by Michele Zipp
With the #MeToo movement comes so many people taking a hard look at their dating and sex lives and wondering if they are respectful and doing it right in the age of rape culture. It’s long overdue, of course, though so many have been trying to change this culture for a very long time. Since the conversation is now everywhere, and thankfully unavoidable, we have to examine consent in a very blatant way. And doing it in a way that feels natural, even sexy. It’s truly about communication, listening to one another.
Chances are there may have been some blunders along the way for people reading this. This is not to say that all of the mistakes have been in the name of being an awful person and not caring about the person you are with. This is what makes rape culture so challenging to stop — it’s so embedded in our history, our ways, the norm of what some have excused as just part of the experience. The exposing of experiences like the one with Aziz Ansari helps to create change. I want to believe he feels deep pain for the hurt involved with his night with “Grace” and I also want to believe that despite the shame he may feel, the revelation of it and his examination of his actions can really make a difference.
The only way through a bad experience is to really go through it, and learn from it. That’s how we come out on the “other side” as a better person, as a being who is willing to learn from mistakes, as a more enlightened and empathetic human. Consent should be word of the year. It’s needs to be what we are all talking about with our children, our friends, our loved ones, and our lovers and dates.
Here are some guidelines about consent:
First, slow down.
If you’re hooking up with someone for the first or fiftieth time, there is no need to rush anything unless both parties are clearly articulating that things should move fast. As in the consensual quickie. In the age of online and device connectivity and seemingly instant responses to anything on social media, we have to remember that real life isn’t and shouldn’t be that way, too.
Unless there is a clear and distinct and spirited “let’s do this right now” verbalized. Savor the moments. Enjoy the kissing. Ask questions along the way. Slow the fuck down.
Pay attention to non-verbal cues.
If someone pushes your hand away, keep your hand away. Common non-verbal cues that mean “no” and “stop” include looking away, shaking head no, seeming upset, crying, not initiating, not responding, seeming tense, silence, just lying there. If at any time you sense your partner coming close to any of these cues, stop immediately and ask how they are feeling and if they are comfortable with what is happening.
Non-verbal cues that point in the “yes” and “don’t stop” direction include direct eye contact, your partner pulling you closer, laughing, smiling, and active participation. There is a distinct difference.
Heed verbal cues as well.
“Unless you hear an emphatic yes, it’s a no,” my friend Elissa Lynne wrote during a lively discussion on social media. “And when you hear a no, it doesn’t mean keep trying,” Nikki Vly added.
Here are some common non-consent words:
I don’t know.
I don’t think so.
I want you, but not right now.
This doesn’t feel right.
I think we should stop.
I’m not ready for this.
If you suspect that your partner is uncomfortable, ask:
Do you want to stop?
Do you want to keep going?
Does this feel okay?
Which leads us to coercion. Coercion is never okay. Ever. There shouldn’t be any pressure on someone to do something they already said (or non-verbally expressed) they don’t want to do. This should be the moment the person stops trying anything and listens. It’s often not just our mouths that do the talking, our body responds and reacts in ways that signal a stop.
Nikki shared, “Friends who have sex with women (or any people with vaginas): Next time you find that the vagina of your partner is not sufficiently naturally lubricated to insert something into, before you spit on your fingers and stick them in there to remedy the situation, please consider that the vagina is a self-lubricating organ. It is usually wet enough by itself when it’s ready to accept something. Consider that, instead of making it artificially ready, you might want to take a pause and find out whether your partner is ready to escalate to penetration at all, and if she’d like to get there eventually this time, what might help her produce natural lubrication. Maybe it’s for you to listen to her. Maybe it’s for you to help her feel like she matters. It could be any number of things that spitting on your fingers and sticking them inside of her does not achieve.”
Sex should be consensual but also enjoyable and connective. It’s not something you do to someone, it’s something two people do together. You should only want to have sex with someone who wants to have sex with you. If your urges say otherwise, seek help.
So how do you make consent a “sexy” conversation?
Creativity shouldn’t just come with sex or foreplay. It should come in the romance as well. If you want to ask someone if you can kiss them and you feel odd asking, try a note. Write it down on a piece of paper while sitting next to the person you want to kiss and give it to them. Take yourself back to the days of youth where you sent a letter asking someone to go out with you with a circle yes or no. It’s a beautiful thing to know someone wants to kiss you. It’s also incredible to take that moment to think about the kiss before it happens. (Remember the first point: slow down.) Or, you know, just ask. “Can I kiss you?”
If you are kissing someone and all cues are a yes and you want to take things further, just ask:
Do you want me to touch you? Show me how.
Ask for directions on exactly how the person wants to be touched.
Are you sure you are ready for me?
How does this feel?
Should I keep going?
Do you want me to stop?
Can I put your ___ in my mouth?
Words of consent include: yes, don’t stop, I want this, I want you to ___, that feels good.
A major fail in so many relationships and something we all have to continuously work on is communication. This involves speaking and articulating your feelings but also truly hearing what the other person has to say.
Consent is one part of changing rape culture — a culture that is perpetuated through misogynist language, objectification of women’s bodies, and the fact that sexual violence is too often normalized everywhere we look including in music, TV, and movies. Our President, Donald Trump, is one of the greatest subscribers to rape culture. And “greatest” isn’t a compliment though I suspect he may see it as such.
After reviewing the consent guidelines, let’s now take a look at some of the more sexiest remarks Trump has made. We’ve all heard them before, but as we become more enlightened with the deep issues surrounding this language, they may feel different, worse. Trump’s comments include:
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy.”
“A person who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.”
“I moved on her very heavily. I moved on her like a bitch.”
He also called Megyn Kelly a bimbo and blamed high rates of sexual assaults in the military on the fact that men and women serve together. Because, you know, men shouldn’t be expected to control themselves.
The world is watching as Trump makes men to be conquerors with big hands and bigger missiles and women are conquests whose words and actions do not matter. Don’t be like Trump. Don’t subscribe to locker room talk. That’s not an excuse.
We should all know that men don’t have to “score” with a woman to be “cool” or “manly.” And how a woman dresses is never a yes. We all need to be more mindful with our words and more observant of cues … in every situation but especially when it comes to sex and dating.
Tolerating locker room talk and all forms of sexual harassment just continues the cycle of violence against women. This is why we have to look carefully at the culture. And this needs to be said: This goes for men, women, and gender-non-identifying people; it also transcends sexual orientation.
Unlearning rape culture will take a long time. But we can do it. We can make change happen. And honestly, it’s all going to make consensual sex better.