The Oxford Student
Talking about sex can be an incredibly frustrating experience. I realised this the other week, when I was telling a friend how turned on I am by boys who are really good at consent. I was trying to communicate how I find the mutual communication of care and concern intensely arousing: something which, I hoped, would be greeted by the fairly unsurprised agreement that, yes, consent is pretty awesome.
Instead, I was greeted with the objection that having to ask for permission ‘kills the mood’. Make no mistake, if expressions of mutual respect and desire are going to kill your mood, then your mood is deeply rapey and you really ought to kill it as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Nothing is more important in sex than the enthusiastic communication of consent, and a total respect for someone’s right to say ‘no’. This might seem fairly obvious, but it hardly takes a glance around at our culture to see how messed up our attitudes to sex are.
Take the stigmatization of BDSM, for example (an acronym which stands for different things depending on whom you ask, but is a general designation for sexual practices involving dominance and submission, bondage and sadomasochism). The great thing about the practice of BDSM is that it foregrounds the necessity of consent in good sex. Robust BDSM consent practices, involving the discussion and clarification of acts that both desire, and the setting of limits not to be crossed, are based on the notion, too rare in ‘normal’, vanilla sexual encounters, that nothing is permitted unless explicitly stated. The pre-packaged and oppressively rigid script that our culture gives us for sexual encounters makes certain desires compulsory and forbids others.
We need to re-examine all the harmful assumptions that are often made in ‘normal’ sex: that there is some kind of natural sexual arc (often employing the odd sporting metaphor of ‘bases’ and a ‘homerun’) beginning with kissing, moving on to foreplay — that is, things that aren’t considered ‘real’ sex — and finally, to use a faintly ridiculous term, ‘full sex’. What is half-full sex like, I wonder? Or maybe just one third sex, two thirds chastity? ...