One of my favorite bloggers, Charlie Glickman, wrote recently about California Senate Bill 967, the bill supporting “Affirmative Consent”. The bill has engendered the traditional range of pundit expressions from full support for our female students in peril to an interesting response in the Santa Barbara Independent that put “Young Men’s Rights in Peril” as a subheading. It was interesting to me that it said little about young women’s rights but ended with the statement, “We urge the sons and the parents of sons in California to band together to defeat SB 967.” Charlie brings forth a wide range of information that can assist in weeding ones way through the CNN type talking heads.
But on this blog I tend to talk about a more alternate form of sexual expression. Obviously, it goes a bit beyond areas where questions like, “Can I kiss you?” and “Do you like my running my fingers around your nipple?” are the appropriate types. When we are thinking of asking questions such as “Do you want me to cane you till you bleed?”, Do you want to taste your blood?”, “How about trying some fire play?” or even something as relatively benign as, “Do you want to invite another into our bed?”, the principles of “Affirmative Consent” gain greater importance.
But I, and I think a great number of other people, were brought up feeling that it is not really polite to ask such questions right away. (I think I have previously mentioned my original difficulty with Reid Mihalco’s Safer Sex Elevator Speech.) Sex, particularly beginning sex for yourself, or with a new partner, was forced into being this strange dance where you would try something and see if she told her mother, or got you slapped. Well, maybe people don’t slap that much these days, but there were a myriad of ways every good girl was taught to tell you Not to do what you were doing, even if they liked it.
Unfortunately, that also put young ladies in the position where they felt they had to say “no” to things they liked, and taught young men to keep pushing past the “No’s” because a lot of the time that pushing got us to a point where the “No’s” changed to “Yes’s”. (Now what did that teach us?) It taught us not to listen to the “No’s”. It also left us in a place where we sincerely did not know how to handle a “Yes”. A young lady who said “Yes”, by word or deed was obviously Not a “Good” girl. If she was not a “good” girl, then somehow she did not deserve respect. (I have to say, for me, the dance was fun. I greatly enjoyed discovering how to manage the path.)
I often wonder whether or not it would have been as fun if sex was taught as a decision we could take, intelligently, with open communication and expressions of our own desire and comfort, as it is for me now. While I do not think it would result in less heartbreak, that is certainly a part of learning who you are, I do believe that it would result in far less injury and damage, intimidation and fear, both physical and emotional. If it is a choice, a choice for me, a choice for you, then possibly it is easier to accept a No without feeling shamed and undesirable.
But again, when it comes to what it is that we do, “Affirmative Consent” is not only mandatory, but an item of safety and personal affirmation. It would be a rare person these days who has not seen the rush to judgement by society and news organizations represented most easily by several players currently in, or possibly just out, of the NFL. While this current blog is not the place for me to discuss my opinions on the differing behavior displayed, it is worthy to point out that there are strong opinions on the subject of violence against women and domestic violence no matter what the level of stated consent. It is quite possible that the opinion of a consenting masochist can easily be ignored or discounted in a legal or criminal context as “what is usual in battered partners.”
Bringing this whole thing down to my own personal experience, I am lucky enough to have a partner who is a delightfully strong sexual masochist. By that I mean that affectionate applications of seriously severe pain result in a strong and lustfull sexual response. (Be still my heart.) However, no matter the response, it is necessary for me to hear, repeatedly and clearly, affirmations that what I do to her continues to be, even in after thought days later, desirable, enjoyable and affirming to her. I need to hear that, otherwise it is far to easy to feel I may be slipping into an area where what I am doing is intimidating to the point where she can no longer express her dislike.
Sigh, so what is the point of all of this? I tend to go to the honey. You tell me that you really like what I am doing, I will continue it, and explore other ways to get the same response. So tell me. Tell me repeatedly through word and deed.
Ask what your partner wants. Hearing, “I want you to…” can be a very affirmative consent, and when what your partner wants is to be tied and whipped until they scream, “Fuck Me” that affirmative consent can be very comforting.