Sex, love and consent in the age of #MeToo
The Walrus has a good article about what sexual consent means in the age of #MeToo. It’s timely for the world of CanLit, too, given all the controversy over UBCAccountable and CanLitAccountable, which have torn Canada’s writing communities apart, if they ever truly existed in the first place.
The article is written by Sarah Barmak, who also wrote the book Closer: Notes From the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality – which should be a must-read for pretty much everyone who’s having sex. It makes a really good point about how we inherit culturally models of consent, which can lead to all sorts of confusion, assumptions and problems – but there are other models out there, as is evident in kink and other communities:
There’s also less of a culturally ordained script that dictates what sex is supposed to look like among lgbtq people, says Johnstone. “There’s the assumption [in conversations about heterosexual sex] that it’s the man who would ask consent, and that’s not the reality that a lot of queer and non-binary folks experience, where consent is negotiated between partners.” Traditional models of heterosexuality have a built-in narrative for how sex is supposed to go: first kissing, then touching and undressing, then oral sex, then vaginal intercourse. (It’s why someone knows what you mean if you talk about “going all the way.”) In a culture that takes that script for granted, it may be easy to assume that one act will lead to another and that when someone consents to one part, they are agreeing to that whole sequence. Absent these presumptions about who will do what to whom, says Johnstone, partners talk more about what will happen, before it happens and throughout a sexual encounter. “It’s not just about saying yes or no,” she says. “It’s yes to what? No to what?”
Many kink and polyamorous communities, by their very nature, also have more nuanced and clearly articulated practices for consent. Parties in which explicit sex takes place often have detailed consent guidelines—especially ones at which bondage takes place, where no doesn’t always mean no, but consent is still paramount. (Some hosts distribute consent menus for guests to fill out, asking them to circle the names of sex acts they’re open to that evening.) It is common at such gatherings to hear that “consent is sexy” and that whips-and-leather bondage in which consent is explicit is safer than “vanilla” sex in which it is assumed.
Check it out and remember: there’s never anything wrong with asking.