Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Seeking Consent Isn't a Mood Killer

[Content note: discussions of sexual consent, rape culture]

In my numerous complaints about how busy/chaotic my life is lately, I believed I mentioned that I'm buying a house. Well now it has been bought! We closed today and we move on Thursday and it is wonderful and great and exhausting and terrifying. That's one of many reasons I've been writing (and reading!) much less lately. What I do write isn't super detailed or quality. I feel bad about that, but I'm also trying not to beat myself up about it. Self care and all that.

Anyhoo one of the things I did catch recently was this great list of "16 ways to talk about consent." I was pretty psyched when it came across my Tumblr dashboard. Here's a few:
1. "Do you like when I...?"
2. "I like when you..."
3. "Will you...?"
4. "How does this feel?"
5. "Do you want me to...?"
6. "Do you want to...?"

As I've mentioned numerous times before, I'm a big advocate for enthusiastic consent and I believe that it must be taught as a concept to young people. So I was really, really excited when I saw this list, which clearly illustrates how one can both easily seek consent and also maintain sexiness and "the mood."

One of the most dangerous myths that our society perpetuates is that one cannot communicate clearly throughout a sexual activity without "breaking the mood." I hear this argument a lot in respect to condom use and/or consent. It's dangerous because that mentality leaves things unsaid and each person is supposed to act on their instinct or assumption or whatever, which is obviously a troubling perspective. Yet it still dominates many discussions of sex.

However the 16 consent focused conversation starters listed demonstrate how you can weave consent into your sexy times while staying in the moment and not really disrupting the flow, so long as you get a green light for everything.

I know that "consent is sexy" frameworks are rightfully critiqued because "sexy" shouldn't be used to describe something that is the baseline necessity of any sexual encounter. But it is nice to be reminded that explicitly seeking consent, while mandatory, can still sound and feel sexy. (Although even if/when seeking consent does kill the mood, that doesn't really matter because consent is mandatory.)

This reminds me of a question I'm often asked..."how can you tell if someone is sober enough to truly consent, when they've had a few drinks?" My rule of thumb is "when in doubt, wait it out." A person who is sober enough to consent would do so when they haven't had ANYTHING to drink too, so if it's meant to happen, it can happen...later.

I feel the same way about general discussions of sex. If merely talking about interests in potential activities or what contraception to use kills the mood, then just let the mood be killed and take the opportunity to share what your limits/preferences are. Return to the mood later, fully informed. Besides, it's probably better to make decisions when you're not "in the moment" anyway. This is one of the things I always told the girls I worked with when I was a teen sex educator. I advised that it's best to have open conversations about sex in a neutral location/time before they actually did anything because that way you can confidently state your boundaries without pressures/urges factoring in. While this suggestion was intended for inexperienced teens, the general principles can be applied to anyone.

I know some people will argue that those of us who discuss consent in this way are killing romance and other such nonsense, but I'd argue that what we're actually killing is the rape culture...a rape culture which has perpetuated myths like good girls don't know what they want or that talking frankly about sex is unsexy. And that's bull, (which those of us on the "enthusiastic consent" bandwagon typically know first hand.)

Listen, all I'm saying is communicate with your partners and respect all boundaries. It's that simple.

Please see the commenting policy before replying to this post.

1 comment:

  1. A friend of mine gave me great advice about sex when I was younger. I can't remember exactly what I complained about--something about the awkwardness of having a conversation about sex, birth control, all that. She told me, I shouldn't be having sex with someone if I wasn't comfortable enough with them to have an awkward conversation. It's really true! The "mood" for sex should be able to accommodate a potentially awkward conversation, because any sexual encounter is potentially awkward. There are uncooperative zippers, socks, beds, spines, etc-- It's all part of the fun.


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