Even if you are employing the dorkiest, most straw-man-y language to ensure enthusiastic consent (“Please state for the record your level of desire vis-a-vis us boinking. Initial here, here, and here; sign here; date here. Month then day, please,”), it’s still not going to “ruin the mood” because it’s like when you hear the click of the safety harness on a roller coaster being properly locked. It’s not the fun part – but it’s the part that ensures that the rest of the parts will be fun, as opposed to being traumatizing.
(Please do not read this post if you are a person who doesn’t want to know that I’ve ever thought about or had sex. Please especially don’t read this post if you are a person who doesn’t want to know that I’ve ever thought about or had sex AND THEN yell at me for having written this post, considering that you don’t want to know that I’ve ever thought about or had sex.)
So here is my question. How is it that getting enthusiastic consent is not sexy? How is it even remotely possible to think to oneself, “Asking a person I want to have sex with if they want to have sex with me and them saying, ‘Hell, yeah, baby, give it to me!’ is super duper unsexy and will kill the mood.”
I mean – will it kill the mood more than randomly sticking your fingers in a woman’s mouth? Or pointing to your dick as an indication that you’d like a blow job? Is that creating an extraordinarily sensual and seductive mood that will be killed if you say, “You know, if you want to?”?
I don’t mean this to be about Aziz Ansari and Grace. I think he’s a normal guy who did a normal guy thing, which, given the culture we live in, is also an atrocious and violating thing, but he’s about my age and I grew up with the same TV and movies he did so I know that the culture he was raised in generally considers that to be sort of okay. I mean, not totally. There have been voices pointing out that it’s not okay. See Lindy West’s column in the Times to see what I’m talking about. But the louder voices have been, “Men, getting sex by any means necessary is totes cool.”
But there’s also a fairly clear model for what enthusiastic consent can look like in a sexy way. It goes like this. You’re together. You’re in close quarters. Maybe you’ve even started making out. You say, “What do you want?” or “You like that?” or “Tell me what will make you moan.” You can throw in a “baby” or some other endearment if you like.
Maybe your partner is shy. Maybe your partner doesn’t know how to say what s/he wants. So you pull back a little. Just a little. You’re still there. And you say, “I’m not going to touch you until you tell me you want it.”
And then don’t. If your partner wants you to touch them, they will say so. Or they’ll move your hand. Or they’ll resume kissing you. Or maybe they’ll be too shy and they’ll turn away. Wait, is that shy, or is that, seriously, I don’t want to? Try maybe holding their hand or stroking their leg. Do they lean into it? Do they stroke back? Or do they sort of stiffen and go still? Or even pull away a little bit? See, if they lean into it, they want more. And if you’re not sure, was that a lean in or just a shift, you say something like, “You like that?” If there’s an immediate affirmative response – an actual “Yes, I do,” a soft moan, a more assertive leaning in, a return touch, then probably they like that. If there’s hesitation or further pulling away, or, you know, “No, not really,” then the answer is no.
But shouldn’t a woman – or a man – just say “no” if they don’t want something? Shouldn’t they make it obvious by screaming in your face or kicking you in the balls or running screaming away from you?
Dude, come on. Come on. Maybe they like you but they’re just not sure they want to do THAT. Maybe they deliberately wore granny panties or have some sort of monster zit on their inner thigh. Maybe they thought this was going to be a one-night thing but now they kind of really like you but if you Do It, then maybe you’ll think they’re a slut, but if you say no then they’ll think you’re not Chill. Maybe they like you but the tacos you ate are not sitting nicely in their tummy and they want to go home so they can shit in private but they don’t want to tell you that a poop tsunami is about to come out of the butt you’re aggressively grabbing. Maybe you’ve been so rape-culture-y that they don’t know if saying “no” is going to trigger you to violence so they’re trying to be polite. Maybe notice.
And honestly, if nuances like “leans in to this kind of touch, kind of freezes when I do that” are too subtle for you to pick up on, you’re probably a lousy lay. Like, even if your partner is really into you and really wants to fuck like bunnies and is hoping it’s all going to go well, s/he can’t be giving explicit instructions the whole time. I mean, some people are into that sort of thing and it can probably be fun sometimes but sometimes you just have to catch on to the idea that if s/he’s pushing your hand from one location to another, then wherever your hand was, it wasn’t pleasing. AND THE FACT THAT YOU REFUSE TO PICK UP ON THAT IS WHAT’S RUINING THE GODDAMN MOOD, YOU FUCKSTICK.
And not for nothing, but do you want the highest standard you’re achieving to be “What I did does not meet the legal definition of rape.”? Or do you want it to be “I am an actual Sex God who makes all of my partners see the stars in the heavens in all their glory.”? Or at least, “My sex partners and I enjoy ourselves together.” Like, shoot for at least that. Please.
This has been brought to my attention.
I thought Sophia was going to be too upset by all this to speak, but it turns out she’s not.
Darlings. When I first read the Chris Jones, ahem, article-
I know, right? (It’s the third link, kids.) The thing is, like, less than 500 words. I spend more time on these posts. And I don’t get paid or have a national audience.
I think, darling, that this gentleman’s efforts in this piece of writing might be indicative of his efforts elsewhere.
Really, what goes through a man’s head? “I admit that I am mediocre at best when it comes to pleasing women, but if my partners are uncomfortable and unenthused, it is clearly because they are bad in bed.” This is ridiculous! I would be outraged if I were not merely mystified. He calls women couch cushions and wonders why they won’t communicate with them? Couch cushions don’t talk!
Darlings, perhaps I did not cover this well enough in my initial offering to you. I told you, great sex is an adventure with two participants. But perhaps I did not emphasize enough – you must make a woman feel comfortable enough with you that she’s willing to, say, rappel down the side of a mountain with you at her side, otherwise it cannot be great. You cannot just strap on the harness and then say, “Whaddaya, frigid?” when she seems nervous. Nor can you look at an obviously nervous face and say to yourself, “Well, she’s not saying ‘no’, so legally I am not obligated to do anything more before we head down the mountain.”
You think this makes us delicate flowers but it does not. You do not realize it but we are constantly doing this for you. We do not make a habit of frequent comments on penis size of other men while in bed with you.
There are probably women who do.
Then do not have sex with them; what do you want me to say about that?
We do not go to the Internets, assessing the hotness or lack thereof of every male person whose picture has ever been available in a newspaper, and then acting as if we have been personally hurt or offended or slighted if we do not want to fuck said person.
That’s not all guys.
But it’s hardly any women, is it?
You’ve got a point.
We read magazine article after magazine article instructing us as to how to be more pleasing to you, both in and out of bed. As far as we can tell, your magazines mainly focus on getting us into the bed, via manipulation and trickery. They ought to focus on the one thing that would actually work consistently – show us that you are kind, decent, clean men who are very, very good at making us come.
You know, not every girl reads Cosmo.
And not every man reads Maxim. But the attitudes embodied in those magazines are present in the wider world, are they not? Furthermore, a simple comparison of the two displays this phenomenon of which I speak. Cosmopolitan has article after article about, “Does he like that skirt on you? Really?” and “How to tell what he’s thinking by the movements of his eyebrows” and “Top Ten Sex Tricks to turn him on and get him off!” Maxim has pictures of women in tiny underwear standing next to gadgets.
And now I see the nonsense [first and second links] about how you might not even want us in bed except perhaps as distant-second proxies for your favorite pornographic movies! I admit, I was upset when I first read about this. I, Sophia, am not anti-pornography, although I do find myself wondering how they can create millions upon millions of films in which people have sex that are so devoid of true sexiness. But I am not against pornography as a concept. I think if you, or you and your partner, find the viewing of such things pleasurable, then this is wonderful for you.
But to be satisfied with it to the point where an actual lover cannot interest you? This to me is ridiculous! What about kissing? What about touch? What about the excitement of discovering that this person with whom you want to do all manner of filthy and delicious things also wants to do them with you? What about the fun parts? But, darlings, I cannot be angry. Only very, very sad.
I have to think this all has to do with entitlement. I thought this, for instance, was an interesting read.
You didn’t like it?
Why does he elide his evo-psych “men are just naturally built this way” ideas with his “men are conditioned by society to feel this way” ideas? Those two are exact opposites!
Granted. And, as my readership knows, I’m firmly in the “men are conditioned” camp. I think he’s so far conditioned he can’t tell the difference between his conditioning and his natural urges (which, really, we all are), and not only that, but he can’t separate enough from them to satirize them. He ends up sounding like he thinks men are justified in behaving in the ways he describes.
Another man with whom I will not have sex.
Well – that was a given.
I mean even in your imagination.
Okay. Anyway, I wonder if these things are connected. David Wong writes that men have been tricked by pop culture into thinking they are owed a woman just for being their awesome selves, and maybe they’ve also been tricked by porn into believing that those women should be willing vessels for the fulfillment of whatever fantasies they have, with no particular desires or fantasies of their own. You said before that one of the best parts of sex is knowing someone wants you the way you want them, but if it never occurred to you to give a damn what someone else wanted, if it only has ever occurred to you to concern yourself with whether or not they’ll agree to let you do what you want, then you’re not even aware you’re missing that part.
That is depressing.
Yeah. And that speaks also to the whole “rape culture” notion and the resistance to the idea of replacing “No means no” with “enthusiastic consent.”
What is this now?
You know the expression “No means no.”
Of course, darling. I have never had occasion to utter the word “no,” nor have I ever heard it uttered to me, but I am certain I understand.
Okay, good. But then there are activists who want to emphasize that it’s not enough to not hear “no,” you also have to hear an active, “Yes!” or even, “Oh, my God, yes, please, now!”
Naturally that is preferable.
I’ve written about this before. Sort of. And the resistance to the idea of “enthusiastic consent” is, on the one hand, understandable, because it’s pretty difficult to enforce legally, but on the other hand, why do so many people-
Uh, yeah, pretty much. Male persons. I mean, I wasn’t going to say that, because obviously, women can rape, but-
But I don’t have your nice-girl political correctness so I’ll just say it. Male persons.
Okay, thanks. So they respond with an almost absurd degree of anger at the idea that they should be responsible for making sure that the women with whom they’re having sex really, really want to be having sex with them. Which is an entitlement issue, isn’t it? To think you have a right to sex, sex being a thing you do for your own personal pleasure, as long as you can get your partner to say “yes”, that’s being super-entitled.
If you say so, darling. I think, more significantly, it is sad. It is completely pathetic that these young men – and by “these young men,” – I mean the authors of articles such as these – are so completely unable to experience the fullest and most delightful human experiences, stunted as they are. Perhaps by pornography, perhaps by this culture of entitlement of which you speak, but perhaps simply because of their own natures.
By the way, while I’m typing this, I’m seeing a commercial for Axe dandruff shampoo with the tagline, “Lose the flakes. Get the girls.” In it, girls turned off by flakes literally vaporize, because obviously women who are unwilling to have sex with you cease to exist, and then he gets rid of the flakes and even though he’s otherwise physically unremarkable, three models in bath towels fondle him. So, yeah.
I am also surprised to learn that the “blow job” is no longer in fashion.
Really, darlings, if you meet a man who expresses any agreement with the idea that porn is better than sex, do not have sex with him. If you meet a man who declares the blow job passé, do not give him one. It is simple.
There might be a numbers problem.
Maybe so many guys are-
Unformed adolescents with no ability to satisfy a woman?
Yeah. That all the women will be competing over, like, seven guys.
This is not my problem. Your imagination is populated with more than enough men for me.
Then my other suggestion, for the men, is that they become one of those seven “guys.”