Perhaps the most common objection to practicing consent is rooted in the perception that asking someone to kiss or touch them will “kill the mood” or is somehow not romantic, as if being clear about what’s happening between two people makes it less sexy.
If consent is not explicit, then it goes into the unspoken realm of implied assumption.
“She’s smiling when I give her my bedroom eyes; she must be into me.” “He’s a guy, of course he wants sex.” “She’s wearing a short skirt; she must want it.” “They’re my partner/lover, why wouldn’t we have sex when I want it?”
As dated and presumptuous as these stereotypes are, they are still far too common in our culture. The challenge is that there are innumerable assumptions, expectations, and projections that play in the background of our sexual experiences. Yet little is spoken to clarify and fact-check these unspoken beliefs.
Perhaps not speaking our desires stems from the shame-laden taboo around sex our culture has inherited from the bible. As if our silence means it’s not really happening. Or… if it goes unspoken, we are somehow magically relieved of responsibility for it happening. We even commonly refer to sex as “it” to further distance ourselves from the truth of our desires, and our full sexual expression.
Asking to kiss or touch someone is an invitation into the experience, into the moment, into the mood. It’s like opening a door and creating the opportunity for a person to enter willingly. It becomes an experience we’re saying yes to instead of something happening to us.
I am often surprised when someone goes to kiss me without asking first. For me, connection and intimacy start with conversation, in getting to know each other or if we’re already familiar, deepening the connection.
If someone wants to shift from conversation to intimacy, I personally need something more than them just making a move. I want the opportunity to say yes, or no, depending on my level of desire, how my body feels, etc. And asking is an expression of respect. Respect is hot.
Conversation is indeed a form of foreplay. It’s subtle, potentially seductive, sweet, or salty, and weaves a container that can hold the intimacy should the energy move in that direction.
Talking about our desires in a casual way, before the heat of the moment ignites, is a great way to build sexual tension, and cover the bases of essential topics, including our fantasies, boundaries, and curiosities. If a new connection, discuss safe sex methods and practices, when the last time you’ve been tested for STDs, and disclose any relevant info. If a familiar connection, share anything new about your body, desires, and boundaries. You can also go deeper into fantasy land.
When we normalize these points of conversation, we will have broken the taboo of sex and opened the way for greater sexual fulfillment and mutual respect.
Let’s consider for a moment that if “a mood” completely breaks because you share your desires and boundaries, ask about the other person’s desires and boundaries, and otherwise talk openly about sex, what does that really say about them? If they’re unable to say yes, fuck yes, then hell no. What disempowered old paradigm values of gendered roles are hidden under the surface? With the epidemic of boundary violations, harassment, and sexual assault, it clearly illustrates the necessity of creating a new paradigm around sex and intimacy. That new paradigm is consent.
But wait, women tell me they don’t like to be asked, that it shows a lack of confidence.
Here’s the challenge… we have all been conditioned – men, women, and gender non-conformers alike – by this same broken system that has upheld abuse while simultaneously silencing those who are abused, though that time is over. What this means is that our empowerment has been bound up in a dysfunctional frame of what we can speak, how we’re supposed to act, what’s supposed to happen, and the myriad of unspoken social contracts that often lead to repressed or oppressive sexual experiences.
I have heard from multiple men that they’ve been laughed at or mocked by women for asking consent. When it comes to the movement to end sexual harassment and assault, this is so not helpful.
To the women this speaks to, please consider… Why would a man asking if you desire something show a lack of confidence in him? Is it really a lack of confidence in him, or is it a lack of confidence in you? Where are you unable to own your desire, your voice, your natural, sexual self?
Let’s keep in mind that women are boxed in hard between slut shaming and being the good girl. There’s a way that this dysfunctional program tells us that we’re not allowed to have desires, let alone speak them, and forget about having any sense of agency over our own bodies.
If you’re like me, you have had the thought that women are “supposed to be taken” by their lover deeply seeded into you. And while some may genuinely enjoy this, and playing with power dynamics through bondage and discipline has its place, this as a general norm for women is bullshit.
The first step then is to get to know our desire, where our boundaries are, what opens us up, what shuts us down, what hurts, what feels good, and what lights our fire. Engaging this inquiry and owning one’s voice can feel vulnerable, yet also expansive and fun. Let it be a playful exploration into the unknown and allow it to reshape the contours of your desire.
In truth, many men LOVE when women share with them how they like to be touched, an invitation to open the pleasure vault of a woman’s body. Though this isn’t limited to male/female relationships. Intimacy and sex are better for everyone when we know what brings our lovers pleasure.
Consent Made Fiery Hot
If you’re truly in the “mood” and the energy is building, meaning that it’s mutually shared, not assumed, it is easy to ask in a way that is totally fucking hot.
Passion is fire. Small pieces of tinder and kindling are needed before the bigger pieces of firewood catch; before our lust has the potential to ignite into ecstatic bliss. Conversation is the tinder, and the slow, sensuous kisses and touch are the kindling. Consent is the spark that starts the fire burning.
Think of it this way, the more tinder and kindling that are set, the stronger the foundation for the fire. The stronger the foundation, the easier the fire will catch when lit with consent, and you’ll have a better burn. The end result is a hot, fiery, passionate experience that is sexy AF.
Fire is an amazing teacher when it comes to connection, desire, intimacy, and sex. For further exploration, build a fire yourself and see what you learn.
Transitions are Everything
I was having a drink with a friend one evening. I had a crush on him, but I thought it wasn’t reciprocated so intimacy was off my radar. We went for a walk around the neighborhood and stopped to check out an interesting cactus plant. There was a pause in the conversation at one point, and he looked up at me and asked, “Can I kiss you?” in a tone of voice that made me melt. I said yes. He slowly stood up and closed the distance between us. Our lips met in a soft, gentle kiss at first, then we passionately made out losing track of time and everything around us.
The key to consent is to pause, breathe, and allow space for the energy to shift.
Ask the question, and wait for the answer. Many times, I have to reflect a moment before I know the truth of my desire, or lack of. If the response is yes, give it a moment to let the anticipation build. Make eye contact, let it be sweet, soft, sensuous. Then make your move when you feel the moment is ripe.
If, however, when you ask consent to kiss or touch someone and the response is no, accept it and let it go. It could be any number of things. It’s not personal. It happens to all of us; you’re not alone. It’s okay. Just because that particular fire didn’t catch, there will be other fires. (Stay tuned for a future post on handling rejection with honor and respect.)
So keep asking. Consent doesn’t kill the mood. Consent opens the way for greater clarity, safety, pleasure, and ecstasy.