What with the barrage of rape cases flooding through our media outlets at the moment, a lot of people are talking about what it means to consent to sex.
You may have heard of one of the sex-positive responses to the question “How do I avoid raping someone?” – the idea of enthusiastic consent. In short, it means that no always means no, and only yes means yes.
Many of us have signed on to this agreement. I find it really sexy to imagine a world in which everyone “checks in” before progressing sexually. It’s hot to have sexy things done to me, but it’s even hotter (in my humble opinion) to have someone respect me enough to ask for permission first.
But, predictably, there has been a lot of pushback in the wake of this idea. “What, am I supposed to ask every time I do anything sexual?!” these protesters cry. “What if we’re already in a relationship and I know my partner’s body language well enough that I don’t have to ask?” And my favorite: “But asking for consent is so INCONVENIENT and AWKWARD and HARD!”
I’m not going to tell you how to negotiate consent within your own relationship, because obviously, that’s a personal thing. If your partner is really okay with you never explicitly asking for consent, that’s fine, as long as you still know you have to stop when you’re told to. But let’s get something straight: asking for consent does not have to be awkward or difficult.
You do not have to engineer a wordy question like, “Do you consent to me touching your vulva?” You can literally just say, “Is this okay?” or “Do you want me to stop?” or “Should I keep going?”
Some people have a Dominant/submissive relationship. Most people do not. And if you and your partner are equals in and out of the bedroom, acquiring verbal consent on a case-by-case basis really should not be a big deal. You respect your lover and you want them to feel free to express their feelings, right?
On the flipside, if you want your partner to ask for consent every time, that’s an absolutely fair request to make. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Our culture has a contempt toward consent. If this wasn’t the case, no one would be crying that asking for consent is “too much work.” Respecting your sexual partner’s body and mind is never “too much work,” and if you really feel that it is, you’re not ready to be in a sexual relationship.