Tag Archives: consent

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On Prince Harry, Kate Middleton and Tulisa

Somewhere in the world there exists a blurry night-shot video of me sucking a guy’s dick. Don’t hit google, you’ll never find it. The guy who filmed it, whose dick starred in it, is not an arsehole. I’ve had odd moments of panic when I wonder if his computer ever got stolen, or if the tape from the camera was mislaid and picked up later by a curious friend, but I know with utter conviction that he’d never have deliberately shown it to anyone without my consent.

Kate Middleton’s tits

This week some tawdry celeb mags have published pictures of Kate Middleton sunbathing topless.

The pictures (for I have seen them – they are on the internet) are nothing special. They are exactly what you’d expect them to be. They are not newsworthy, or shocking – they’re unnecessary, and the taking of them was hurtful and intrusive and offensive. The buying of them equally so.

And yet I looked. I looked because I was curious. Everyone’s talking about these pictures. I wanted to confirm my suspicions that the fuss was about nothing, and that publishing them was something I could easily condemn.

“Oh, how awful. They invaded this poor woman’s privacy for nothing. How disgusting they are. I’m so horrified I’ll shut this web page in a minute.”

I fucking disgust myself.

Because so rarely in life do I do things that I think are genuinely wrong. I’m happy batting away the judgment of other people when they call me a pervert or a slut, because I have the moral high ground. I usually have enough ethical awareness to avoid doing the things that – although tempting – are actually morally wrong.

And yet I looked at Kate Middleton’s tits.

Prince Harry’s bollocks

A similar dilemma arose during the recent ‘Prince Harry gets naked in Vegas’ shock. It turns out that a young, attractive man got naked in his hotel room with some people.

The resulting storm that brewed was both disgusting and weird. While Clarence House played whack-a-mole with the images that had popped up online, individuals were loudly asserting their right to see the pictures. “It’s a public interest issue,” they said “We pay for him,” they continued. And then, flailing vaguely around the issue of just why, exactly, someone they pay for should be compelled to let you see his bollocks they added “it’s a security issue.”

Well, no. It’s not, is it? Perhaps there are security issues associated with what happened, but the pictures themselves are not a security issue. No one is more or less likely to assassinate Harry on the basis that there is photographic evidence that he has testicles. The fact that the pictures were taken might form the basis of a story about security surrounding the prince, but the actual pictures themselves add nothing to that debate.

Nevertheless, a debate was had. Justifications were made, counterarguments swept under the table, and the prince’s own assertion that – you know – he’d rather we didn’t all cop a look at him in the nude went unheeded. The Sun knocked the whole thing out of the park with a grand announcement that it would publish the pictures because it was the ‘right thing’ to do.

Hooray for press freedom! Hooray for the Sun! Hooray for them posting naked pictures of someone without his consent! What larks, eh? Who wouldn’t shell out 20-odd pence to have a quick glimpse of the prince’s privates?

Well, I guess nice people. People nicer than me.

I’m going to put aside the spurious debate about press freedom for a moment and talk about ethics. Because hey – I’m not a fan of banning people from doing things if at all possible. If I were ruler of the world, I wouldn’t want to have to issue a diktat saying ‘newspapers cannot print pictures of members of the Royal Family in the nude.’

So let’s instead talk in more general terms: is there ever a compelling reason for a national newspaper to publish naked pictures or videos of someone without their consent?

I don’t think there is. Moreover, I don’t think there’s an honest justification for anyone to publish naked pictures of someone without their consent.

Tulisa’s blow job

A few months ago a video was released of FHM’s sexiest woman – Tulisa – giving an ex-boyfriend a blow job. Blogs were ringing with the sound of gleeful dudes rubbing one out, frowning moralists calling Tulisa ‘loose’, and bitchy women criticising her blow-job technique. Someone suggested to me that I jump on the bandwagon, grab myself some cheap SEO traffic, and review the video.

As you can probably tell, I didn’t. The idea of pointing and laughing at someone doing something that they clearly believed was private gives me the shivers. With the certainty that comes from knowing I never want my blurry night-shot blow job video to go online, I know that posting sexual pictures of someone without their consent is unethical and wrong.

Whatever you think of some of the more controversial things I’ve written, I have very strong views on consent, and ultimately I don’t want to be part of anything that tramples all over it. So even if you’re saying that Tulisa’s sexy, Kate’s an English Rose, even if you’re saluting Prince Harry and calling him a ‘top lad’ for playing naked games in his hotel room, the fact remains that he’s made it pretty clear he doesn’t want those pictures published. So we shouldn’t publish them.

But I looked

Here’s the tricky part. How do we ethically justify the fact that, although we’re disgusted by the idea of releasing hot blow job videos, or tit shots, or blurry mobile-phone snaps of a prince frolicking in a hotel room, some of us are happy to watch those things when they appear? The answer is we don’t – we can’t. There’s no need for me ever to see this stuff – it will add nothing of value to my life.

The people who publish this shit are hideous. The people who either take photos without consent or release photos without consent are doubly hideous. But if we’re completely honest with ourselves we’re not much better.

No matter what our reasons for looking, we are still disgusting. What makes me angry is that not only do these situations demonstrate how pathetic I am as an individual, but how pathetic we are as a species. We cannot bear to admit that we googled the pictures out of cheap curiosity or lust. Instead we cite press freedom, security concerns, or the hazards of celebrity.

But the very fact that we want an excuse shows we know deep down that seeking out these pictures might not be our most glorious moment – that we’re crossing a moral line. So let’s drop the excuses altogether, shall we? We can admit that we want to look whilst trying to avoid looking, and while this internal battle rages we can stop lying to ourselves and everyone else.

Let’s not invent bullshit excuses to try and wriggle out of guilt. Accept the guilt. You’re not looking at Prince Harry’s bollocks because you’re a freedom fighter. You’re looking because you’re disgusting. We’re disgusting.

I am disgusting.

On submission and self-esteem

A lovely guy emailed me a while ago asking for a link to his blog on coping with depression. I don’t know much about depression, but I do know that something he said in that initial exchange really got my hackles up.

“Your posts on choking, the consent rule, safe words and anal sex all indicate aspects of the darker side of sex which, believe it or not, is more commonly linked to depression than you might think because of its links to low self esteem.”

Assuming that people who are sexually submissive suffer from low self-esteem pisses me off. He has kindly elaborated, to kick off a discussion.

He says:

“Sometimes I wince inside when I read some of GOTN’s posts. The reason? I have had low self esteem and self confidence issues for most of my teen and adult life. In more recent times this has developed into severe depression.

Self esteem can be a big issue where sex is concerned. It may prevent you from doing things you might otherwise enjoy, it may compel you to do things you’re not comfortable with or it may even cause you to do things that are dangerous. Take G’s posts on choking, consent, and the Soho cinema. The consistent theme is that she’s submissive and gets turned on by being in a sexual situation beyond her control, even one that could be scary and painful for her. Now, G assures me that there is no psychological dimension to her sexual enjoyment, which is fine, I’m not suggesting otherwise.

I will, however, give you the example of a friend of mine. Career minded, independent, didn’t want to be stuck in a relationship or have children. She was submissive too, in fact she would do pretty much anything in or outside the bedroom, with anyone that might take her fancy. It all sounds like harmless fun, right? Well, not quite – she used to self harm, such was her level of self loathing. She did what she did sexually as a way of subconsciously punishing herself for being the horrible person she was (or so her mind told her), undeserving of any love or affection, men were free to play with her as they chose. She then used to cut her arms and legs to punish herself some more. She would drink herself into oblivion to hide from the mental pain, which would result in her slumping into an even deeper depression, from which she could escape only by trying to stimulate her brain into producing more serotonin. It was a vicious circle, which tragically came to a juddering halt when she ended her life. She never sought the help that could have saved her, simply because she never thought she was worth it.

I guess my message is that you never know when depression might creep up on you. Never be ashamed to get help, it may just save your life.”

Sexual submission does not equal low self-esteem

The above post is written very cautiously. Note that after I’ve ‘assured’ him that I like submission, he ‘is not suggesting’ that I have low self esteem. Nevertheless, he launches into what is certainly a powerful and sad story, and one which makes him wince at my stories about getting choked.

Submission is a valid sexual choice

How could I possibly like being choked? It’s so damaging and painful that there simply must be something wrong with my brain that draws me, against my will and better judgement, to such agony.

Point 1: I don’t like the implication that a subset of women have made the ‘wrong’ sexual choices.

For the record, I like getting choked because it’s hot. Not hot because ‘I’m a bad girl and need to be punished’ and not because ‘I want someone to be in total control of me.’ It’s hot because it makes my cunt wet. If it makes your dick hard then it makes my cunt all the wetter.

I shouldn’t have to ‘assure’ anyone of that, because no one should make any pop-psychological assumptions about my sexual inclinations in the first place. For the record, assuming that submissive men like to lick feet and be beaten because they ‘probably have very high-powered jobs’ and want to ‘let off a bit of steam’ is just as odious a cliche.

I, personally, like to assume that people take part in sexual acts because they have chosen to. That way, not only do we give people the credit for being able to make their own sexual choices, it is also much easier to spot situations where they haven’t – acts that they might be feeling pressured into, or things they’re doing because they’re too drunk or out of it. I’ll come onto this later.

Lots of people like pain

Kink-friendly film ‘The Secretary’ is worth a mention here, if only for the fact that it does little to dispel the myth that submissive women lack self-esteem. Despite being one of my favourite films (Maggie Gyllenhall getting whacked by her boss before being humiliatingly jizzed upon and voluntarily pissing herself at a desk in what I can only describe as an orgy of awesome) it’s still, at its core, a damsel in distress movie.

Poor Maggie Gyllenhall cuts herself because she’s sad. She self-harms and covers it up, and only becomes truly happy when she’s found a nice big strong man to fulfil her desperate need for pain.

Point 2: the desire for pain is not particularly uncommon.

As the popularity of the film implies, an interest in dominance/submission is not even that bloody weird. Depending on the survey results you look at, and how the question’s framed, between 5-25% of people have a penchant for dominance and/or submission. A study quoted by the Beeb estimates that between 11-14% of the US population has tried some form of BDSM.

Dominance and submission also splatters our cultural discourse like humiliating bukakke – we make jokes about spanking, watch TV shows with two-dimensional Dominatrix villains, even fucking Cosmopolitan magazine has even given tips on it, for crying out loud.

So why do we still insist on holding the desire for pain up as an example of ‘unusual’ sexual behaviour?

Perhaps poor Maggie Gyllenhaal would have been happier if we hadn’t.

Do I deserve to be punished?

Here’s something explicitly referenced in the example. The lady you discuss was ‘punishing herself.’ So do most submissive women submit because they think they deserve to be pubished?

Do I think I deserve to be punished? God no. I’m undeserving of most of the good things that happen to me, and I’m always surprised and delighted when a dude gets it into his head to beat me to the verge of tears and then fuck me like a ragdoll.

Do you see what I did there? I assumed that this particular sexual act, like most, was something that I wanted.

Point 3: submissive women do not necessarily think they ‘deserve’ misery.

In order to draw the link between low self-esteem and submission you have to assume that the girl doesn’t really want pain – at least not in the same way as she might want a cuddle and a chocolate brownie. She takes the pain because she feels like she deserves punishment – she’s bad/wrong/fucked up etc.

Do we try to rationalise other sexual preferences like this? Do we feel the need to explain away your desire for blowjobs because you think your cock is dirty and needs to be cleaned? No. We say you fucking like blowjobs.

We work on the rule of thumb that people are having sex because they want to. If, when a girl tells you that she wants to be spanked, you assume some complex psychological trauma to explain away her ‘unusual’ desires, you make the wild and significant assumption that she doesn’t like it.

By assuming she doesn’t like it you make the girl’s decision – a choice she has made about the way she gets off – insignificant. Your revulsion at the idea that someone could actively seek out pain leads you to patronise her and assume that she’s compelled to do it for reasons other than that it’s her choice.

What better way to take away her sexual agency? To lower her self-esteem.

Some submissive women do have low self-esteem

I’m not saying that no one ever allowed someone to do horrible, painful things to them because they had self-esteem issues. But what I am saying is that assuming a link between these two things is unfair on the countless thousands of people who choose submission because it turns them on.

Moreover, it’s unfair on the people for whom this is a genuine problem. If the lady in the example my friend proffers had genuine self-esteem issues, then assuming that there’s a natural link between submission and low self-esteem isn’t going to do her any favours.

Point 4: linking submission and low self-esteem provides a smokescreen for the real issues someone might be facing.

Assuming that people do sexual things because they enjoy it means that alarm bells will ring all the louder when you see someone who clearly doesn’t. And that’s really, really important.

If you don’t assume that submission and self-esteem are inextricably linked, what you describe in the example is even more shocking. It’s not a submissive woman carrying out her sexual desires, it’s a damaged woman being taken advantage of when she actually needs to be helped.

Where’s the evidence?

A final thought, because I am nothing if not rigorous and overly verbose: I’ve had a google around this area, and have yet to find any comprehensive studies on the possible link between sexual submission and low self-esteem. If the original statement that submission is “more commonly linked to depression than you might think” is true, then this material must exist. I would certainly like to see any data anyone could provide on this. Links in the comments will be rewarded with my genuine delight.

Despite having failed to locate much info on the topic, I’m more than willing to believe that there might be a link between sexual submission and low self-esteem in some cases. But I’m still going to stick to my guns and say you should never assume there is one. It’s incredibly patronising, and sometimes damaging, and it certainly depresses the fuck out of me.

Submission and feminism are not mutually exclusive


I want you to spit in my mouth, call me a slut, come all over my face and then respect my opinions on gender politics. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so.


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On consent, and the meaning of ‘no’

There are very few blog posts that I regret writing – even if I’m wrong I’m happy to show how wrong I was and reflect on what I’ve learned. This one, though, I don’t like: it was written a long time ago when I didn’t have the language or knowledge to express what I was really talking about – consensual non-consent, and established trust within relationships. 

‘Yes’ is a powerful word. It gives someone permission to do things. Some people choose to say yes to certain people – you can fuck me, but he can’t. She can suck me off, but I’m not so sure about her. Some people give their consent for specific acts – you can shag me, but you can’t put it in my ass. You can cane me, but not so hard it draws blood. Restrain me, but with soft ropes not gaffer tape.

Etc, etc, etc ad infinitum – humans are infinitely different and weird and filthy. A man who chokes me with my consent is a stunning, cunt-wetting sex-god. A man who chokes me without my consent is a criminal.

But I hate the idea that I have to give that consent explicitly, and I hate that often I’m told to be more cautious than I am. I hate the idea that ‘no means no’.

If boys always took my ‘no’s to mean exactly that, I’d have spent most of my life crywanking myself to completion after disappointing vanilla sex, imagining how good it could be if he’d just, you know, spit in my fucking mouth or hit me in the face or something.

A blanket ‘no means no’ rule doesn’t hold up to scrutiny in my longer relationships – it’s an easy and useful default in an unfamiliar situation, and can prevent people from being forced into doing things they don’t want to do. But when relationships develop and communication muddies the waters, ‘no’ can mean anything from ‘I just can’t be bothered’ to ‘persuade me’ to ‘I’ll get wet if you make me do it.’

The massive ‘but’

I don’t speak for everyone. Obviously. My own views on consent within the relationships I enter into is probably pretty extreme, and if I only gave you my word on what ‘no’ means I could potentially cause a lot of damage.

So I want to show you a selection of other views on the matter. All the women I asked about this gave excellent, thoughtful and interesting responses. Not one of them had a simple answer.

Mags – If I give you a real ‘no’, you’ll know

The first time I had buttsex, my boyfriend didn’t ask, he didn’t even tell me he was going to do it – he just did it. Part of me was outraged that he didn’t ask, but a bigger part of me loved that he didn’t.

Overall, I don’t say no (and mean it) often…I sometimes play at “no”, but there is always a massive fucking “yes” in my eyes and I guess I’m lucky that I have always had partners who can read me.

A genuine “no” is accompanied by body language that also says “no” loud and clear – taking myself out of arms reach, covering my body, leaving the room – but it’s nearly always no from the outset, I can count on one hand, and still have digits spare, the times a yes has become a no.

Girl A – Consent is agreed beforehand

For me, the word “no” is very rarely used in the bedroom. Once you’ve made it that far, there’s not very much I’m not willing to at least try. Previous to this we’ve probably discussed my hard limits.

If I’ve invited you back to mine, or am coming back to yours, we’ve spoken about what unspeakable things we’d like to do to each other.  But I don’t outright ask/get asked “would you like to have sex?”, and then wait for an affirmative.

Something like having sex with me when I’m asleep? With some of my boys I wouldn’t mind, but I would rather we’d discussed it beforehand.

Amanda C – None of us can read minds

My idea of consent and responsibility for consent resides in this larger idea: you can’t read anyone’s mind, and nobody can read yours. You have a responsibility to yourself to clearly express what you want and how you feel to other people. This doesn’t mean being a totally unfiltered open book, but understanding that although there might be a lucky chance that someone else totally groks to your signals, you’re responsible for stating what you mean, what you want, how you feel.

I think that a lot of people react to grey areas by attempting to make a list of dos and don’ts, which is just impossible because you can’t make a list for everything, and what, are people going to carry a little laminated card with them? Like some kind of flowchart for banging?

You can’t assume the “whys” of other folks, be it in sex, dress, behavior, etc. This doesn’t mean that everyone is being deceitful, and showing one thing but feeling another. It just means that you can’t read their mind, and they can’t read yours.

Girl B – It depends on how well I know you

It very much depends on who I’m with. With one guy we have talked about everything we both like and don’t, so yes for him means that anything we’ve talked about goes. Part of that package is me saying “no”, because I love to play that game. I love pretending to say no and having him do it anyway. But I trust him and he knows the score.

If I was with someone new, yes would mean…well anything I’m comfortable with. If I haven’t already discussed it and something happens that I don’t like, then no definitely means no. If he doesn’t know me well I don’t think he has the right to interpret that “no” as anything other than serious.

As a woman who has said no and meant it, and been ignored, this is a tricky area. I was in a relationship years ago. One night, I didn’t want sex (at all, I was drunk and spinning and made it very clear), but he pinned me down, covered my mouth, forced himself on me and anally raped me. Now in a different situation with a guy I trusted and had talked about that with, it may have been a huge fucking turn-on. In this case, I was scared, unable to breathe, angry, violated. His view was that I was his girlfriend and he could do what he liked. Wrong.

Yes, no, maybe, please

I don’t know how to end this, but I don’t know the answer to the original question either. What is consent, and how can you make sure you have it?

You can ask for it outright, but that takes away the potential for fun sex that pushes boundaries and makes people uncomfortable and makes me come like it’s the end of the world.

Or you can guess that you have it, but then you risk damaging someone you’re aiming to delight.

But I think it’s OK to not have a blanket rule, so I’m happy to chuck ‘no means no’ away for the time being. If you’re following a set of hard-and-fast rules on consent then you’re likely to trip up regularly – either by pushing things far too far or not far enough – because everyone’s different.

No doesn’t mean no for everyone. Sometimes it means ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ or ‘persuade me’ or ‘not right now.’ To fully understand exactly what it means you have to listen really carefully.


Postscript: This was written in response to some reactions to my previous post on buttsex, in which a guy did sexy things to me after I’d begged him not to. Many thanks to @hellsbell_ for raising the issue

On buttsex

UPDATE 2018: The story I tell here is something that I found deeply hot and that was 100% consensual and happened with a guy I trust very much. We have a dynamic that includes some consensual non-consent (i.e. pretending that I don’t want something even if I do), and as a result we have very specific ways in which I’ll let him know if something is genuinely not what I want). Essentially, saying ‘no’ in a voice that sounds like ‘yes.’ However, this blog post was written a long time ago when I didn’t know how to explain that very well, and as a consequence lots of people thought it was disturbing or genuinely non-consensual. 

If you enjoy consensual non-consent, you might enjoy this post. If you don’t, please don’t read on.