This article is about consent. While this article will be written from the perspective of a cisgender heterosexual(ish) white(ish) male, these points apply to all touch, both romantic and platonic, both straight and gay, and the entire spectrum in between. While men have been groomed culturally to take initiative and “make the first move”, in modern society this can literally be up to anybody and so it’s important that all parties involved are fully aware of how to look for and ask for consent. Though it is generally understood that consent is up to the individuals involved, this article is not condoning consensual sex with a minor. The definition of a minor is defined by the State and should be understood before ever pursuing a relationship or discussing the possibility of sexual contact of any kind.
What is Consent?
Consent comes from the Latin of Con (meaning together) and sentire (meaning feeling) (Thank you Dr. Lindsey Doe).
Like so many things, a simple beginning to something so much more complex. The consensus of professionals is that most men don’t go out of their way to become rapists. It’s fair to say the average man assumes he understands broadly what consent is. Despite this, women between 18 and 24 are 4 times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence.(RAINN) and the biggest offenders are that of their male peers. I believe this comes from a lack of communication. not from the victims, but from the people raising young men.
Laying the Ground Rules
There is a belief if a person asks for consent with words, that not only will it be in no, but it will be a guaranteed no that kills the mood. This is patently, and with but a few exceptions, false. If she (or he as the case may be) says no, it just means they aren’t ready. By showing respect to their boundaries, you are likely to earn their respect in kind. The truth is, sex is kind of intimidating. All these same outlets that are telling young men to be aggressive and pursuant are also telling young women to be beautiful and good at sex. As much as a woman is as equally affected by hormones (and some studies show even more so) this is counterbalanced by fear of both rejection and of being taken advantage of.
What this does translate to is that she might not be ready, so if you convince her to do what she doesn’t want to do, that is rape. I don’t mean to be dramatic, it’s just the truth. She might be appearing to consent simply by not stopping you, but a lack of no is not yes. A helpful visual guide to explaining this is the “tea consent” video here. Also, ask yourself this: Is the permission to do what you want to do given Freely, Knowledgeably, and Informed? If no to even a single one of those, it’s not consent.
How to Get Consent
Now that we’ve established how important consent is, let’s talk about ways to get and acknowledge it. It’s important to understand that the way every person shows consent is not universal.
So, I am someone that sometimes doesn’t catch onto ‘hints’ or subtleties. I often wonder if I’m on the autistic spectrum in some real-world mundane encounters. One thing I’m great at though is consent. I ask verbally. In all the times I’ve asked over the last decade, only once did the other person find the act of asking to be weird, but in even that case, things proceeded normally a few hours later.
If you are already engaged in conversation, and you feel the urge to kiss the other person, add the question into the conversation. It is my anecdotal observation that direct questions are the best. “Can I kiss you?” puts it right out there what you want. If she says no, let her know you respect her feelings, then move onto another topic. Asking doesn’t have to be a formal affair. It’s not like you have to do it with lawyers present. While I like to say it straight terms “Can I kiss you?” perhaps you can use prettier language. Asking with a smile certainly helps ease tension. It’s important (no matter if you are asking for a kiss or sex or even just to hold hands) that you ensure the other person feels valued and does not feel put on the spot.
I will talk more about understanding consent more… but this is honestly the best way to find consent. Dr. Lisa Feldman told Vice “If your desire is to have sex with someone, you are MORE likely to PERCEIVE actions as signaling intent.” You don’t know what is going through her head, but an actual no is better than a maybe that wants to be a no. There may be some subtle clues she’s giving but to make it easy think of it as this… Yes means “for now”, Maybe means “No”, and No means “No.” It’s important to grasp what “for now” means as well, because as the encounter moves forward, there’s a possibility that could change. This isn’t anyone’s fault, but if she wants to stop, the last thing in the world you should do is make her feel bad about it. If asked to stop, do so immediately, then show her you care about her feelings and talk about it. Ask her if she wants a glass of water, then sit down and have an honest conversation. She’s a person, so talk about stuff with this person.
If you read the first two entrances and STILL can’t find the will to simply verbalize your request as an option, then try pointing. Make it a game of charades. “Can I kiss you?” is 4 syllables, 4 words.
Draw you doing the actions you want to do. Over your body part write “me” and over hers write “you.” Make sure that you draw a heart, so that it’s clear that it’s with love.
Those last two are obviously supposed to be silly, however if they work, they work. Every person is different, and every person shows consent in different ways. I have a friend who’s into primalism who is completely turned off by verbal consent. But she makes her interest known in other ways. She uses touch when there is shared interest. When the feelings aren’t mutual, she gets distracted and busies herself with other things. Before she ever touches a person, she first acknowledges that their interest is there, THEN she makes a move. Primalism is technically considered a kink, so she doesn’t enter into any situation without this knowledge known first.
The bottom line is consent MUST be had. It’s worth swallowing your pride to get it.
Doe, Lindsay. “Consent” Sexplanations, Oct 2013.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5H6QvNmfjY
“Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics”, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence
Ro, Christine. “Why most rape victims never acknowledge what happened”. BBC Future https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20181102-why-dont-rape-and-sexual-assault-victims-come-forward
“Tea Consent”. Blue Seat Studios. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQbei5JGiT8
“Consent”. Vice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhFyGz8wQaY&t=775s