This episode is Part 1 of Anne’s interview with Jane Gilmore.
Part 1: When You Say Yes to Sex But Feel Dead Inside (this episode)
Part 2: Is My Husband Manipulating Me Into Having Sex?
Part 3: How Do I Know if I Really Want to Have Sex?
Part 4: Is It My Fault That My Husband is Angry?
Part 5: Why You ACTUALLY Feel Crazy In Your Relationship
Have you said “yes” to sex out of guilt, obligation, fear, or exhaustion?
Have you said “yes” to sex after saying no repeatedly?
Have you said “yes” to sex because it was easier to just get it over with, rather than deal with the sulking, anger, threats, and punishments?
Jane Gilmore, author and consent educator, is on The BTR.ORG Podcast, empowering women to understand that sexual mutuality is not “giving a yes” – in fact, your coerced “yes” was the result of abuse. Read the full transcript below and listen this podcast episode for more.
What Consent IS
Consent is about when both people actively want to share touch.
Jane Gilmore, author and consent educator
Your desire is everything when it comes to consent. If you don’t want to actively share touch with the other person involved, you are not giving your consent – no matter what else has transpired.
What Consent is NOT
- Saying yes because you’ve been sleep deprived and will only be allowed sleep if you say yes
- Saying yes after repeatedly saying “no”
- Saying yes out of fear of punishment
- Saying neither no or yes
- Freezing or going limp
- Saying “no” or “wait” after the sexual experience has begun
- Saying yes in order to protect children, pets, or others from violence and/or other forms of abuse
This is the Takeaway:
It’s not about giving or getting permission, it’s not about getting a yes.
Jane Gilmore, author and consent educator
If your husband or partner considers consent to have occurred after he has:
- deprived you of sleep
- threatened you
- physically hurt you
- “persuaded” you after you have expressed that you are not interested
- continued to push you after you have said no
- promised to stop if you say no, but claims he didn’t hear you
Then you are not in a safe situation. You are experiencing sexual abuse.
BTR.ORG Is Here For You
We know how devastating and confusing it is to learn the truth about consent when you have experienced marital rape, sexual coercion, and sexual assault in your own committed relationship. We are here to help you.
Our BTR.ORG Group Sessions are a safe place to process your trauma. Attend a session today.
I am honored to have Jane Gilmore on today’s episode. She is an author, journalist, feminist, and a consent educator. She’s been researching and writing about the causes and effects of violence and poverty for over a decade and is now also delivering consent and respectful relationships education in Australian schools. Jane has a master of journalism from the University of Melbourne and is an award-winning journalist who has been commissioned by the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Guardian, the Saturday Paper, and many other outlets. In 2014, she started the Fixed It campaign and we’re going to be talking about that in today’s episode. Welcome Jane.
Jane Gilmore (00:41):
Thank you so much for having me.
Consent in Conjunction with Pornography Use
Jane has joined us from Australia, so I’m very excited to have her today. We are going to talk about consent and then she’s also going to be joining me for another episode talking about the media. So we’re just going to start with consent. It’s something that we talk about on this podcast all the time, especially in conjunction with pornography use when a woman’s not aware of all the sexual stuff that her husband is doing and she’s not informed enough to give consent. Let’s really dive into consent today.
Jane, do you want to just give us your overall definition of consent?
The Definition of Consent
Jane Gilmore (01:28):
Yeah, cause I think that’s really important. Often when we talk about consent, people think of it as a really binary thing. It’s a yes or a no. And when we are going into schools, particularly in talking to young people, but also when we’re doing adult education, it’s one of the first questions I ask. And it’s really interesting that the answers are often very gendered. So girls and women will often talk about giving permission- it’s when you give somebody permission to touch you, and boys and men will often talk about it in terms of when you get permission. And it’s interesting that non-binary and queer people will often have a much more nuanced understanding of it. Cause when we go through all of that and then we talk about it in terms of consent is about when both people actively want to share touch, you’re suddenly framing it in a completely different way.
“It’s Not About “Getting a ‘Yes'”
It’s not about giving or getting permission, it’s not about getting a yes (and I certainly hear this a lot from both young people and from adults), where somebody might say yes because they’re coerced or because they’re scared or because they’re pressured into it. What happens after that is not necessarily consensual. But if you’re thinking about it in terms of both people actively wanting to share something, whether it’s touch or what you’re looking at or what you’re talking about, that’s a completely different thing. And when you think about consent in those terms, it changes all your interactions.
I love that. So say it one more time.
“Consent is When Both People Actively Want to Share Touch”
Jane Gilmore (03:00):
Consent is when both people actively want to share touch. Consent also applies to a whole range of different things that we do.
So our organization also starts teaching consent in kindergartens. I don’t actually do the kindergartens cause small children overwhelm me and frighten me sometimes. <Laugh> I was in a kindergarten once with one of our teachers and the kids were great but they were going through a handbag and sticking their fingers in her socks and it was just chaos. But obviously you’re not talking to little kids about sex. It’s interesting when you go into kindergartens and the educators will say, “We’re going to talk to your kids about consent.” And the parents will freak out cause, Oh my god, what are you talking to our three year old about sex? And it’s like, “No, we’re not talking to them about sex, we’re talking about consent.”
It’s not about whether they say yes, but about whether they want to
And when you’re three, consent is about sharing your teddy bear or “Can I have a hug?” or “Do you want to go out and play?” And if you can, you go back to that definition of “Do both people actively want this?” It’s a thing that three-year-olds can understand quite easily. “Does your friend want to give you a hug?” “Does your friend want for you to share their teddy or play with their Lego or sit down quietly?” Not about whether they say yes, but whether they want to. And when you start with kids that young, by the time they’re 16, the concept of consent in sex is really easy. But if they’ve never thought about consent in those terms before, it’s a much more difficult conversation.
“This idea that getting a yes is consent is really dangerous in the hands of abusers”
I’m really liking this. The “actively wanting to.” This podcast is specifically for women in relationships with abusive men, so that’s the particular audience that I speak to. So my listeners, when they’re thinking, Well, I didn’t want to have sex or I didn’t want to do this thing, but I felt like if I didn’t, then he was going to get angry or felt like if I didn’t, then he was going to blame me for going out and using porn (or whatever he was doing).
And this idea that “Getting a yes is consent” is really dangerous in the hands of abusers because then they’re just trying to do whatever they can for her to say yes, or even just to not say no rather than trying to figure out if that’s what she actually wants. Can you talk more about that aspect where an abuser will think, Well, if it’s just a yes I’m going for, then I can lie to her or I can threaten her or subtly threaten her and as long as I’ve got that, yes, I’m good to go. Can you talk about that?
One of the Hallmarks of an Abusive Relationship
Jane Gilmore (05:45):
Well, I think when somebody thinks that consent is about getting a yes regardless of how you get it, it’s one of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship, isn’t it? Because it’s making sure that she can be blamed. “Well, she said yes though; it’s not my fault.” And regardless of why she said yes, if she said yes because she was scared or because it was that manipulation that often comes with abuse of, You have to say yes to me. You have to do this or I will withdraw the simulation of love that I pretend to give you sometimes. And now you’ve said yes, so now I can do anything I want because you said yes to it. So now it’s your fault.
It’s one of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship- making the victim the one to blame and removing blame from the perpetrator. So again, that deliberate misunderstanding of consent as well, I got her to say yes. So that means I can do anything I want and it’s her fault, is key to an abusive relationship. And understanding that it’s abusive and that what happens after that is not consensual, I think is also one of the keys to recognizing that the relationship is abusive.
The basic concepts of empathy: how does the other person feel and what do they want, are almost always absent from abusive relationships.
The Intentional Misuse of Consent
So you just said the intentional misuse. Can you talk more about the intentional misuse? A lot of women don’t recognize the abuse. They know it’s wrong, they don’t feel good about it, but they don’t want to call it abuse because they think it’s that he didn’t mean to do it or it’s not on purpose. Can you talk more about the intentional misuse?
Jane Gilmore (07:25):
The intentional misuse of consent is something that happens a lot in abusive relationships and it’s part of the manipulation. It’s also part of the abuse because we tend to think of abusive relationships as being physically violent. And not that we don’t pay attention to, but we often don’t recognize the emotional manipulation that is so much part of abusive relationships where it’s always about making sure that the perpetrator of abuse can’t be blamed. It’s always the victim’s fault: “You made me do this”, “You agreed to this”, “You wanted this”, “You caused this”. So if you can manipulate somebody into saying yes to something, it’s a really easy way of making sure that it’s her fault, that you can make her believe that it’s her fault. And so that ability to manipulate somebody into taking on the shame and the blame for the abuse is key to maintaining that abusive relationship.
Abusers see victims as “something to be used”
And the reason it’s intentional is because they could not get what they wanted without it. If they genuinely stopped and they were like, Hey, is this what she really wants do?, made an effort to figure out what she really wanted, what she was interested in, who she was, rather than seeing her as something to be used, they would realize, Oh, she actually isn’t at this moment right now, very interested in that. That’s okay. You know what I mean? You have to intentionally think, This is what I want and this is what I’m going to say, or, This is what I’m going to do to get that thing.
“You can’t share something with someone you’re trying to control”
Jane Gilmore (09:10):
Well, I think again about the nature of abusive relationships where the perpetrators of abuse don’t really see their partner as a partner, even as a person. They’re an object; they’re something to be controlled. They don’t see them as an equal, as somebody to share something with; they see them as, I need to control this person, I need to be in charge of them. And by its nature, you can’t share something with somebody that you’re trying to control. You have to impose it on them. And in an equal relationship or a relationship with somebody that you care about and that you think about and that you understand as a person whose desires and needs matter as much as yours, you can’t do that to somebody. You can’t force them to do something or manipulate them to do something that makes them uncomfortable. You can only do that in a relationship where you don’t see them as equal.
A Transactionship VS. a Relationship
I often talk about how abusers are transactional, so they have transactionships. Healthy people are relational and they have relationships. So for example, it’s not bad to explain to someone what you want and why you want it, right? This is not bad: “I want to go to a movie, it would be fun. Would you like to go with me? We could leave at seven.” This is just very basic stating facts. There’s no manipulation. You’re asking someone, you’re giving them the information that they need. There’s nothing wrong with telling someone what you want and giving them information. A relationship is you’re willing to give the information honestly, and you’re willing to hear honest feedback because they’re equal to you. So you give them all the information that they need. They say, “Oh, seven won’t work for me because I’ve got this thing”. They go back and forth in this relationship of a mutual understanding and a mutual agreement.
“They’re not really interested in a relationship”
Because abusers are transactional, they’re looking to complete a transaction. So they’re willing to say what they need today to get the transaction done, to get the deal done: If I tell her that she’s beautiful and that I love her and that I really care about her even though she doesn’t know that I’m married, cause I didn’t mention that, but whatever, I can get her to continue dating me and then maybe have sex with me and then maybe I’ll never see her again and I’ll ghost her and she won’t even know what happened. That’s a transaction. He’s wanting different transactions and he’s basically deciding: If I say this thing, this is what I’ll get. If I do this thing, this is what I’ll get and this is what she’ll give me. And it’s not relational, it’s more just transactional. So I think that that’s also what you’re saying is that they’re not willing to meet someone where they are and give them the information that they need to make a good decision for themselves. They’re not really interested in a relationship.
“They’re looking to get something rather than to share something”
Jane Gilmore (12:06):
Yeah. Well, they’re looking to get something rather than share something. Yeah, I want to get this, I want to get sex, or I want to get admiration or I want to get respect, but I’m not willing to share it. I want something for me, not something for us. And we look for those red flags in those beginning times when it’s going to be easier to leave looking for those red flags. And that to me is one of those key ones: Are we sharing things? Is he trying to get something?
In that beginning it can also often be easy to be misled because it looks like positive things. He’s looking to get admiration and respect and love and sex and it’s all great, but he’s looking to get it. It’s not a shared thing. And that’s one of the really subtle differences I think between really good nurturing relationships and abusive relationships.
The GROOMING Phase
Yeah, that grooming phase is interesting because they’re like, I would like to get her admiration and so I am going to act really kind and nice and admire her and that will earn me, or get me, admiration. That’s really good. I like that.
I hadn’t thought about the sharing part, but a lot of victims will say when they share their stories, especially about the emotional and psychological abuse, that there’s this feeling sometimes that he thinks that she’s his enemy. Somehow she’s trying to undermine his job or that she’s trying to hurt their relationship or something like that. There’s this sense that he thinks that she’s his enemy rather than his partner, which baffles victims. Cause they’re like, “I just want to have a conversation. I just want to figure things out. There’s this problem and we’re trying to solve it.” And because he’s not relational like that, he doesn’t want to share in the solution or share, then it really does, from an abuser’s point of view feel like an enemy. And this is what victims need to know: there’s no amount of explaining it to him or helping him understand or pointing out all the logical points, that’s going to help him realize, Oh yeah, we do wanna share this, because that’s not his goal. It’s her goal, but it’s not his.
Abuse is about control
Jane Gilmore (14:25):
No. And it’s interesting when you start looking at the psychology of abusers (I’m certainly not being sympathetic towards abusers at all, but, but we need to understand what they do and why they do it, to be able to change), it comes from this place of humiliation and fear. It’s why they need to control. You don’t need to control something unless you’re scared of it. And so this need to control your partner comes from fear. They can never stop that fear and that humiliated fury long enough to again go back to thinking of them as a person. They’re an object I have to control. They’re not going to love me because I’m worth loving, they’re going to love me because I make them and I have to force them to.
“You can never ‘love someone better'” to heal them from being an abuser
And the more I can control them, the more I can make sure that they do what I want and feel what I want and say what I want. And anytime they do something that’s not that, then it’s a sign that I don’t have control. So the need for control gets more and more and they’re constantly looking for signs that you’re slipping out of their control. You talk to that other guy, you’re cheating on me, I can’t control you.
And you can never love someone better from that. It’s just not something that you can change in other people. But often what happens in the beginning with that love bombing stage, it’s always the part you’re trying to get back to throughout the whole relationship. You remember the really wonderful moment in the beginning when you spent so much time together and you were so connected and it was all great. And every now and again you’ll come back to that for a little bit and then it goes back to the, But I don’t have you under control, so I’m gonna get angry and I’m gonna get scared and I’m gonna blame you and I’m gonna take it out on you. And often what the woman’s trying to do is say, “But why can’t we go back to when it was great to when we loved each other and we were so happy together?” But he can’t because he’s too scared.
Grooming is MEANT to feel good!
Well I don’t think he can cause I don’t think he was ever there.
Jane Gilmore (16:27):
I think in the beginning he was grooming in order to get, but then he got that thing. Then the grooming is to keep the thing, but he doesn’t have to work as hard because he now has it. So then he’s just keeping it. But that does not take as much effort as it did in the beginning. So what she’s really trying to get back to is something that she didn’t know was more intense grooming, more frequently. But she doesn’t realize that that was not a good thing. It might have felt really good to her, but it was not good for her because it wasn’t true.
Jane Gilmore (17:11):
And she also doesn’t realize that what he’s trying to do is not get to a relationship where it’s based on love and sharing. He’s trying to get to a point where she’s completely within his control. So both people are trying to get to different things and of course it doesn’t work.
Trying to get back to “how it was”? It was NEVER good – it was just GROOMING
So yeah, you’re never going to get back to that cause you’re just going to get back to grooming, which wasn’t good in the first place, even if it felt good.
Jane Gilmore (17:39):
Yeah. So he might go back to that if he thinks that she’s about to leave, and we often see that with abusive relationships where he really believes that she’s about to leave. So he’ll either full-fury, I will control you and not let you leave or full love bombing: I love you so much that you can’t leave me when I love you like this. And not to actually be willing to talk about, “Well, what’s really going on? Why do you want to leave? How can we fix things?” It’s the love bombing or the fury.
“Grooming, in and of itself, is abuse.”
A lot of women think, Oh, but he’s just weird two days a week and the other five days a week he’s normal, and they don’t realize that those five days he’s grooming. And then he might get kind of exhausted cause it’s really hard to fake stuff for five days, then the mask falls off for two days. He is overtly abusive also during that time, trying to control, like you said. And then he’ll put the mask on. It will escalate over time, but it’s also sometimes not going to be the majority of the time. It could be the minority of the time, but that does not mean it’s not abuse. It also doesn’t mean that that grooming part isn’t also abusive.
So for women who are doing calculations (I know because I did this, I actually got a journal out and wrote down the days that he was weird and the days that he was normal), he was actually “not abusive”, I thought, more often than he was. But it was also because I didn’t realize that grooming in and of itself is abuse. So he was abusive the entire time, but just sometimes it felt good and sometimes it felt terrible.
We’re gonna pause the conversation here and continue next week. So stay tuned.