Since #metoo people are finally beginning to talk about consent and sexual violence. Twenty years ago the conversation about consent was as simple as, “no means no,” however as we have learned more about the way trauma impacts the brain and what is needed for genuine and enthusiastic consent the conversation is finally going far beyond this. In my job as a consent educator I go to schools and basically teach kids to not be dicks. As y’all are grown ups, I will skip the basics, but I do think it’s important for me to go through some of the consent mistakes that are still made and how to avoid them, as ignoring them may be the difference between perhaps being slightly annoying and checking in too much vs having someone feel traumatized and violated.
First of all I think it’s important to point out, because some men may not have thought about this point, genitals can be scary as fuck. Like terrifying. In the right atmosphere dicks can be arousing, sexy, and exactly what we want to see and feel. However, dicks can also hold with them the power to degrade, and control people. A dick can literally be used as a weapon. Yes, of course a pussy can also be used as a weapon, but due to societal and physiological differences, dick owners are far more likely to be aggressors. What often happens once someone perceives a threat, especially when it is a sexual threat, is that their body goes into freeze mode. This means that the person is unable to say no, as the part of their brain that is involved in logical reasoning shuts down, and they go into survival mode where their “old brain” takes over. For an unobservant lover, this freeze response may seem like somebody is simply a quiet lover. Every once in a while an aggressor purposefully uses power and control to forcibly ra/pe a person, but what I see more often is somebody who violates consent due to a lack of education, empathy and awareness. With the deepening of conversations about consent many people, including myself, have come to realize that in past life situations they may have accidentally acted non-consensually, or not been as thoughtful or communicative as they should have been. Unfortunately, making mistakes is often part of learning and part of cultural change. As long as you learn from your mistakes and work towards being better in the future, mistakes like this can be forgiven.
So how do you be thoughtful and make sure your partner really wants to be hooking up with you? Learn to read your partner's verbal and non-verbal signals. What we are looking for is enthusiastic consent, this is where everything about the person is saying fuck me now. Research shows that when heterosexual men are into a woman they may interpret contradicting or unclear signals as showing that the person is into them. Never make assumptions and if you see anything unclear, check in. For example, if the person you are into said they didn’t want to hook up earlier in the night, but now they seem to be wanting to suck your dick, ensure that they genuinely changed their mind. If while you are hooking up you see your partner tense up, look uncomfortable, or stop moaning, immediately stop and check in with them. If you ask your partner to do something and they say no, don’t ask them again that night, as they may say yes because they feel pressured and not because they are genuinely enjoying the interaction.
Consent doesn’t have to be annoying. You don’t have to be like “Can I touch your shoulder? Can I touch your lips? Can I touch your dick?” There are non-verbal ways to escalate a situation. Most of consent is about really trying to put yourself in the other person's shoes and noticing their non-verbal responses. Ideally, in a sexual interaction there is a back and forth, as the situation escalates. Partner A starts making out with Partner B, Partner B feels Partner A’s boobs, Partner A moans and reaches towards Partner B’s jeans. When it is one partner that is doing all of the escalation, and the other partner is not simply a pillow princess, but looks uncomfortable or like they don’t want to be doing this that is a problem.
What do you do when a partner looks uncomfortable? You check in with them. There are SO many different reasons that a person may be giving you an inconsistent response. Perhaps they are actually really into you, and just have a weird turned on face. Perhaps they are into you, but your feet smell weird and they would love to hook up post shower. Perhaps they aren’t that into you and only agreed to go out with you because they felt pressured to. Regardless, communication is the only way to genuinely figure out what is going on with someone. The vast majority of us only want to be fucking people that want to fuck us, so learning how to communicate and pay attention to non-verbal cues and be in tune with your partner is beneficial to both parties.
Niki "I ask" Davis - resident Consent Educator