This is an ongoing series to try to ward off some of the damage Betsy DeVos is going to do to our education system by selling children for profit and staging bear fights. Part I: Risk can be found here.
Consent is probably the most important topic that goes wholly ignored in health classes nationwide. Everything is filtered through the lens of avoiding physical risk by way of pregnancy or disease.
Instead of merely teaching children and teens the consequences of unhealthy sexual practices, we should be teaching them what healthy, enjoyable sex looks like. Consent is not a difficult topic. It’s pretty easy to ask and confirm that your partner is an enthusiastic participant in sex. Most of the learning needed to be done falls on young men who, because of toxic definitions of masculinity, have some pretty shitty thoughts about sex and how they should go about having it. But it’s irresponsible to focus solely on young men. We should also be reminding, affirming, and supporting the agency of young women and their ability to be active, enthusiastic participants in sex. Or not. Whichever they choose.
- An individual cannot consent if they are drunk, high, or otherwise impaired.
- Coercing someone into sex is not consent.
- They cannot consent if they are asleep.
- They can revoke consent at any time. If they do you should stop.
- Individuals can consent to one act but not another. They can consent at one time but not another. No one instance of consent is indicative of any other instance of consent.
- It won’t ruin the mood to check in with your partner if you are unsure, or to have a frank discussion with them about what you both want and expect. Contrary to what movies would have you believe, sex isn’t smooth and suave, it’s often awkward and weird. Sometimes someone gets cum up their nose.
- All of this applies to sex workers who, contrary to the beliefs of some, retain their agency at all times.
I feel like I shouldn’t have to say these things, but depressingly I know I do.
All participants should be enthusiastic participants in sex. Consent is such a low bar…really the aim in any sexual encounter should be not just a willingness, but a strong desire.
Consent is an especially important topic for someone like me who is involved in BDSM. Not only is there the intimate act of sex (whatever form it may take) but also the trust that comes with restraint, humiliation, or impact play. These aren’t activities where you can be only 90% sure of a person’s willingness to participate. It’s all-in or nothing. (And honestly the same mentality should apply to any sex.)
I’ve spent time as both a submissive and a Dominant, though far more as the latter so most of my experience will come from that side of things. I’ve played with people that have some BDSM experience and people who have virtually none. It can be a very daunting thing to approach from the submissive side, opening yourself to someone sexually while also being restrained, humiliated, or flogged.
A submissive partner should have 100% confidence in their Dominant. They should have agreed-upon safewords so that play can be slowed or stopped as necessary. They should have clearly outlined their limits and have had at least some discussion with their Dominant over what to expect, at least early on. They should also be willing and able to communicate when something isn’t working well. If a submissive doesn’t have 100% confidence in me, then the only responsible thing to do is to respect that and not play with them.
For Dominants, their number one priority should be taking the responsibility of having control over another person seriously. They should be extremely invested in their submissive’s enjoyment of a scene. A lot of people see BDSM play as one party acting on, or catering to another, but it should be mutually enjoyable. Both people are just getting something different out of it. If I can’t trust a submissive to be communicative I can’t play with them. I have a lot of rope experience, and a fair knowledge of human anatomy, but everyone’s body is a little bit different and I have no way of knowing a tie doesn’t feel good (in the wrong way) until someone tells me.
There are a lot of ways to check in with someone during sex or during a scene that aren’t intrusive. Having them beg to service you, asking if they’re enjoying themselves, asking them how much they’re enjoying themselves. People think that affirming consent is intrusive, but if you’re invested in the intimacy with another person, making sure they’re enjoying themselves should be pretty damn sexy.
I could write on, but it all comes back to the same refrain: all participants should be enthusiastic in their desire to have sex.