It’s pure luck that I’ve never woke up next to someone I recently assaulted. There were times I didn’t know a party was consenting until I reached down and felt how excited they were.
I had some great times before I made getting consent a priority. A platonic spooning party with a friend could turn into a forbidden tryst in the middle of the night. I could meet someone on the dancefloor and accept their afterparty invitation without knowing their sobriety. I could let kisses turn to touches turn to wet fingers and clenched teeth and the only sound either of us muttered were moans.
But I was stupid and should have known better. In my head, I was reading consent in all sorts of places. But I was also young enough to believe all sorts of bad shit was a good idea. Whether or not I was committing rape-adjacent sex wouldn’t be confirmed until the pillow talk. I was getting Schrodinger’s consent. And I’m a lucky guy that I guessed right all those times.
Now that I’m more grown up, I have distinctly higher developed ideas about consent. At the time though, I would have defended my behavior fiercely. I wasn’t driven to committing these acts by any classical rape motives. I committed these acts because I wasn’t raised not to. I committed these acts because nobody ever told me it was wrong.
These days, I’m friends with enough staunch feminists that requesting consent is implicit in lovemaking. For plenty of people, asking for consent does not impede the chemistry of an encounter. They will glaze over it as part of the process, like queefing. For some people though, the idea of asking for verbal consent is as destructive to an intimate encounter as whiskey-dick or seeing a picture of Janet Reno.
Some people view the push for verbal consent as an unnecessary version of a sex contract that ruins the intimacy of an encounter; it kills the mood. Some guys think it somehow undermines the classical male sexual fantasy they are trying to embody. Some girls don’t do it because social conditioning. Ladies are more than just groomed to not say “no” when they don’t want something. Plenty of women are never groomed to say “yes” when they do.
Speaking with my female friends, they seem to be just as unacclimated to giving consent as plenty of guys are unacclimated to asking for it. Lots of my female friends have told to me that they have frozen up silently when guys have asked them. The guys went ahead with Schrodinger’s Consent, and things have worked out sometimes. And just like plenty of guys believe they can read nonverbal consent, plenty of girls have tried to give nonverbal consent by doing weird shit like averting their eyes and starting to giggle.
Just this last weekend, I was at a Halloween party I was hosting for the Chicago Poly Community. I invited along a lady that I had been on two dates with. I thought the dates went pretty well. At the end of our second date, she even gave me a kiss…in the face! Third time seeing her, I invite her out to the Polyween party. She looks to be having a great time meeting people and hitting the dance floor. I even had some time to share a dance with her.
When I’m dancing with someone I don’t know…or only kind of know, I keep my hands to myself unless I ask permission first. So she and I had some of that sweet intimate-but-separate dancing for a spell. I leaned in and asked her if I could put my hand on the small of her back. She didn’t respond, though. I thought she didn’t hear me, so I asked again. She averted her eyes and started giggling. Then I told her straight; I wasn’t going to touch her without her verbal consent. Instead of saying yes or even nodding her head, she instead turned around and began grinding her ass against my crotch. It was some straight-up tweenstyle frottage on the dancefloor. To me, I felt like she was more comfortable doing this than saying “yes” which was really unsettling.
I’ve had a date where we were giggling in between sharing a big plate of nachos and discussing our mutual affinity for cunnilingus. Nachos turn into a motorcycle ride to her place for coffee. While we were waiting for the lattes to cool, I asked if I could give her a kiss. When I leaned in to kiss her, it was like her libido was a party popper and I just pulled the cord. We collapsed on the kitchen floor, frantically snogging each other like ravenous octopi. She ripped both of our clothes off, pitching them at the recycling bin, the dish rack, the cat. When I was finally able to come up for air and lay her back on the checkered tiles, I began kissing down her bare midsection. I stopped at her waistline and said something brazen and ridiculous:
“I don’t mean to be too forward. But if you’ll have me, I’d be awful fond of slinging your legs around my neck and eating out your snatch like I was wearing a fucking feedbag.”
I gave that imagery a second to set in and let her finish giggling before I followed up:
“I don’t mean to make those kind of moves without your blessing, though. May I?”
She didn’t respond with a “yes”, but I know she heard my question. She averted her eyes and started giggling. I decided to shoot her straight. I told her I don’t like to get involved with peoples’ genitals unless I have aggressive consent. She still didn’t say anything. She grabbed a fistful of my hair and stuffed my face down into her crotch. I know it’s dangerous to go ahead without enthusiastic verbal consent, but I did that thing where I put my faith in reading nonverbal cues.
On the one hand, I was a little put off that she wouldn’t just say “yes”. I was put off that I put all this work into verbal consent and she didn’t ask if she could ball up my pompadour and put me to work. I was put off that she was bold enough to ride on a stranger’s motorcycle and let him into her home, strip him naked and decorate the kitchen with his clothes, then let perfectly good coffee get cold; but this whole saying “yes” thing was just too much. Yeah, I was a little put off.
On the other hand, she was smokin’ hot and I wasn’t fibbing when I made my original offer…
Lots of people believe that nonverbal consent is acceptable if the guy is following the gal’s lead. But this opens a whole different slew of issues. Sure, there are ladies who are more comfortable taking the reigns silently than they are with responding verbally to a consent request. But for one thing, they aren’t as common as girls who just freeze up silently and make no response despite their desires. The other issue with letting the woman lead is questioning whether women should be held to the same standard of verbal consent as men. Letting the woman lead without verbal consent operates under the assumption that men can never be the victims of rape-adjacent sex with a woman.
Getting over the problems with consent is going to be tough. For everyone.
Obviously, us guys are going to need to dramatically beef up our efforts to gain consent. But we’re all in this together and there’s a lot of work that women have to do to undo this consent bind we’re all in. Just like guys need to know when to ask, girls need to know when to tell. Something I’ve learned in my greater efforts to get consent is that girls have been raised to do a lot of confusing shit when it comes to consent.
I’m all but spent with confusing consent issues. I was reading this great article by Leah Libresco about rape-adjacent sex. She recommends guys conduct a “reverse-lysistrata“, where we boycott sex with women who aren’t willing to give us verbal consent. While many may scoff at the idea, I don’t think this is that far off. I know plenty of my male peers who won’t have sex with a girl if they have to wear a condom, plenty won’t have sex with a girl if she won’t perform fellatio first, plenty who go soft if a gal hasn’t shaved her legs. If these trivialities can keep guys from having sex, hell yeah I believe we can hold out without verbal consent.
Up until the revolution comes, though, we’re could all try a little more to diffuse some of these issues.
TO THE MEN OF THE WORLD:
Will a greater effort for verbal consent be damaging to the intimate encounters that you have? Not really.
I’ve been a consent thumper for the past few years and it hasn’t reduced the amount of girls I’ve brought home. I may have a few novelties to sway the ladies in my direction, but consent is easy enough to get. In the event that you bring home a gal who can’t say “yes”, you could certainly make a fun game of giving her consent to take charge, otherwise you may just have to spend the night platonically. It might be better to not have sex with someone who’s got an issue with a push for consent. Any girl who would get turned off by the idea of you asking first is probably not the kind of person you wanna take home.
TO THE WOMEN OF THE WORLD:
Be ready to say no. Be ready to say yes.
Nobody is going to call you a slut. Unless that’s what you want. In which case you should definitely tell us.
Ask for consent. Ask for us to ask for consent. Take the initiative.
If you’re the kind of lady who’s already capable, god bless you. Help your sisters reach that level of confidence and comfort.
This might mean that I don’t have a whole lot of bedroom skills to be complimented on, but the most common compliment I receive from a new lover is that they really liked how I asked before I did anything. Flattering though it is, I don’t want to be complimented for this anymore. Asking for consent shouldn’t be something I get recognition for, this should be a standard practice. I want people to request/grant consent while fucking as easily as they gloss over the sheets getting ruffled while fucking. I want girls to feel comfortable owning their sexuality, especially if it means telling guys like me they want that D. I want to lay in bed with a new lover, catching our breath and I want to be complimented for my cuddling ability, my O-face, my bedsheets…fucking anything except asking for consent.
A consent revolution isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen because of the actions of one gender. It’s going to happen one person at a time until it becomes the standard.
What converted me? Somebody asked me.
AUTHORS NOTE: I understand that this article was written with a very heteronormative idea of relationships which falls heavily on the false gender dichotomy. The spectrum of love and gender is vast and wide and yet still unexplored completely! I apologize if you feel like this article does not apply to you because you do not subscribe to these ideas. This article is directed towards the sizable population of conventional datership that does.