Enthusiastic consent and regrettable sex

A commenter on bluemilk’s Gray-rape thread [trigger warning link discusses rape cases in both post and comments] asked for examples where consent was given but one party ended up regretting the sex but it wasn’t rape. My initial, tongue in cheek, response was having enthusiastic consensual sex then finding out over breakfast that your political ideologies clashed. I mean waking up and discovering your partner had a huge Tony Abbott poster in their bedroom, or waking up to find your parter spitting at your Tony Abbott poster would both be pretty awful and may make you regret your liaison. I think there are plenty of situations were you previously gave enthusiastic consent, consent was not withdrawn but on reflection you regret your actions. Regret does not equal rape and I think that this being a grey area is over hyped. I’m basing all the situations below on people being in a state where they are able to give clear and enthusiastic consent and are not drunk or under the influence of any other substances or acting in ways that they would not usually act. This is not a definitive list.

Situation 1: Ex sex
It’s easy, you know each other, you pretty much know what you are going to get and maybe the sex was always good and it was other reasons that caused the breakup. Then afterwards you kick yourself for not making a clean break of it.

Situation 2: Dud sex
For whatever reason it doesn’t live up to your expectations. You had high hopes but it didn’t happen. Whoever said that sex was like pizza, even when it’s bad it’s good, hasn’t had really bad sex or really bad pizza. You regret choosing sex rather than pizza.

Situation 3: Your first time
Everyone is talking about it, seems like everyone but you is doing it, but when you finally do it it’s all over really fast or it’s messy or painful or the full trifecta and you find youself thinking ‘Is that it?’ and ‘what’s all the fuss about?’ Fortunately it often gets better, much better.

Situation 4: Guilt
You feel like you have let someone down by not waiting for marriage. It was fun at the time (and possibly again and again) but there is a residual guilty feeling that perhaps you should have waited for some reason and you kinda regret doing it.

Situation 5: The discovery
When you go to the loo you discover your sex buddy’s live in partner’s toothbrush or toiletries. So you feel like a heel because you were involved in them cheating, albeit unwittingly.

Situation 6: Workmate/friend sex
So you’ve been flirting for a while, maybe having coffee or lunch and you are both unattached so one day you decide ‘why not?’ Lots of people end up realising that a friend or colleague means more to them than they thought previously. So you do it and discover that unfortunately that spark just isn’t there for you. But at least you tried.

Of course you may feel no regret whatsoever in any of these situations. What do you think?

The featured image is of a Stormtrooper sitting at a table with his head in his hands. The text reads: ‘REGRET Those were the droids you were looking for’. I just like Star Wars okay?

Categories: Life, relationships


18 replies

  1. Situation 7: thought you’d like dick-sex, but you didn’t.
    So you thought you’d like penises (peni?!), or that they might at least be worth a try, but you didn’t and they weren’t. Which I guess brings us back to Dud sex.

  2. Situation 8: sleeping with the boss, i regret that.

    Situation 1 was a bad move too, on the other hand, i have no regrets about the Liberal, but the right-wing Laborite was a bad move. Probably more about the individuals than the politics.

  3. I’ve regretted not having sex more often than vice versa! Too timid!! But seriously:
    Situation 9: a relationship that was winding down and after the final sexual encounter, which felt really meh you regret it. Also kid of like dud sex but different in that by then you didn’t have high hopes anyway.

  4. Aw Tamara! If this post proved anything more than that enthusiastic consent and regrettable sex are not mutually exclusive, it’s that less sex can sometimes be more.
    Plus, I just thought of another:
    Situation 10: Beach sex
    It’s all fun and games until someone gets sand in their bits.

  5. Situation 11: There was something much better I could have been doing.
    I guess it’s an offshoot of dud sex, but missing out on something for sex and then getting told later how awesome the thing you missed is and realising it sounds much more awesome than the sex you were having could certainly make you regret choosing the sex.
    If that made sense. I think I lost myself in there somewhere.

  6. I can think of quite a few: A retrospective on your life reveals to you that you hated a person you were having sex with, and you regret it in hindsight; you got caught by parents (or worse, like I did: a younger relation…); you got caught by the authorities when you were in public; you ended up going back to their place and woke up in a dodgy neighbourhood because you weren’t thinking about where, just who… I have more, but I’ll leave it alone.
    I’m really confused at the named commenter’s lack of imagination, really. It doesn’t take much to pull the action of regretting away from the action of consenting. Hindsight and all that.

  7. @StuffedO I appreciate what you’re saying but I think in my case I had got sucked into the whole narrative of be careful in case your feelings get hurt bladeblah and missed out on a potential whole heap of fun! Gee, do guys ever get sent that message?

  8. I’m not sure if this counts, but it’s happened more than once: you’ve recently started on new medication (SSRIs are notorious), you consent enthusiastically, and then you discover that you’re not responding as per usual. The info may say “loss of libido” but I’ve not had any problems getting things underway, it’s approaching climax that my response goes off the rails in various unpleasant ways.
    Sometimes it’s temporary while you’re getting used to the medication, sometimes you learn how to work around, and sometimes that sucky sucky thing happens every time until you stop taking whatever it is.
    (also, would the condom breaking count? I mean a genuine accident, not deliberate hijacking of contraception/STD protection under cover of accident – that’s rape if it’s not what you consented to.)

  9. I think anything that you regret afterwards counts. I’ve certainly had more than one fun time immediately ruined afterward as we looked in horror at the rubber mess.

  10. The only sex I regret is the angry sex I have had where I thought I would be less angry by the end of it and I wasn’t… was still angry.
    This is an interesting topic, Mindy. Nice post.

    • Adapting Andie McDowell’s Four Weddings and a Funeral character’s speech, for a variety of individually contextual reasons?
      I regret #3, #4, #5, #9 and #10 at different degrees of circumstantial strength i.e. I did it with that arsehat once but would never do it with him again. I’ve never considered any of those experiences to be potentially rape.
      #7, on the other hand, was definitely coercive because he manoeuvred me into being alone with him and then I was frightened of what he might do if I said no. I’d probably never get a jury conviction on the facts of the case though ( I left a public drinking house with him willingly to go to what I was told would be a party), so I never reported it to any authorities or even told my friends how I’d been fooled by what appeared to be a decent human being but who turned out to be a predatory jerk. However, after suppressing memories of that night for years, unexpectedly arriving at his ferry stop on a family day out totally threw me into a panic attack. So, echoing others upthread, Regret is a very different thing from Assault.

  11. I guess like with most mutual decisions there’s Abilene sex: zie thought you wanted it and wanted to please you more than zie intrinsically wanted sex, you thought the same about hir. I guess this is one of the many varieties of dud sex.
    Another is instrumental sex, for example, sex at ovulation time intended to conceive a child. Some infertile and subfertile people, or even just impatient people, can end up having unsexy TTC sex and feeling later like it took a bit of juice out of frivolous sexy sex and wishing that they’d not been so goal-oriented. (Of course, not everyone will end up regretting such sex! Just it’s a not uncommon story.)

  12. Once after TTC sex we both looked at each other and said ‘do we really have to do that again in the morning?’
    Months later when we had a better Dr he said just try to have fun and not worry about it you have time you might as well enjoy it. A few months later the sinking feeling in my tummy that I was having all sorts of worries about turned out to be my son, who incidentally is 9 today.
    Another regrettable TTC sex moment for friends of ours was when she got pregnant first time. She was thrilled, her husband was devastated because he had been looking forward to lots and lots of sex.
    @TT – I don’t count #7 as regrettable, I count that as coerced rape. They know if you say yes then proving it was rape is impossible, but there definitely isn’t enthusiastic consent. In my eyes that makes them just as guilty, just smarter about the system.

  13. I’ve had #7 when it has definitely just been regrettable and not coerced, but I apologise that when I listed it I failed to consider that other people’s experiences of the like might be more disturbing than amusing. 😦 Tigtog that does sound coercive to me too. 😦 😦
    @Mindy, that’s a very sweet story, I hope your son has a lovely day today!!!! 😀
    Ps. Love the site guys, only discovered it a week ago and have been slowly reading through your older posts with much enjoyment. Thank you!!!

  14. I think there’s some miscommunication here – StuffedO, I don’t think TigTog (and Mindy) are talking about your #7 example (penis sex not being All That) but rather TigTog’s 7th sexual “partner” (she references Andie McDowell in 4W&1F, who goes through all her sexual partners in numerical order at one point). I admit I was equally confused when I first read TT’s comment until I remembered the scene in 4W&1F.

  15. Oh! Thanks Aqua! I was feeling guilty. :S thanks for the clarification.

  16. Tigtog, your experience is a great illustration of Mindy’s key point here, that is, we all know the difference between making a sexual decision you then feel a bit yuk about, and having our sexual selves abused. The idea of a “grey” area assumes we can’t distinguish between them, which is ridiculous.

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