Talking about Consent

This blog post is a long time coming. Sorry for the delay.

After #metoo became a thing I started to think what I would do if someone brought it to my attention they had been assaulted or made to feel uncomfortable on a date I had organized.

But when the Aziz Ansari story was published the question changed from “What do I do?” to “How do I prevent this from happening?”

The only thing I can think of is to make sure that all my members and clients know exactly what constitutes consent.

On paper, the concept of consent is so binary and simple. However, in real life it’s less so.

The definition of consent
Technically speaking, consent is simple: If she says yes enthusiastically, it’s a go. If she says anything besides yes or the yes is not enthusiastic or at some point she changes her yes or she says nothing, it’s a no-go.

Yet between the verbal & non-verbal and the yes & the no, there is a grey space. And because endorphins and hormones are running high (and so might the blood-alcohol level) things can get even greyer.

Navigating the Grey

Planned Parenthood uses the acronym FRIES to help people understand and navigate consent:

  • Freely given: Doing something sexual with someone is a decision that should be made without pressure, force, manipulation, or while drunk or high.
  • Reversible: Anyone can change their mind about what they want to do, at any time. Even if you’ve done it before or are in the middle of having sex.
  • Informed: Be honest. For example, if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, that’s not consent.
  • Enthusiastic: If someone isn’t excited, or really into it, that’s not consent.
  • Specific: Saying yes to one thing (like going to the bedroom to make out) doesn’t mean they’ve said yes to others (like oral sex).

What Men can do to Ensure they’re not Overstepping Boundaries

There are lots of things you can do if you’re on a date and not sure what constitutes consent in her mind. For example:

  • Before you even start getting physical, weave the concept of consent into the conversation. Ask her what are her boundaries and tell her that her comfort and boundaries (physical and otherwise) will always be respected.
  • Share with her your understanding of FRIES.
  • When things do get physical, ask for her consent before initiating each step or let her take the lead.
  • Stop if she is no longer enthusiastic about your advances.
  • Accept and respect her ‘no’.

Of course, saying you’re down with consent and being down with consent are two very different things. Your words are worthless if you cannot follow through.

This Planned Parenthood video shows how consent looks and sounds like:

I think the main thing to remember is that just because you’re into it, doesn’t necessarily mean she’s into it. You need to slow down and check in. This is good advice for basically everything in life but vital when it comes to getting it on.

Why Talk if They won’t Listen?

Women of course have a role in this too. They have to speak up and stop being scare of using their voice to say what are their boundaries.

But the onus isn’t entirely on them. Everyone else has to help women not to be scared of using their voice.

How?

By actually listening to women when they speak and believing them when they say something isn’t right.

What’s the point of talking if no one is listening? The Kavanaugh hearing was a not-so-gentle reminder that women are silenced, insulted and ridiculed when they say something isn’t right.

I’m not that Guy

You might think this blog post is irrelevant to you because you aren’t the type to make women uncomfortable. But you might very well be. This is why it is imperative not to assume.

Last year an American study about consent, Situational and Dispositional Determinants of College Men’s Perception of Women’s Sexual Desire and Consent to Sex: A Factorial Vignette Analysis, was published and the findings aren’t pretty.

Vice reports (emphasis added is mine): “The men in the study tended to conflate consent with sexual desire or, in other words, assumed that if they thought the woman wanted to further the sexual interaction, that counted as consent.

Further on, the Vice article says, “These results suggest another uncomfortable truth: that even progressive, women-respecting men can misread consent or lack thereof and consequently commit sexual assault.”

Just to stay on the safe side, please check in.

xo Ariadna

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