Consent… Because it’s not just about saying “No”

I found an amazing page with a great definition and guidelines for consent. http://teenhealthsource.com/sex/sexual-consent/

It doesn’t matter what your age, race, gender identity, political affiliation, religion, etc. Consent isn’t just about saying no. It’s about saying yes and enthusiasm. A good example: My daughter has Lyme. She is often in pain and hugs can be miserable for her. I never hug her without consent. And sometimes, I get the teenage response “sure.” You know the one…sure, I will do that but I’m not happy about it. So, while she doesn’t tell me no, and her words say okay, it’s not enthusiastic. It’s not genuine but she doesn’t want to say no because she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings. I opt to not get that hug from her. I can wait for when she is ready for it.

You see, I use that example because consent is not just about sexual touch. That’s a big piece, but any touch can be unwanted and we should respect everyone’s personal space. I am a huge hugger. I am a touchy feely person. But, if I feel the urge to give someone a hug, or just provide a calming touch to the arm, I ask, and read the response.

The other night, my nephew sent me a text all about consent. He found it in the following link: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/698733 . It discusses the fact that consent just isn’t really enough. Consent should include negotiations. These negotiations should not just include whether or not to have sex, but also how to exit sex. Yes, exit. Because many things can happen between consent and the end of sex that could change one party’s mind. There must be an exit plan also. Dare I say it…Vanilla relationships should also have a safeword. And the inbetween should be negotiated too. What do you like? What woulld you like to explore? What are your hard limits, things you expect to never be asked to do because you have already set that limit?

I grew up in a pretty sex positive environment. But I still didn’t feel comfortable sharing my fantasies. I didn’t want anyone thinking I was a freak. I am so far beyond that. I really don’t care what people think. If you can accept me for exactly who I am, you probably don’t belong in my life. If not, be with people you can accept. I’m not everyone’s taste. But, when I figured that out, I was able to talk with potential partners and share what I like and what I don’t.

Going into a power dynamic, consent MUST be negotiated. When I look for a partner, I absolutely look for compatibility. But there is so much more that I look at, that I never thought about in a “vanilla” relationship. Safewords are always discussed. Not just how to exit the moment, but how to slow it down or redirect it. “Yellow” – Sir knows if I call yellow, I am starting to not enjoy something. It’s a way to redirect the scene to something that is pleasurable for both of us. “Purple” – well, that means I can’t take anymore and the scene is done immediately. I have talked with my Dominant about my limits and what I don’t want to and won’t do. Yes, we negotiated all of that. But, what’s more amazing, is when you have found a partner that will not just listen for the safewords, but continue to ask if you need to use them. For instance, when I have had a particularly emotional day, I like to be hit very hard. And, I cry. I can’t help it. This is such an emotional release for me. The pain of the belt brings all my emotional pain to the surface and let’s it all out at once. But imagine how that feels to my partner. I am not using my safewords, yet I am crying. He does not just listen for my safewords. He understands that is not good enough. This is about pleasure for both of us, not just him. When tears start, he stops, soothes me, asks if I want to stop…. Think about that for a moment. I have an exit plan in place already…no questions asked…just “purple.” My partner does not wait for “purple.” And he is constantly checking in. No matter how wild or crazy, the check in is a moment of gentleness and kindness. It’s a moment of such intense caring, when he stops and gently rubs my back and whispers “are you okay” or “Let’s stop for a bit and see how you are.” It is one of the sexiest things I can think of.

Vanilla relationships are the same. Shouldn’t we tell our partners in the very beginning what we are willing to offer and what we are not willing to offer? We should ask the same of our partner. Most people enjoy talking about what they like. It can be amazing foreplay. Negotiations will happen throughout the relationship. Limits change all the time. But when you start a relationship with consent in mind, it’s a great way to open up communication, and that’s the biggest part of a relationship.

As I said in the beginning, consent is not just about sex. It’s about personal space. It starts at a young age. If your child does not want to be hugged, respect the personal space. Ask permission before touching someone. Each time someone is asked permission, it empowers that person more to command respect of their body. But here is the thing. None of this will stop all the consent violations out there. Remember, consent is not just about saying No. If you felt unsafe to say no, if you felt you were in a position of not being able to consent, please remember there are resources out there. And never minimize how you feel when you don’t give consent. Rape is not the only consent violation. I have heard people minimize what they went through if it wasn’t rape. Any unwanted touch is a violation. If you’re married, your spouse still needs consent. If you need help, look to your local resources. Most local sexual assault agencies have hotlines. And many have advocates who will respect your decision to report or not. They can help you make the report. And they will believe you. If you find you need medical care, most agencies have advocates who can be there for you through that process too. If you are not sure of a local program, call RAINN at 800-656-HOPE (4673). This is a national hotline and they will connect you with a local provider.

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