Ok, I’m just going to say the thing. . . Consent is sexy.
And why, you may ask, does sexy matter? I agree that our culture has an overactive fascination with making everything, from cars to food to kids clothing, sexy; that inappropriate sexualization is a problem; that it is, in fact, a part of the rape culture within which we live; and also that advertisers, clothing designers, performers, etc. focus on sex precisely because it does “sell.” Sexy matters, because with the exception of the asexual (ACE) amongst us, sex is a primal drive connected to parts of our ancient brain and endocrine system. Those are powerful parts of us that the gross majority of humans don’t even recognize or pay especial attention. And powerful things cause action.
So, I’ll say it again: Consent is sexy.
So, what is consent? At the simplest level, consent is making sure that everyone involved in an activity is a willing and, with any luck, enthusiastic participant. It is not “they didn’t say no” or “well, they said no, but I know they didn’t mean it” or anything less than an explicit YES!
It’s only when I’m safe to say no that I really experience the desire to say yes.
I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, and I thought I understood consent and had even refined that understanding as I aged. It probably took longer than it should have to begin to understand that date rape was a thing, that men as well as women could be raped, that it wasn’t always a stranger, that it wasn’t even really about sex as much as power. It in fact took many months after I had a negative experience on a date to realize that giving in to the pressure I received wasn’t truly consent; that I had experienced a violation and that I wasn’t crazy for feeling manipulated and angry. Sadly, initially I was mostly angry at myself for ‘letting’ it happen. That anger eventually transitioned to a desire to learn and share so that perhaps others could be safer, or at least feel less alone.
Then, a couple of years ago, I had an absolutely eye-opening experience I’d like to share. I joined a local BDSM dungeon in my continuing exploration of myself. They have an orientation in which they covered many things, but 80% or more of the presentation was about CONSENT.
According to kink culture, consent requires the following:
· A specific explicit request, ex. May I hug you? (yep, they really ask that), may I touch your arm (or whatever), etc.
· An obvious verbal yes
· A gracious response to any nos (a person saying no to anything, no matter how large or ostensibly small may not be pressured, abused, shamed, or given any other negative consequence. Each person’s right to have agency over their body is absolute and respected)
· Also worthy of note, no shaming is allowed to the requester either. Again, each persons right to agency (including things they desire for themselves that might not match ‘your’ taste) is absolute and worthy of respect
Just a couple of months ago, I went to an (adult) “play” party and saw modeled the most beautiful practice of consent I have ever seen in action. They followed all the kink rules above, but added the suggestion that if you are a maybe on something, that you should just say no. And then, they modeled this specific response to a no: “Ok, thank you for taking care of yourself”
And, suddenly my world changed.
So, why is that sexy? Because for me, it’s only when I’m safe to say no that I really experience the desire to say yes. In fact, even as a polyamorous woman I still am careful to “read” situations before I decide whether it’s safe to be myself. I happen to be a playful, sexy, flirty human. I hide those parts of me away a lot of the time. I want to make a world where no one has to hide to stay safe. A world in which anything other than a heartfelt yes means no, and where saying no is safe and respected, where maybe even they say thank you for taking care of yourself.
Who’s with me?