Consent is sexy
January 20, 2012 15 Comments
Alternative title: “I’ll want to have sex with you more if you want to have sex with me enthusiastically as well” – AKA “If you don’t want to have sex with me that’s fine but I won’t try and have sex with you anyway, because that would make me a rapist”.
Consent is very sexy indeed. I happened across consentissexy.org a while ago and not only do I mostly love it, but it also gave me some food for thought. A lot of recent discourse around consent has – for me, at least – been around Julian Assange and his sexual conduct. Consequently, I’ve been reading loads of information and blogs on the subject of consent and I think broadly, the ‘model’ of consent I would go with is that of enthusiastic consent. (There are of course, limitations and some odd situations where it might not apply – I think it’s a good one to keep in mind though)
Enthusiastic consent is basically, I suppose, a way of figuring out if you’re really doing the right thing – are they ‘into’ it in the same way as you? Is their body language a bit off? Are they looking upset or a bit nervous? Ask them if they’re okay. That’s it. Just think to yourself: how is that person feeling? It’s just a check, to make sure that everyone is enthusiastic about what’s happening. I think if everyone followed this honestly, it would help to clear up and perhaps prevent some horrible situations.
I had a whole raft of posts in my browser for ages because, um, I think collectively they explain it better than I could.
It’s not that they don’t understand, it’s that they don’t like the answer – a lot of rape apologism/’misunderstanding’ is around this idea that consent is somehow difficult to understand. You don’t sign a piece of paper, or explicitly say “ok, let’s DO THIS” (Well, you might do…!) but this article talks about research that shows that ‘no’ is very discouraged in our society, and that when it comes to anything, we all hesitate to say a straight-forward no. Rejections are couched in “I like you but”s, or “I would LOVE to but I’m busy then”. We all understand rejections in other social contexts, so why not sexually?
Not saying no is a very, very long way from saying yes – this kind of follows on from the first one. It asks, why are people so reluctant to say no, and why do people think that if someone doesn’t explicitly say no, then it’s an automatic yes? Not saying no is not the same as saying yes!
The (non-existent) terrible, horrible, no good, very bad consequences of enthusiastic consent – this discusses enthusiastic consent in more detail.
Under Duress: Agency, power & consent (part one: “no”) – this discusses consent and the power of ‘no’ more clearly.
Consent is not a light-switch – this is interesting. Consent to one act is not necessarily consent to another. That’s really important. Consent is an ongoing state depending on your interaction at that time. You cannot consent to something later when you are asleep, and it shouldn’t be assumed that because you have consented to one thing, that you consent to anything else.
The only thing I have left to add is a fantastic comment at the end of the consent blog at I Blame The Patriarchy, which is the best analogy of consent, I think:
Nobody asks their friend ‘Want to play tennis?’ then when Friend says ‘I would LOVE to, you know I love playing with you – but I am really tired and I have this thing I have to do really early,’ shows up at 6pm on the court expecting to see their friend. Nor do they just start serving balls at their friend’s face.
Sometimes consent is difficult. It’s not a magical on-off switch, and no one is really going to explicitly ‘give’ you it. You just need to figure out where the other person is comfortable (ie at what level of interaction), which requires ongoing communication and awareness of their responses, even in body language etc. It’s kinda hard at first maybe, but, y’know, consent is definitely sexy.