When I was growing up consent wasn't something anyone was really talking about. Our mantra was "No Means No!" but that did little for those of us who inexplicably lost our voices at the worst time. This left those of us who had faced sexual assault or rape feeling like we were in the wrong for having said nothing. All we had to do was say no, right?
Then "Only Yes Means Yes" came on the scene, long after I was married, and I thought: "Wow, I wish this had been around when I was younger!". Its amazing how powerful words can be! But then the strict consent movement came along, and like a lot of people, I wondered what would that look like? What would it have been like when I was dating? Were we talking long forms and a signature before every sexual encounter? Every kiss? People have been consenting sexual partners for millenniums without all of this right?
Well yes and no. For every consenting individual there are plenty that were simply silent, which is really the aim of the campaign. I was one of those individuals, and my first sexual assault occurred when I was 12. I was too scared to say no, and had I been asked I would have said no. When I'm asked, and I have been asked, I feel like the other person respects my decision. But another debate has emerged within the larger debate regarding whether consent is necessary: Is consent sexy, and should it be sold that way? In other words does saying that "consent is sexy" undermine the fact that it is necessary?
I firmly believe that consent can be sold this way, because whether it is legal or not matter little to high school or college kids. Underage drinking is illegal but that rarely stops anyone! Legality is hardly the issue. Consent sounds corny and it needs a new PR campaign, badly! So I will tell you the story of the time a man asked for my permission, how I reacted, and whether it was really sexy or not.
I was 20 when I met him and I had just come to visit him and my friend in college, for a concert. We spent the whole day together, the majority of it in the apartment he shared with a friend. All we did was watch movies and cuddle and I thought surely he's going to kiss me. Then he gave me a back rub, the go to move of guys everywhere, and I swore he would make a move. He didn't. Then it was time for bed and we just laid there talking. Before we even hit the hay he asked me if it was ok to take his shirt off, he didn't want to make me uncomfortable. He decided to leave it on anyways.
So there we were, just talking until early in the morning, and then he asked me: "Would it be ok if I kissed you?" No one had every asked me that! Every guy had just kind of lunged at me, and it was always awkward, bad aim, very quick as if they thought if they didn't do it quick enough I'd stop them. I was taken back by the request and so happy he had finally said something! Of course I happily said yes and it was the sweetest, most romantic thing that had every happened, up until that point! I mean a like an aggressive guy just as much as the next girl, but there's a time and a place.
Then about a month later we were fooling around, one thing led to another, and BAM we were having sex, ha ha. I figured he understood that I was totally into it, I just didn't want to say: "lets have sex." I felt awkward about the whole thing. Then in the middle of it he just stops. Gets really weird and excuses himself. I took me a good day to figure out what was going on: he stopped because he wasn't sure its what I wanted. Keep in mind I was, and am, a Christian and had professed that I wanted to wait. (We're all human!) So in his mind I was doing something that I didn't believe in and had possibly been pressured in to. When I found out that was what had happened I was relieved and it was really sweet. Sure when we were in the middle of it, it was confusing, and we both should have been upfront from the very beginning. But the way he handled it, when he thought it wasn't what I wanted, was really cool.
I am married to that man and have been for 6 1/2 years. We have an amazing sex life that is based on good communication. I'm very honest about what I want and like, and I speak up when I don't like something. As a sexual assault and rape victim its very important for me to speak up when I'm triggered, and my husband is a very understanding man. I've taught him how to be aggressive, ha ha, with a good use of safe words and boundaries, because he's still the man that worries about pushing my boundaries. After being pressured into so many things before I was ready, or that were contrary to my character, its very freeing to be with someone who does not want me to do anything I don't want to do. When a woman feels safe she's more likely to sexual express herself, and if she's having a good time you will too! So yes consent is sexy!