What the Fuck is Non-Verbal Consent?
Honor Her NO, Love Her Resistance
Men are confused. On one hand they can intuit that women crave their boldness and confidence sexually. They have heard that a romantic partner wants to be taken, claimed and deeply ravished. But they are also painfully aware in today’s world that attempting that without her consent is immoral, abusive and downright illegal. This leads to questions like, “Does she really want me to ask her for her consent every time I want to touch her? That can’t be sexy!" "What the fuck is non-verbal consent anyway?" "How will I know if she is a 'No' unless she outright says, NO!!” Hearing this, numerous women have come back with, “Why is it my responsibility to have to continually say 'No'? He should be able to feel me, shouldn’t he?” This makes sense given the centuries of abuse and collective pain women have had to endure in the face of their resistance to male dominance. It is not as simple as, 'She should just be able to say NO.'
Learning what is a true NO vs. a temporary closure to love vs. a deep and often unconscious resistance to your attempts at leading her well is an incredibly valuable skillset to learn as a masculine partner.
There is another way. One that can both engender trust and create sexual spark. Men can absolutely learn to notice and literally FEEL what is happening in a women’s body with regard to him. He can train his nervous system to feel past his own desire and be incredibly sensitive to her involuntary cues, some of which she may not even aware of. She may hold her breath, or tense her shoulders, or clench her belly as he moves closer. The muscles of her jaw or around her heart might literally tighten or soften depending on how much she trusts him with her body and heart at that moment. A man can become a master at understanding this very real form of non-verbal communication if he can relax his body, deepen his breath and learn to feel beyond his own thoughts and desires.
There are three primary NO’s in intimacy with a feminine partner. One is a sacred, deep NO, usually the byproduct of an intuitive knowing—often with regard to you in a relational or sexual moment. Whether on a second date or in a twenty-year marriage, this NO is meant to be fully honored and taken as a piece of serious feedback. This deep and sacred NO emerges from the wisdom of her body. Something isn’t right. This NO signals you to look deeper in yourself for where you are not being the most trustable version of yourself. You are not truly present, or fully conscious. You could be distracted, breathing shallowly, or emotionally incongruent in some way. You may be drinking too much or numbing out excessively on TV or the Internet. You may be insensitive to her needs in the relationship or in the moment. Your touch may be unconscious, piggish or needy. You may be obsequious, seeking her approval and trying to make her happy. You may not be feeling a deep pain in her or in yourself. Whatever the source of her deep NO, it is a warning sign for you to wake up to an important truth. It is a gift from her heart.
This communication is incredibly valuable if you have the humility, strength of character and nervous system capacity to listen. It requires reflection, honesty, awareness and the ability to take action to become more conscious as to what the moment calls for. Are you habitually checking out of the moment in a way that is deeply painful for her? Are you forcing your heart-disconnected desire on her in a way that is at best, repulsive, or at worse, abusive? Are you not leading the intimacy in a way that is challenging both of you to grow? It is usually not that hard to see why her heart is closed to you; if you really look, if you really feel. Chances are she wants to be a YES to you. That is why she is in a relationship or on a date with you, but something she often can’t even control is stopping her. Your work is to 'ferret out' where the disconnect lays and forge a return to integrity. Your capacity to receive this feedback and use it to better yourself will pay remarkable dividends in your intimacy, your work and in the world. What she is seeing, the rest of the world is also seeing, but they are just not reflecting it as clearly.
There is a second NO. It is too a challenge, but also an invitation to play—although it almost never presents that way. Oftentimes, this NO shows up as a bad mood, a petty criticism or resentment. It may be an insecurity she is projecting onto you. It may be a grudge she is holding from a previous fight. Or she may have just had a shitty day.
This kind of mood-driven NO is like a passing weather pattern that most men take to be a securely held truth. Instead, it is an opportunity to engage in, what my teacher would call, the “flowery combat” of love. It is a call to be liberated from the shitstorms of life and the world, and to be skillfully led back into the essence of love that she is. My teacher would always describe it as her desire to “tussle.” It is an opportunity for you to use your depth, play and presence to pierce her heart and help her remember that you love all of her—even the bitchy, bratty and downright scornful parts—and that you aren’t going to collapse in the face of that part of her. Because you know any mood that is not love is a passing storm. This kind of relentless commitment occurs to the feminine nervous system as both grounding and sexually energizing. It creates a massive amount of trust for you and it is a type of energetic foreplay that most men mischaracterize as some kind of attack on them. It may stem from a mood, but its true nature is what David Deida described as a call to be moved back into love—from the pressures of the world, from the neediness of the kids, from the pain of the existence, from the fear of being too much and never being truly met.
This reframe of her moods is the single biggest missed opportunity I see from men in relationships. In my practice, when I can feel the weight of these moods on her, I will say playful things to my partner, such as, “Don’t be sassy with me,” with a big smile on my face of course. I will belly up to her and kiss her neck and say, “I love it when you are bratty like this.” If she giggles or softens, I know I am on the right track. If she doesn’t, it is a sign that something deeper may be going on. Either way, I have trained my nervous system to handle a mood and to feel if she wants to be loved out of it or left alone. I have also reframed what the mood means in the first place. It has very little to do with me and yet, I am completely empowered, from generosity, to move her from the momentary forgetting, back to her home...which we have clearly established, is love.
There is a third No, which is much more misunderstood, textured and dangerous to navigate. Simply put, it is the resistance to your leadership in intimacy, even though it may be sourced from your sincere love for her, as well as your skill and experience, and even though she most likely wants more of it. This is confusing to both men and women.
Remember, the essential gift of the masculine is to feel what is needed most in any dynamic from a place of open, rested consciousness and then liberate those involved with right action, sourced from depth. It is how you can allow her to relax into her feminine at any moment because she knows you have 'got it'—whether the IT is a decision to discipline your child in a specific way or choose how you are going to spend your weekend. And yet, don’t be surprised if you are met with resistance in the most important areas of your relationship. This is not only due to what Deida described as her ongoing testing of your capacity to stay open in the midst of her resistance, brattiness and/or downright refusal to allow you to lead. It is also, as I described earlier, the byproduct of generations of abuse, neglect and sexual manipulation, which most often shows up as some form of belief that she has to take control herself. The stress and pain around this dynamic are worsened, of course, if you have been a shitty leader to this point. If you have previously let her handle all of the financial decisions, parenting choices or sexual initiation for years and then, all of a sudden, want to take charge, there will need to be some skill and commitment required while her nervous system adjusts to you. And of course, leading well also means knowing, admitting and giving her space to lead where she is more capable.
Many women today are more capable of leading the relating spiritually, emotionally and maybe even financially, than many men. This puts pressure on them to step into the role of leading if they want to get anything done—but it comes at a price. What I will often hear from women is, “I want him to lead, yet I have had to take charge in so many areas of our love and family life, that I a.) don’t trust he actually knows how, b.) don’t trust he really wants to and c.) think I can actually do it better.” And while all or most of that may be true, for the man that wants the life-changing kind of sexual intimacy—where his partner does not have to suffer spending massive amounts of time in her masculine—making the commitment to take hold of this sacred charge is THE KEY to a new relationship paradigm. She may not trust you to lead her better than she can lead herself. And yet will most likely hate you (eventually) if you don’t. You may not want to add the burden of being responsible for her body, mind and heart to your ever-growing list of things to crush in life. And yet, everything good, deep and truly possible in your relationship, your family and both of your destinies is resting on it. I believe it is that important.
Take the next week to reflect on how these various types of NO show up in your relationship. Can you distinguish the moments, as well as underlying textures of feeling that lay below each one for your feminine partner? Begin to consciously engage your awareness and feeling body to attune to her resistance, rejections and outright NO’s. Reflect not only on the various ways your partner responds to your lack of consciousness, but also how she is swept away from her love-essence by overwhelm, tasks and duties and finally, how she will resist even your sincere and loving attempts at leading her in your sexual and relational intimacy. You must become more attuned to recognizing and feeling beneath these tensions in her heart if you are to truly serve her in love.
After you have spent a couple of weeks monitoring this dynamic, sit down and have an honest conversation about where you would love to lead more powerfully. How could you relieve her of some of the burden she carries? How could you make sure your intimacy is vital and more full? What is she missing in her personal life that you know would make her more open and filled with love? Does she need space to take care of herself more with more yoga or time with her friends? Does she need to put down work at a certain time? Don’t be afraid to step in and help her by being the masculine presence in the relationship once and a while, especially when you know if would serve her. Then ask her this simple question and pay close attention to the answers - they are key to your growth: What would she need to trust you more in leading the relationship?