After reading about the accusations against Aziz Ansari I feel like we must have a discussion about the boundaries of consent. If we look at cases like Harvey Weinstein’s it is fairly clear that he is a despicable person, who took advantage of women who depended on him. But as the article states, he is the exception. Most sexual encounters and experiences are with someone who is our equal (or as good as).
I support all sexual assault victims – I am one of them – and believe they must come forward and share their story. They must feel comfortable in telling about their experience publicly and privately, by not being silenced or discouraged. This is important for their own mental health and also to prevent the same predators to go unpunished repeatedly. Sexual predators are often also responsible for other damaging behavior, like domestic violence and child abuse. That is why this is so immensely important.
But on the other hand side, we must not go to far in the other direction and start over analyzing and over simplifying matters. We can declare in a sterile way that “a yes means yes” but what does that mean for the individual situation? In sexual encounters you don’t tick off a questionnaire before doing it. The situation unfolds naturally and it has been so for centuries.
Here we come to the question of non verbal cues. That can be anything and nothing. It is import to put the responsibility where it belongs, at the person who is feeling uncomfortable. If you are in a consensual sexual encounter and feel uncomfortable with something, it is your responsibility to communicate it. You might feel uncomfortable or afraid that you will ruin the mood, but you need to have the courage to do it anyway. I am sure your partner would rather stop having sex than later regret having made you feel violated. You are not doing him a favor.
Women have been told for way to long that they are the man’s little sex toy and have to “close their eyes and think of England”. We need to empower them to be able to not only state what they dislike, but actively participate in sex and ask for what they want. That is the new sexy. You need to say what you want and not be laying there like a dead fish. If I was a man, I would feel insulted by that and they should. If your partner is not responding to what you are doing, stop and ask “what is wrong?” if she says “nothing” you keep digging for an answer. This can’t be fun for a man either. Don’t accept the “a no means yes” or “a lady would never say anything, so silence is a yes” – we are past that. If a woman is not adult enough to say what she likes, she is not adult enough to have sex. That is a pity and quite annoying but you need to get yourself out of that situation. She needs to grow up first. The same goes for hot-cold behavior. If a woman is saying yes, then no, then yes – just leave her to sort herself out, she is clearly unwilling.
Especially for the first sexual encounters you should be aware that you really don’t know this person and their body language. And they don’t know you either. So communication needs to be clear as day. Mumbling, turning your face and all that can be interpreted in various ways. Make yourself clear by sitting up, turning on the light, getting up, pushing the other away etc. Things that cannot be misunderstood. If the other person is willfully misunderstanding you or pressuring you, leave. It is not worth it. Make your stance clear, so that in future encounters – with this person or others – you have a standard that you keep. This is called self respect and confidence and you need to have it or develop it.
But as we have not reached this position yet, men need to take responsibility also. If your partner is not actively participating – even if it’s a pain for you – you need to stop what you’re doing and ask them. Disregarding the legal implications or the public shaming, you as a decent human being do not want to hurt someone, I am sure. You wanted to have sex with this person, be very intimate and feel her – so I will just take it as granted that you want her to have fun also and not scar her for life. So to prevent that, in the first encounters, you need to concentrate on your partner more. You need to ask these questions and for new practices, ask for permission. And this is possible in a non-sterile way. I never understood why people think consent cannot be sexy – the opposite is the case!
If you want to penetrate her for the first time, you will probably not be like “May I push my penis inside your vagina? Please sign here.” That’s ridiculous. But it would be possible to say “I want to feel you, I want to be inside you” That can be fucking sexy if delivered in a horny, husky voice, eyes burning with desire and lust. Giving a woman that respect is sexy. Also just saying out loud what you want to do with somebody requires confidence and that is damn sexy, almost like dirty talk. But I am aware that not everyone has that confidence, so you can give the same respect by just looking up at her with a questioning look and wait for her ‘yes’ or a nod.
Please expect consent in your sexual encounters and actively ask for it if it is unclear. Don’t take the other person’s body as a given and your right to posses. It is not. The best explanation of this I found was the Consent Castle which means that you build consent brick by brick together with your partner. In the beginning there needs to be more communication and as the relationship develops you understand what the other person wants and enjoys. Then you only need to ask for permission about new things that you want to try. And building that castle is a fun process, it’s not a pain or a mood killer. Rather it is the basis for great sex that both people enjoy and feel immensely good about.