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I feel kind of torn on this one because it kind of suggests we should feel sorry for men who are just doing their best to understand nasty women’s ambiguous statements. Or maybe I’m just angry this morning… Anyway American College professor Michael Motley has done a study on gaps in communication in intimate situations asking why men hear something different to what women say.

“When she says ‘It’s getting late,’ he may hear ‘So let’s skip the preliminaries,'” Motley says. “The problem is that he is interpreting what she said by trying to imagine what he would mean — and the only reason he can imagine saying ‘It’s getting late’ while making out is to mean ‘Let’s speed things up.’ Motley calls it the “introspection” explanation: “Males’ inferred meanings for women’s indirect sexual resistance messages are more similar to the meanings males would have intended by those same messages than to the meanings women intend.”

From Science Daily

Motley’s research found that men are find at understanding direct messages to stop, like say, “Lets stop this” but find indirect messages, like “Lets be friends”, ambiguous and are as likely to see them as green lights than red ones.

In related studies, Motley has also shown that most women use indirect messages out of concern that men will be offended or angered by direct messages — but that most men actually accept direct resistance messages easily and without negative reactions.

From Science Daily

Motley has come up with some guidelines based on his research:

1. Men need to be aware of the many ways that women may say “stop” without using the word “stop.”

2. When a man asks himself during intimacy, “Why did she say that?” he should not try to answer the question by imagining what he would mean if he said the same thing.

3. When in doubt, ask. “So it’s getting late; does that mean we should stop?”

4. Women should use direct messages.

5. A woman who cannot be direct should at least work a direct message into the indirect one: “It’s getting late, so I’d like to stop.”

Motley is clear this isn’t addressing questions about rape and sexual assault where a women does clearly articulate “no” and is ignored, but rather those situations where men persist longer than women want.

Like I say mixed feelings – I dislike the victim-blaming sense of “women should be direct” which is easier said than done. After all sometimes being direct will land you with either an immediately angry bloke to deal with or very bitchy behaviour afterwards. But on the whole I don’t think this is all bad.