Sometimes in life, it’s OK to be selfish.
At a recent doctor’s visit, the physician asked me whether I’d prefer to give a urine sample or have my rectum swabbed to check for syphilis. Unfortunately for me, the physician’s assistant who was asking me which method I’d prefer was charming. We’d already struck up a lively conversation about how frequently I should be having routine STI checks, and also briefly talked men. We seemed to be getting along fine. As a health care provider, I’d give her two thumbs up for bedside manner.
The problem was that I chose to give a urine sample, but for the wrong reasons. I liked this woman, and didn’t want to do anything that would affect our “friendship.” I’m sure she would have been professional, but in my mind, exposing myself to this woman would have ruined her day. This was someone who, as part of her job, tells people they have HIV. And I was worried that performing medical tests on my (most likely healthy) ass would make her uncomfortable. Worried enough to not get a test that might, conceivably, have saved my life.
The fact that other people’s feelings are important to us is what separates people from (most) animals. When it originated in us, the human race gained the power of community, since we were now driven to not fight amongst ourselves. When making a decision, we weigh the benefits versus the hardship they would cause others.
The same process exists in the decision to have sex. When I decide, the other person’s feelings count for something. While this protects me from being a rapist, or any of other type of asshole, it doesn’t always result in what’s best for me.
I’ve been known to have sex when I didn’t actually want to, but the other person did. Whether I have nothing better to do, or whether I don’t want to make a scene, sometimes things happen. Sometimes, I later wonder whether it was a good idea or not.
There could be many reasons why refusal could be difficult. You could see this person every day, you could work together or they could know your parents. They could be the nicest person in the world, or they could have just been really nice that night. They could have bought you dinner, and although you know that you’re not obligated, you might feel a little selfish for wanting to have your cake and not eat it too.
There are many reasons why you should refuse sex: If you or your partner have a disease, the protection you’re using won’t stop the spreading of any disease, if the person is under 18 and you’re not (according to the law), if the other person is drunk or for some other reason could not be thinking clearly, if they are your cousin or if you don’t want to.
It is safer to not have sex if you’re even a little unsure. It’s easier said than done, but while you might miss out on sex, sex may be worrisome, even regretful. If you aren’t sure if it’s best for you, it probably isn’t.
Sometimes we have to overthrow our instinct of being considerate of others. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many people you’ve offended or blue balls you’ve created. What matters is that you feel good about yourself and your actions.