Can We Normalise Seeking Verbal Consent, Even If We’re On A Date Or In A Relationship?
When it comes to sexual activity, consent can often be a gray area. Yes, we know that a man groping a woman is non-consensual, a person forcefully touching or having sex with someone is glaringly non-consensual. We also know that sexual activity with a person not capable of giving a green signal is non-consensual too. Of course, several individuals don’t understand this concept and often become the cause of someone’s trauma.
But often, what is highly misinterpreted is consent to sexual activity with intimate partners. Like when you go out on a date with a guy, you gulp down two glasses of sangria and even smile when he kissed your cheek. Does that mean you want him to place his hands on your boobs in the cab while going home? Say you let a guy come over after he drops you home. You are clearly interested in him and start kissing and then he just decides to lift your dress. Was it consensual? It is like an All Area Access pass? If he can kiss you, can he also finger you? The lines do get blurry.
Of course, relying on all of mankind to perfectly decode body language has resulted in several women and men being shocked by their dates with moves they aren’t comfortable with. Yes, a woman can say stop but that is after her comfort level is already violated. And what about women who aren’t confident enough to say it or who don’t know how to react in that moment? What about women who get worried that the guy will use aggression if she says no?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all just agree that verbally asking for consent should be normalised? A woman recently brought this up on Reddit after her date asked her for a green signal at every stage of escalation in their sexual activity. She found it incredibly respectful and attractive. Also, the fact that she posted her experience on Reddit shows that it must have been one that stands out and not a rule.
She wrote, “We have made out plenty of times, but he never touched, or even tried to touch my butt or boobs. The first time a makeout session got a little heated a few weeks ago, he asked if he could take off my shirt. I said “sure” in an ‘eh, whatever’ kind of way, and he followed with “sure?” to get explicit permission. This time, I said “yes”. He started tugging at my bra and asked “is this okay?” “Yes”. (That’s as far as it went that night).”
When things progressed further, he still asked for permission. She wrote, “A week ago, I decided I’m ready to sleep with him, and last night, we did. As things progressed from making out, it was pretty obvious what was going to happen, but even still, he asked me “can I take off your dress?” And then asked if he could take off my underwear, and finally, before anything started, he asked “are you okay with this?”
She concluded with giving tips to men out there on how to respect a woman’s boundaries. “Men, I can’t tell you how much this meant to me!! I have so much respect for him and am that much more attracted to him because he made it clear that he respects my boundaries and comfort level. Just wanted to offer this experience as a tip for how to help a new lady feel respected and safe with you when it comes to taking things to the next level,” she wrote.
I mean, do you see how deep this is? A woman is going gaga over a guy who seeks consent and respects boundaries. Like how low is the bar these guys have set? Yes, a guy like that is a nice guy and we got to normalise that. Men need to buck up and normalise that.
However, the comments showed a lot of variety in perspectives. A guy wrote how some women have scolded him for taking permission at different levels. He wrote, “As a man, I do this and will never change, but I have been scolded by SOME women for doing it. While it doesn’t mean I’ll stop doing it this way, there are some women out there that see this as being weak.” He further added, “I do this in the very early stages of a relationship but don’t keep doing it if I’ve been with someone for some time. I do it because I don’t want there to be any confusion on mine or their part and most women really appreciate it.” And that’s how it should be. Why are women getting mad?
Someone said once you’ve done it several times, you got to ease into it. “I think it’s great if you do it in the beginning of a relationship, but weird if you keep asking once you’ve had sex several times. If you want to try out something new, of course you still have to ask.”
When I had started dating one of my exes, the first night, none of us made any moves until morning – yeah that’s pathetic but we both were unsure if the other person is ready until it became way too evident. Yes, we could read each other’s body language and ease into it. But here’s the thing. He asked me if I’d like him to undress me. And I did the same. In fact, before we try something new, we always communicated about it just to be sure both of us are comfortable and interested in it.
A user spoke about consent in a nutshell, “The only real thing this is highlighting to me is that communication needs to happen and that communication around sexual activity is something that still requires a nuanced approach. Whether that’s beforehand or not. And given that permission can be revoked at any time, it’s on all parties to communicate their willingness or unwillingness, and for all parties to respect that.”
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Another user added, “Then if you start consistently dating someone, you’ll develop a natural rhythm and will be able to more easily read each other’s body language as you get more used to each other, and won’t necessarily need to “verbally” check in as much, depending on the dynamic you have. At that point a discussion could be had between partners to see what each other’s general preferences are. (And obviously throughout all of these examples, always always making sure someone initially seems actively enthusiastic and stopping if someone says no, pulls away, looks scared, is crying, etc. and getting consent if you want to try something new).”
I believe this approach could make women feel more comfortable and safe, leaving no room for misinterpretation and also knowing that he respects your personal space.