Sunday, February 5, 2012

Consent Post Number 2 (partners)

As my friend Jay pointed out to me, I haven't posted at all yet in February, so here is a post! :-)  I've spent most of my day typing up the script for my next show (the copies we were sent were so bad note even Scan Tailor can save them) so this will be a welcome break.

One of my first posts, back in September of last year I believe, concerned consent in relation to parent's piercing their baby's ears.  And I've been thinking about consent a lot lately (the Pervocracy posted on the issue twice, which helped) and here are my thoughts.  This promises to be a long post, especially since I was discussing my thoughts with Will yesterday, so I might split it into two posts.  Consent in regard to romantic/sexual relationships and consent in regard to parent/child relationships.

Consent is something that is undervalued in our society.  Much of our society is not taught the importance of personal, physical boundaries.  Yesterday I was out with Will shopping and literally had strangers touch me on my arm three times in the space of hours and then sort of spin me around so they could see the back of my sweatshirt (apparently it was an interesting sweatshirt).  Never before have I had that happen to me.

I honestly don't have a huge physical touch boundary, being touched on the arm by someone is just a way to get my attention and I understand that.  And I've long decided that I project a please don't touch me signal even to people I know.  As I said, I don't really mind, but it was certainly a surprise when three separate people physically touched my arm yesterday.  Could they have not just asked to see the back of my sweatshirt?  I certainly would have let them.  Why not just ask? I don't understand.

Yesterday sort of made me realize that I project the "Don't touch me" vibe without meaning to so what about people who project the: "Please touch me" vibe accidentally?  It's my body you're touching.  It does not belong to you in any way or shape.  You don't touch antiques in an antique shop because they aren't yours.  Why is a person any different?

And that really goes doubly/triply/many times more for your romantic/sexual partners.  They are opening themselves up to you and making themselves vulnerable to you.  Even with a one-night stand requires a level of trust.  Kink especially, especially requires trust.  So with a partner you're unsure of or new to, then you absolutely should be saying: "Can I kiss you?", "Can I do this?", "What do you want me to do?", "This is what I want."  An ongoing dialogue is so important and it might sound silly, but if you have unambiguous consent and if you're sure that your partner not only wants what you're doing, but is enjoying it, it'll make your relationships better.

I say this as something I firmly believe, but something that I will confess I'm not very good at in general.  As soon as things start to get physical, somehow I find my skills at communication just stop.  I'm not quite sure how or why it happens, but I'll fully admit it's something I need to work on.

Now, my biggest departure from the Pervocracy's thoughts on consent is in regard to long-standing partners.      I am not going to say: "I would like to be kissed" or say: "Is it okay if I kiss you?"  Every goddamn, single, solitary time I kiss Boyfriend, who I have been dating for four and a half years.  That's just silly for us.  If I lean in for a kiss he can (and has) say no if he doesn't want to.  If I hold out my arms for a hug, he can still say no.  It's pretty damn obvious what I'm asking for.  And I think it's still important to always ask about sex or any for of sexual contact much more than a kiss because enthusiastic, explicit consent is important.

Now, and this is where Will and I sort of got stumped in our conversation, what about surprise kisses and surprise cuddles and even to some extent surprise playful/joking gropes?  I really enjoy them.  I think they're adorable and enjoyable and I've never had a problem receiving them.  But they take consent and sort of throw it out the window, which makes me feel uneasy and feel like I shouldn't like surprise hugs and kisses. Will and my solution was that you should negotiate beforehand (ie when starting your relationship it should be included as part of your negotiations) and say that you enjoy surprises kisses and hugs and playful gropes, but if you say no at any point that they should stop (but only until you say that you don't mind anymore).

Like I said, I don't really say no ever to surprise kisses, etc but with surprise tickles, it's a slightly different story.  Generally I'm amused by surprise tickles and pokes and other things of that nature, but if I say "No/Stop" Boyfriend and Lana (and really all of my closest friends) will stop immediately and they tend to apologize.  And this is an arrangement I'm okay with mostly, though I can think of several pitfalls inherent in this system.

Bottom line: Ask before you touch someone unless you have negotiated with them if you can touch them without explicit permission.  This goes for your partner, friend, strangers in a bar or on the street, your coworkers, your child (this is trickier and something I'm going to discuss in a different post).  Every goddamn person has a right to not be touched if they don't want to be

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