Saturday, October 18, 2008


Wow, a blog about class! :-)

Last week, my professor asked us to answer how we knew the other person was consenting to sex. And ive been pondering this now ever since.

Ive realized that 1) I am a very self centered person, most of the thoughts that go through my head are about me, and how others interaction with me. And 2) I know when I am consenting, thus other should know when they are consenting, and say something if it is not going as they planned.

But, I also tend to place a lot of responsibility onto other people. If you dont like something? Say something. Dont like your food at a restaurant? Send it back! Want your partner to do something for you? Ask! Dont like how the sexual encounter is going? Say something. People are not mind readers!

We seem to have this unspoken expectation that "others" should know what we want. The Usual Error is that we think other people should think like us. (Actually, my mom pointed out that Ive always had this viewpoint, even as a very small child.) The issue is that some take the idea that because our partners *do not* read our minds, that something is doomed in that relationship or sexual encounter.

To get back to consent, I think its an internal process, rather than one that everyone has to buy into equally and all times. Instead of accepting the idea of ambiguity, one decides what they are willing to do, and/or what is needed for one to enjoy that act. For example, I feel perfectly comfortable saying "While I wouldnt ask for it, X, Y and Z are things that I would be okay with if my partner asked for them." But, ive done enough thinking about my self to know that. I also trust that my partner has gone though a similar thought process, and would not be going along with however the encounter is going if they were not comfortable with the situation.

Sex is about communicating with the people involved for a mutually agreeable encounter. If one partner doesnt want it, its not any fun, however, I do think that it is up to the partner that does not want it to make it clear.

(This does not apply in the instance of coercion, in any of its many forms.)


eliz said...

i think that we are really seriously socialized to not necessarily know what we are thinking/wanting during sex, and not wanting to upset other people by saying no. i think this is especially true for survivors of any form of sexual abuse, but also extends more generally. as such, i definitely check in around consent.
i am much better at saying what i want/need than i used to be, since i worked on it a lot, but sometimes still having someone ask, "is this okay?" makes me either realize it is or is not, or else lets me say what i was already thinking.
i have found that checking in feels awkward at first usually, but then is generally really good for everyone involved. admittedly, i travel in some pretty leftist queer circles, but i have gotten a lot of people being like "i have never checked in like this before during sex. it is so great!"
so, that is my input. putting the requirement to say no on the person who might want things to stop feels like it doesn't take into account people's complicated histories around consent, abuse, and the mandate to please people, and giving space to make a decision is a pretty easy step to take to help make things more open.

Julia said...

I find it helpful to discuss boundaries before sex, and discuss what worked for me and what didn't work for me after sex. It's pretty amazing what feedback given to someone who knows how to listen will do for future sessions.

Also, checking in when trying something new is a good idea, and being able to say, "Stop, that isn't working for me" or something similar ("Stop, that's hurting me" if you're not into BDSM, for example) is a good thing.

Issa said...

My thoughts get all convoluted about issues of consent. I hate to be checked up on. Usually, unless someone's really smooth, asking if something is okay comes off to me in a worried or whiny tone that I just don't like to hear during sex. I've started "pre-consenting" with new partners at the beginning, before any sex stuff starts. Basically, I tell them that the answer is just yes, I'm already consenting to whatever it is they want to do, and they shouldn't feel the urge to check in with me later or second guess me if I get intoxicated or whatever. The last time I did this I offered to provide references, if that would make them more comfortable, so they could get a second opinion about whether I mean it when I say that the answer is a blanket yes. It's actually a pretty fun conversation to have. :-)