Consent

I’m a big fan of enthusiastic consent in all things, but particularly when it comes to physical contact with someone. If I’m in a situation where I think physical contact might be desired by all parties I like to explicitly say, “I’d like to kiss you, would you like that?” (Or hug, play with breasts, cuddle, or exchange sexy pictures, etc). I’ve heard some people say that such explicit discussion can “kill the mood”… which is a small price to pay to prevent sexually assaulting someone. Besides, rarely has the mood been killed by communication.

One of three things generally happens. First, the person says “Yes, I’d really enjoy kissing you”, in which case we kiss. Two, the person says “Umm, sure, I guess”, in which case I don’t think that is enthusiastic and I don’t try to kiss the person because I don’t want to make them uncomfortable. Three, the person says “No, thank you” and I avoid violating their personal space. Even the worst case scenario is 100x better than sexually assaulting someone. This certainly means that I’ve missed out on kisses, boobs, and bangs because of this. I have been too afraid to ask or misread signals, but that’s okay. I’d rather never touch another person again than touch someone that didn’t want to be touched. Luckily, most of my experiences have been positive and the person I’m interested in enthusiastically consents, and I think they appreciate me asking instead of taking (and, of course, my partner has consented ahead of time… we discuss pretty thoroughly our boundaries with other people before any new situation). Hopefully, our culture will shift to one of explicit consent and more people will feel comfortable asking instead of waiting or taking.

What’s interesting to me is that many of the people who express concern about “explicit consent” tend to be libertarians (I’m speaking in pretty broad generalities based on my personal perception). A group of people who say they value individual autonomy and property rights tends to care more about someone trespassing on land (a violation of property rights) over forced physical contact without consent (which is often just shrugged off as a misunderstanding). Personal touch is significantly more intimate and a greater rights issue than stepping on someone’s grass, but libertarians will often defend someone’s right to kill over trespassing and ignore sexual assaults or touch that wasn’t consented to. If you can demand explicit consent to enter someone’s home you should be comfortable with demanding explicit consent to enter someone’s body.

And I don’t think being drunk is any excuse. If someone is intoxicated we recognize that they can’t consent to sign a contract and they really can’t consent to sexual contact. I recognize the drunk line is difficult to determine… so maybe we should encourage people to err on the side of caution. If you think someone is kind of drunk maybe you should just wait until the next morning to hook up with them, or have a conversation with them about boundaries before Bacchus takes control.

I just don’t understand why there is such an aversion to getting explicit verbal consent before touching another person. Talking should be easier than touching, and if you aren’t ready to say “Would you like to kiss?” then maybe you aren’t ready to actually do the kissing. Consent is sexy, consent is healthy, consent should be explicitly and enthusiastically provided. That is the only way to honor someone’s rights over their own body.

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