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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Column: Consent can be sexy, start practicing now

Today concludes Take Back the Night Week, an awareness-raising week-long event focusing on issues of sexual assault and safety. This Thursday FAC sponsored a workshop on consent, led by my lovely co-author this week, Emma Lawler ’09. We’re here to refute the immortal words of Ursula, the infamous Sea Witch from everyone’s favorite childhood movie The Little Mermaid. Little did you know, you need to be working against most of what you learned from Disney movies in your adult sexual relations. Body language is important and sexy (sometimes; did you go to Underwear Ball?), but it isn’t enough.

In the vague mysticism of sex knowledge, it sometimes can be hard to know how and when you need to ask for and give consent. Consent can be sexy, and it isn’t signing a contract, despite what you may have taken away from R. Kelly’s trial. We aren’t talking about license and registration here—we’re talking about talking. Consent is important every step of the way in your intimate endeavors and you need to find a space between silence and finding out someone’s full sexual history, especially that time they got rug burns during the Super Bowl halftime show. From your first kiss together to introducing your kink to a new partner, vocalizing your desires and understanding their comfort level can be as fun as the down and dirty itself. Feeling out someone’s feelings about feeling you feels good—trust us.

There is a grand misconception in many of our minds that talking about sex and consent is a mood-killer. Let’s be real—you’re not robbing anyone of the mystery of what’s going on between your ears and your legs. Consciously practicing consent can be a hard thing to start doing, especially if you aren’t used to the idea or don’t even know the words. But it’s called practicing consent for a reason—the more you do it, the better you get. You have to go big or go home, no pun intended.

There are little ways to practice giving and asking for consent that don’t involve sex, of course. The best way to respect each others’ personal boundaries is to begin practicing consent that shows your attention to and acknowledgement of other bodies. Instead of playing with someone’s hair, ask if you may. Don’t grab someone’s hand and assume they’ll be okay with it. Instead, tell them you’d like to hold their hand if they want to. Practice consent with your friends and strangers alike.

We’ve already said it, but giving and receiving consent is definitely sexy. In the zine “Learning Good Consent,” (Google it; it’s a really awesome compilation of writings on personal journeys and tips and suggestions and stories, all about consent) an unnamed author writes, “what’s so hot, so empowering, so fucking amazing about consent is that the yes’s really become yes’s. The first time you hear no, it validates all the yes’s.” Really, that’s just about the best way to say it.

So, learn to ask. Turn it into a game—with rules maybe?—we all know that can be fun. But you have to ask every time. Just because you’ve touched her chest like 80 million times before does not make them yours. “Can I take your shirt off?” might seem a little redundant if your boy is squirming a little with excitement but you don’t know until you ask! Without it, you cannot understand what they want or what they’re thinking.

Consent is fun, and consent is sexy. Consent is about learning how to please your lover the best you can through open and honest communication. So, in addition to knowing, without any doubt, that your partner wants exactly what you’re about to give them, there’s a pretty good opportunity here of learning exactly how they want it. Teach your partner how to please you just how you like it—it’s not just about if you can take the panties off, it’s when.

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