|Photo courtesy of Doug Wheller|
And that brings me to consent. We hear all the time about how "no means no," and it's true, but the fact is, it's rare that anybody says "no." Maybe eventually they do, but things have already gone too far at that point, and the rapist probably already knew that person didn't want to have sex with them.
So let's stop this nonsense rhetoric about "no means no" and start talking about "yes means yes."
This is not a new concept. People who have really awesome sex, especially those who speak or write publicly about it, just can't shut up about enthusiastic consent. Why? Because it's totally clear and unambiguous, and leads to really awesome sex.
The "no means no" line implies that a lack of "no" is the same as consent. If a woman just lies back and takes it, she must be consenting. Never mind that she might be unconscious or afraid to make things stop. Never mind that she might have been threatened, coerced, or otherwise forced into letting things happen. She's not flailing at you with her fists and screaming, so she must have consented.
"Yes means yes" turns this on its head. It means that, if your partner doesn't outright state their desire to have sex with you, you don't have their consent. No more "it wasn't rape because she wasn't awake to say no." No more "it wasn't rape because, after I held her down so she couldn't leave, she let me have sex with her."
People don't say "no" for all kinds of reasons. They don't want to hurt your feelings. They're nervous. They're afraid of what might happen if they turn you down. They're unsure of what they want. Regardless, silence isn't taken for consent in most situations, so why should sex be different?
If you asked your girlfriend, "Do you want a Hawaiian vacation for your birthday?" and she didn't say anything, would you buy plane tickets? If you asked someone at the grocery store, "I only have one item, do you mind if I check out ahead of you?" and they stared determinedly into space, would you cut in front of them? Why is it that "you didn't say no" applies only to sex?
There's some misconception about asking for consent and getting a yes that it somehow makes things less sexy. This, friends, is total bullshit. What could be sexier than whispering in your partner's ear all the things you want to do, and asking if they're ready to do them? Or hearing them tell you exactly how they want to fuck you, then responding enthusiastically? Enthusiastic consent makes sex better, both in that you'll get turned on by your partner's sexy "yes, oh please, yes!" and by knowing what to do to please them. You simply cannot go wrong.
Also remember, you are not asking for permission, you are investigating desire. It's far, far sexier to say, "Do you want me to fuck you now?" than it is to say, "May I fuck you now?" It also opens better communication. Maybe your partner's answer will be, "No, I want you to give me a blowjob, then I want to give you one." Maybe it will be, "I want it, but not just yet, warm me up with your fingers first." Or possibly, "No, baby, let me fuck you." No matter what, you'll know exactly how to proceed, and you won't have killed the mood in the process.
It's important to point out that getting consent never goes away. No matter how long you've been together, no matter if you're married or living together or just had sex a minute ago, you need to get consent every time. Consent for previous sex doesn't count for current sex, and consent for one act doesn't count for another.
So tell me, do you want to have sex with someone who lets you fuck them, or with someone who wants you to fuck them?