Sometimes when I am having an argument with a complete twat about consent, they argue that consent is difficult and the fluid nature of it means that life is so hard for people that they might as well just NOT HAVE SEX AT ALL because they’ll never be sure if their partner likes it. At this point I smash my face repeatedly into whatever firm objects there are to hand, and explain to them that before throwing all their toys out of the pram they might like to instead try communicating with their partner, and watching/listening for those sexy clues (verbal, non-verbal, a combination of the two) that someone gives you when they’re keen.
At some point in the conversation, aforementioned twat might say this:
“Oh, I suppose you want me to get them to SIGN A CONTRACT or something saying ‘I declare that I consent to this sex’ before I even lean in to KISS THEM?!”
And it is at this point that my head explodes, spraying passers-by with the messy detritus of the by-product of their twattery. Because there’s a mistake here. A massive and fundamental one.
Good2Go app and consent
This week yet another shiny new sex app was launched. The aim of it was to get people thinking about consent, and the app itself does… well… some things that sort of miss the point. There’s a Slate article here that explains what the app does, but in essence the idea is that you and your partner both use the app to record the fact that you are ‘Good2Go’ (i.e. have sex, although there’s little detail about specifics) and then you have sex. And then… what? Magically everything you do is consensual and nothing can ever go wrong?
The app does flag that consent can be withdrawn at any time, which is useful, but not massively so, because fundamentally the app is based on exactly the same misconception as the idea of a consent ‘contract’: that consent is a tickbox. Once ticked it can be unticked, but it’s a firm and decisive ‘OK.’
How I like to get sexual consent
Perhaps the reason the contract idea sounds so tempting to twats is that it sounds a bit legal – a bit ‘official’. Of course the sex you’re having is official and totally A-OK: someone has consented to it. They have rubber-stamped your sex plans, signed their name on a dotted line at the end of a piece of paper, ticked a box, pressed a button on an app. You’re ‘good to go.’
Unfortunately, this is not the kind of consent I want when I’m fucking: it’s the kind of consent I want when I’m selling someone insurance.
“Do you understand the risks, sir? Have you read the small print?”
“Why yes I do, and I have.”
“OK, please sign the dotted line then prepare for the sexing to begin.”
It is the least sexy thing in the entire fucking world, and sexual relationships just don’t fucking happen like that. If they do, you are either a fetishist with a really niche role-play fantasy, or you’re doing sex wrong. If I want to fuck, here’s the kind of consent I’m after:
“Touch me. There. Oh fuck, yeah that’s it. Bit higher. Mmm. Bite my nipples. That’s good. Oh please put my cock in your mouth. Like that. Bit more gently. Aaah, perfect. Fuck. Fuck that’s good.”
Or, if you’re less chatty during sex itself, here’s the kind of consent I’m after:
“I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to get shagged with a strapon.”
“Sweet. Want me to show you?”
“Umm… would it hurt?”
“Maybe. Tell you what – I’ll use tonnes of lube, and we’ll start slowly and take it from there, what do you reckon?”
Note that he hasn’t explicitly offered a safeword or asked me if I’ll stop if he tells me to because for me that goes without saying. If it doesn’t go without saying for you, then say it. Anyone who thinks you’re a dick for saying it is not worth fucking.
Other forms of consent include guys begging me to fuck them, guys staring at me with sexy, sexy eyes, then raising eyebrows as if to say ‘do you want this?’ as they reach round to touch my arse. They include me telling a guy a story about a particular fantasy in which I struggle a bit against him while he fucks me, and that guy fucking me in that way, but stopping if I say ‘ooh, fuck, ouch, your elbow’s on my hair’ or ‘OK that was hot but can we switch round now?’ They include all of these things and more.
Crucially, consent in all of these situations is individual to me, and to the person I’m with: it’s personal. If any single one of you points at this blog post and uses it as an excuse to raise your eyebrow and grab the arse of a person you fancy, then scream at them “BUT GOTN SAID THAT WAS CONSENT!” you have utterly and completely missed the point.
But what is consent, exactly?
Consent may be hard to explain, because it’s individual, but that doesn’t mean it is hard to do. You communicate with your partners about what they want, what they need and what they are absolutely dripping hot for, and you keep listening. As you kiss them, touch them, fuck them, and cuddle afterwards. And yes, I am fully aware that this blog post is in no way helpful to someone who is stuck in the ‘contract’ mindset: someone who wants a blogger to give them a list of words and body language signals and phrases that they can tick off and feel comfortable that they definitely did all the right things and established consent.
But that’s deliberate. I haven’t done it for the same reason I haven’t told you how to have the perfect conversation or work out whether this person you’ve approached in a bar definitely fancies you: sometimes things just don’t work like that. I need to stress wholeheartedly that I am not an expert in this. I am an expert when it comes to negotiating the kind of sex I want from my own partners, but I am not an expert in what you should do with yours. If you want some more considered, expert advice on this, do what I do and learn from Bish.
What I do feel qualified to tell you, though, is what consent is not: it is not a simple rubber-stamp ‘OK.’ Saying ‘should I have a contract?’ or ‘should I have an app?’ is based on the fundamental misunderstanding that because we have a legal definition of ‘consent’, that gaining it should be done in the same way as you’d go about gaining planning permission, or something equally tedious.
Do not ask your partner whether they’re ‘Good2Go’, like you’re a dodgy car salesperson trying to get them to sign off on a ropey deal. You’re not looking to get them to agree to something, you’re looking to find out if this is something they actually want. Ask them: is this fun? Do you want this? What’s great and what’s not working? Ask with your eyes, your hands, your mouth, and every tool you have to communicate. And keep asking.
That’s not just how you get consent, it’s how you get good sex.