Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
A really interesting post from rtmiss on issues of consent, centred on the social background we both share.
No means no is a concept that should be very simple. Except that it isn’t. Human beings make an awful lot of decisions based on individual perceptions, and we all perceive other people’s reactions differently.
Note that this is a very personal post based on lived experience, and please treat it accordingly.
I’m a big proponent of enthusiastic consent, but also I’m very aware that we simply don’t live in that world yet, where everything is black and white, and lack of a ‘yes’ always actually means no. People simply do use non-verbal signals to indicate consent all the time, and I think – no, I’m sure – that a person can consent enthusiastically to something without using any words. It’s fraught, yes, and open to misinterpretation, but it happens.
People also actually say ‘yes’, and indeed ‘no’, when that’s not really what they want.
Being increasingly open about my sub-ness means that I’ve had some… interesting discussions about consent. I’ve been told that women (subs always being female and all BDSM-identified females being subs) cannot consent to things I’ve actively asked for. The follow-up “oh, but not you” doesn’t actually make that view any less demeaning. And within BDSM, ideally everything that happens would be pre-negotiated and agreed, but that doesn’t always happen either. For me, a lot of the communication that goes on is post facto. (That sounds a bit wanky. I’m just trying to avoid using the term “debriefing”, because it makes me giggle. I’m twelve, we’ve established this.)
What particularly concerns me, I guess, are the stereotypes and social assumptions we have that get in the way of us reading each other properly. I think the worst is “men always want sex, women never do.” If you believe all men are Animalistic Penis Brains, how would you be able to read a man involved in a sexual situation he wasn’t all that keen on but, as rtmiss says, reluctant to be ‘rude’ and make a big deal out of refusing? Or that a woman is genuinely uncomfortable and not just playing “hard to get”
It’s also a pretty sexist stereotype that says that women don’t really want particular kinds of sexual interaction (let’s be honest, kink), so any woman involved in that kind of thing is being emotionally or intellectually coerced. And another that can’t recognise a woman being overly sexually-aggressive.
And then there are all the times that this discussion becomes solely “men as instigators, women as consentors”. As if, again, women are the ones who make the decisions, but their role is to allow things or not allow them, rather than instigate or pursue them.
There are a whole bunch of tiny gradated lines between “you can’t touch me”, and “I will have sex with you in this particular fashion in these exact circumstances”. If I’ll snog a bunch of people at a party, that doesn’t make me a slut who’s up for anything.
There are no real conclusions here, of course, just an acknowledgement that in the real world, consent can be really complicated.