By Erika E. Wade

 

I don’t know why, but people get so weird around the word consent. As soon as it tumbles out, it sends a jolt through everyone who hears it. Consent has become the ugly topic in the room we don’t like talking about. But why, though? Making intimacy and sexual experiences mutually agreed upon should be an important, and dare I say, enjoyable experience. Why is asking for consent so weird? In a lot of communities, it isn’t. They are also very vocal about consent conversations being as “normal” as fumbling with a condom wrapper in the dark. Keep it respectful. Keep it cute. Asking for consent is sexy too.


via GIPHY


Moving to Los Angeles, I have really been exposed to a lot of new experiences. You can call me a woman of the world. I answer to the streets now. Just kidding, but I have had the pleasure of getting to know a lot of folks who have interesting jobs in the world of sex and adult entertainment. After all, I do work in a building named after Larry Flynt.


I attended my first play party on accident. At LA Pride, there was a pop-up introducing people to the world of kink and fetish. Before you can even walk in, there are signs and information about consent and how the people in the exhibits have and will require others to ask for consent. Whatever fears and hesitations immediately faded away. I value consent a lot. I know what it feels like when people don’t ask for yours. As soon as we walked in, there was a beautiful woman strapped to a bench. I knew LA Pride got down, but I don’t think I knew LA Pride got down like this. Still, I was intrigued. Then, a man walked out with several whips, all of different sizes. See; I believe folks should get their kinks where they get their kinks, but I’m not down with the whipping stuff. I could move past my own prejudices to see something beautiful happening in front of me. Every time the man prepared to deliver a lash, he communicated with the woman. He looked like he was in control, but he also behaved like a collaborator. Well, would you look at that. You can collaborate in sex acts. Even as the whipping intensified, and as I politely turned away, I could still see out of the corner of my eye, a man constantly asking for consent. The woman smiled a lot, and I think she was grinding against the bench, so I took it as she liked what was happening. I guess it worked then. I took a mental note of the calm and self-awareness that consent had been treated with. It’s definitely a tool I use in my own sexual encounters.


“What are you into and what’s a no-no?” she said as she laid her body across the bed. That was a line from both my romance novel and my actual practice in the bedroom. Start there. Gauge their interests and let yours be known too. Asking what they’re not into is key as well. You don’t want to pursue anal with someone who has deemed that area as an off-limits spot. For example, NEVER try anal play without asking for consent first. I once had a guy try anal with no lube (ahhhhhhhhhh) and without asking for my consent first. Let’s just say he got the shit slapped out him instead.


Meanwhile, I’m still in the fetish room. As I walked through the elaborate and eerie auditorium, I noticed all the gothic architecture surrounding me. Everything felt perfectly planned. The consent signs were a weathered ivory, blending in with the antique furniture around us. The wooden stage creaked as the Dom walked across it. The crackle of the whip added to that rhythm. I began to wonder how something so nuanced could be consensual all the time. Was there ever a time where the woman wanted it to stop, but her Dom missed her cues? Had he ever stuck too harshly? Was she even really enjoying this? Then I wondered whether my own past sexual experiences felt consensual all the time. Having these conversations amidst toxic sexuality can sometimes make you feel gaslit, or like someone is intentionally making you feel like you’re crazy. The truth is, people can revoke consent even after initially giving it. So, like the true millennial journalist I am, I wanted to ask and get the information directly from the source.


I spoke to a former Dom and sex worker. First off, I think sex work, if done properly, can teach us a lot of lessons about consent. Whether it’s your thing or not, sexuality as a means of survival and prosperity is not a new thing by far. This person taught me consent and boundaries are set way before an intimate act happens. Safe words, places and things that are off limits, and even intensity preferences. There are people who don’t get the rules right, but there are consequences for that too. If you disobey previously set rules of consent, you can get shunned from these communities and shamed immediately.


via GIPHY


Why can’t we do that in mainstream society? It seems like consent requires a little more debate and disagreement for the rest of us. I didn’t want my research to stop with dominant and submissive work, though. I got even deeper into conversations with everyday people. Some felt asking for verbal consent in the midst of getting it on ruined the mood. Some thought it was too PC and people really didn’t need consent, it was implied. But a lot of people agreed, having honest conversations with sexual partners, or just people we are around in general, made experiences feel freer and more collaborative. Basically, we all get off if everyone is in agreement.


But what about making it sexy? That’s the whole reason I’m reading this article! For sure. These are tactics I’ve come up with. They really work for me but be sure to make it your own. In addition to the “What are you into” question, you can try to play a game of getting to know each other leading up to sex. When I began dating someone new, I ask questions that are not too invasive, but still straight to the point. My style. If you can’t talk about your preferences and expectations from intimacy and relationships on a date, it’s a pretty good indication that this person might not be “there” yet. I’m not saying you should lead with “I’m into anal play, but only with lube doe.” Instead, ask them what turns them on. Usually people will get more detailed if you make them feel comfortable talking about the subject with you. I even explain my need for consent before physical touch in general. If I can’t see you, don’t touch me. Plain and simple. I don’t like being hugged from behind without a verbal cue, and if you’re the shoulder tap type, we won’t get along. I have specific reasons for this, but your agreement on it only involves the need and desire for consensual and mutual intimacy. Another tactic I use is making eye contact. Anything is sexy when you’re looking deeply into someone’s eyes. If I make eye contact and ask, “Can I kiss you here?” you tellin’ me that’ll ruin the mood? I doubt it.


via GIPHY


So, if you need consent before a kiss, I’ll ask for it. If you want me to ask before getting a handful, you got it, boo. If you just want consent before I walk into your room, keep it easy, Imma give that to you anyway. Whenever you’re looking to interact with someone else’s body, remember just that: it’s someone else’s body, not yours. Asking for consent is as awkward and extra as you make it. Spice it up, keep it cute, keep it respectful, and ask for consent.