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Sandra Newman @sannewman
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1. This is a story about consent.
2. Once I was going out with a guy who was much more middle of the road than me. And one night, I asked him to go with me to a Guy Maddin film which was a silent movie that combined the plot of Dracula with ballet.
3. He was, shall we say, hesitant. But he agreed to go with the proviso that, if he really couldn't stand the film, he would kick me in the ankle and we would leave.
4. I cannot tell you how much I loved this movie. It made me feel better about every nook and cranny of my life. And I'd had a shitty year, and had been bleakly anhedonic; it felt like a thing I "needed".
5. So, when my boyfriend kicked me in the ankle, I thought, "He probably doesn't mean it. After all, he didn't kick me very hard."
6. And when he kicked me again, I thought, "Oh hell, it's just a movie. And if he *really* wants to leave, he'll tell me in words. That thing about the kick in the ankle was obviously a joke! And he could just leave at any time. I'm not holding him here."
7. And although I felt a little bad, I soon forgot it and continued to love every second of the movie. Semi-consciously I thought: "This movie's so awesome, he's clearly come around and is now enjoying it just as much as me."
8. But as soon as we left the movie theater, it became apparent he was *very* unhappy with me. He was so furious, at first he couldn't speak. When he did, he said, "I wanted to leave! You promised we could leave if I kicked you in the ankle!"
9. And, instinctively, instantaneously taking the coward's way out, I said, "You did???"
10. He turned his back on me, and I realized he was not just angry; he hated me at that moment. In the same instant, I realized I was lying—I *had* felt him kick me. But I'd somehow semi-lied to myself about it and semi-erased it.
11. I tried to explain all this to him, but he remained grimly, seriously angry. And unfortunately, because what was at issue was him sitting through a Guy Maddin ballet movie about Dracula, this struck me funny. So I burst out laughing.
12. And then, although I kept apologizing, I also wanted him to admit it was funny; that even if I was an asshole, it was still kind of funny, but he would not.
13. (I'd like to say this was the last nail in the coffin of our relationship, but, like most relationships, it had to be totally studded with nails and have nails falling out of it at every step before it would consent to die.)
14. Anyway, this is just one of my experiences of being in a situation where no meant no, but I refused to hear the very clear no because of selfishness and immaturity.
15. And, even though it was just a Guy Maddin ballet movie about Dracula, it wasn't just a Guy Maddin ballet movie about Dracula. My attempt to make him see his feelings of betrayal as trivial and silly was one of my low points as a human being.
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