My Two Cents About Consent

I often finish my blog posts with a sentence or two to the effect of, “you should try your best to communicate openly and honestly with your partners about sex, it’s more important than anything else I’ve talked about above.” This is my general attitude and belief. Talking with your partners about sex both before, during and after is the key to having the most fun, fulfilling and safe possible sex. That is my opinion and will likely remain so.

I don’t talk about sexual assault or rape very much, if at all. I think that there have been quite enough cisgendered, straight identified, white men (of which I am one) talking about rape in 2012. Many of them have made complete asses of themselves in public and have been berated forcefully on the internet and other media outlets.

What I do want to talk about, which ties into sexual assault, is consent. A number of people who get charged with rape make the argument that “consent is such a tricky issue.” The idea behind this is that it’s next to impossible to know wether or not you have received consent. This my friends is bullshit. But the problem is as much to do with these rapey douchebags as it is to do with our current attitudes towards sex. We are so afraid to talk about sex in most circumstances. We are so scared to speak openly and bluntly with our partners about our needs, desires, preferences, dislikes, kinks, etc. Now, this is not the case for everyone obviously, some people have amazingly open communication with their partners about their sexuality, but those people, from what I can tell are a rarity.

Good sexual communication is not the norm in North America (where I live). So, what does this have to do with anything? It has to do with consent. Ask yourself honestly: When was the last time I asked, or was asked, explicitly for consent? I’m talking, “Would you like to have sex with me right now?” I’m serious. How many people have asked that question with a straight face? I’m going to guess very few. It seems to most like such an awkward and uncomfortable question. It seems so unsexy, right?

Now process that for a second. Our sexual culture is one that thinks that asking for explicit consent to have sex is unsexy. It’s built in to the structure of how we view sex. Sex is still, in many ways a taboo. If something is sexual it is labeled Not Safe For Work. Sex is against the rules, it’s icky, it’s embarrassing and it’s not something you talk about straightforwardly. There are more sexual euphemisms than any other kind I can think of. So fine, use euphemism then! “Hey, wanna bone?” But still that can come off as too upfront. Let’s face it, in the current sexual climate, asking for direct consent in a sexy way is a challenge, but not getting consent can lead to much bigger issues. Perhaps we can sacrifice a little sexiness for some good communication.

I’m not convinced that I have a point but if I do it’s probably this: We don’t need to make explicit consent a sexy thing, we just need to make it a thing that we do. The pendulum needs to swing such that, even in long term relationships, we are asking for consent every time. And it can be sexy if you make it sexy. Maybe I’m just a square, but to me nothing could be better than starting off your sexual encounter with some communication. Encouraging open dialogue in sexual relationships isn’t just about trying to help people have the most fulfilled sex lives possible (though that is part of it), it’s also about opening up the societal conversation about sex, period. I am over sex being a topic that is Not Safe For Work. I am over sex being a topic that we don’t feel comfortable talking about in certain situations, because the more we accept that sex is not something that we talk about, the more harm that lack of conversation and communication has the potential to inflict. Rant over.

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