly unfulfilling, not-completely-consensual sex.
During a frank conversation with her roommate about sex, Ford asked "what it was like to sleep with the guy she'd been seeing" and the response was jarring, to say the least. "She shrugged, 'Kind of like sleeping with anyone else. You just lay there and let them do it!' Then we both got real quiet."
A stunned Ford, who wasn't sure she'd heard her roommate correctly, prodded further: "What do you mean by 'just lay there'?"
Confirming Ford's suspicions, the roomate replied: "You know like when you come home and you're drunk, or you're too tired, or you don't feel like it, but he's there, and he wants to, so you just...kinda...let him."
The roommate said that the sex was only pleasurable for her "sometimes" and that she considered it "as something [she did] for him. Like a thank you, or a compromise."
Ford was struck by the conversation and how the women had grown up to have such different attitudes towards their own pleasure and sexual identity. "We were both smart, midwestern, 21-ish, sexually active young women, but somehow, we'd gotten completely different messages about what to expect during a sexual encounter."
Afterwards, Ford became increasingly aware of the fact that, while something may technically be defined as "sex", people's experiences – and sexual identities – vary greatly depending on how they'd been socialised. While Ford had grown up believing she had a right to enjoy sex, "no one had ever told [her roommate] that was even an option."
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The conversation compelled Ford's roommate to look back on her past sexual encounters, "and realised that not only did she not enjoy them, she could barely remember them because she'd 'go somewhere else in her mind'," but that technically, because she "never said no," she had not been sexually assaulted – but this doesn't mean she was unscathed.
"After years of men laying on top of her limp body and 'taking what they can get', she had absolutely been harmed," Ford added.
Many women compared their own past sexual encounters with that of Ford's roommate and said they knew others with a similar attitude towards sex.
Ford's conclusion? We need to continue the current dialogue and be open with each other about our own sexual experiences. Specifically, we need "more definitive language" to enable us to "have more nuanced discussions" about the physical, mental and emotional damage caused by bad sex.
Talking more honestly and openly with friends about our sexual experiences – negative or positive – would be a good place to start.
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