Almost 20 years ago I was driving through Western Massachusetts and stopped at a garage sale in a rural town.
There it was, a giant brightly painted yellow street light. It had a plug to turn on seven of the eight lights in a normal Outlet. The 8th was set to flash on and off. That’s right, eight lights. Four directions. Four Red. Four green.
The man selling it had personally had the job of taking down these lights, when New York City realized that it was stupid to have just red and green lights. After evaluating the number of crashes, they realized that people needed a warning zone between go and stop. they actively added the yellow lights and took all the old lights down.
I believe we are living in a similar archaic era, of sexual interactions. We have poorly defined and even more poorly defended boundaries surrounding healthy sexual sharing, and assault. We don’t have a yellow zone. American culture has not taught us to be aware of signs for caution. Such signs are often viewed as resistance to push through, like you see the yellow light and slammed on the gas.
Now, it’s time to take down the old understandings. We need to establish new foundations for healthy sexual interactions. To be aware of each other. To be prepared to stop. To be able to stop, even though it’s not a red light, yet.
With Intimacy, these lights don’t work in one constant cycle. With intimacy, a yellow light may step in on a green light – and may switch back to green. In fact, its totally normal in any intimate dance to step in, and then step back and breathe, and then step in close again. Or not. Or on a step back, one or the other partner may realize that something doesn’t feel right. Yes, they’d said yes. Yes they did want it. Yes, they have the absolute right to change their minds and hearts and bodies, and pull away. Without a nasty reaction. With compassion.
Can you stop? Can you switch gears and offer support for a change in course?
The etiquette is simple. You have to be able to stop. When signs and signals are yellow, activate restraint within, and be able to switch direction if need be. Why? It doesn’t fucking matter why. That is the first step. Because the light is yellow, that is why. Its basic intimacy. Its fundamental to sharing many forms of deep love and passion. It is the foundation of great loving beautiful, screaming with pleasure who gives a fuck if the neighbors can hear you, sex. It is the foundation of rhythmic mystical, love making that dances into the edge of too much to bear and then backs off and rides a gentle wave and circles in for the depths again and again. And again.
To create the trust, that the person you are sharing time with, cares more about you, than about fucking you. Then they get to want to fuck you from a place of deep shared trust. This is something many people do without naming it. This is something many people don’t do without being aware it is even possible. This is something we need to talk about and keep talking till shit changes for good.
So, here’s the deal. Its not a deal. You do this. You learn yellow. You are not learning to coast through yellow’s, or slam on the gas to get through before red appears. You are learning how to drive well. You are learning to be both powerful and restrained. You are going to get fined if you break the rules. You are going to keep getting fined until you get it right.
In respect. You will get less respect if you don’t learn this etiquette. It will cost you, increasingly if you fail to learn.
Commit to this. Start doing it. You don’t have to be perfect, but you have to stop fighting against the changes. Out of fear. Out of vain attempts to hide from your shithole past, or stand up for a ‘bro’ so you can preserve your right to act in similar ways.
You agree to stop your shit, and start your life.
Once you shift intentions, you get a range of freedom. You get respect for learning and helping things change.
If you don’t do this? Well look, do this. I’m telling you that these lessons lead to better love. The love leads to better sex. If that doesn’t get through to you, good luck. Bye. Because the flipside is that you now, already, face the judgement of your peers in a whole new way. You will be tried in the court of public opinion. Regardless of how it goes, you have to be afraid of that now. You have to second guess life from a place of fear, fear of shame, until you learn to second guess yourself from a place of caution and restraint.
Stop defending assholes. Stop going to simple ‘score’ with women who may well want a boyfriend. You want to fuck and leave? Say so. Post it on match.com. Be honest and upfront and negotiate it clearly. Start holding equal responsibility for sexual caution. Even be the one who says no sometimes when it ‘doesn’t feel right’.
And then think about your past. Find people to talk with, who you respect, who won’t give you a free past and also love you enough to help you grow. You don’t have to live in guilt. You have to purge bullshit stories from your mind, that cover up ‘dates’ that may have left a woman out there lonely and broken. Ask. Ask yourself. Ask your friends. Be honest and ask for help.
Temember you do this work, and you learn how to tune in. You learn how to follow her through connecting that passes in and out of caution. You’ll soon discover that you want this too, if you didn’t know it already, you are about to learn – as you become more sensitive to a lover’s needs, you will become more sensitive to your own.
.In this traffic sign language, yellow may change back to green go, or red passion screamed with more yeses than you can number. You have to be able to dance with the changes without resentment, to get far enough into the trust to make love with your body. Till then, the way you talk and interact IS the way you make love. Learn.
Thus the etiquette of this is