Saturday, December 6, 2014

It's a T-Shirt! It's a Joke! It's Patriarchy!

It's 1759 hours.  In one minute, I turn off the OPEN sign, lock the door and commence with the final processes of my work day.  "NaNaNa" chirps the door bell, enthusiastically admitting two customers.  Okay, I can do the friendly, upbeat thing once more.

My new customers tell me that they usually shop at Enchant√©*, a competitor of ours of whom we have a low opinion.  They continue to tell me how they used to buy Hustler shirts there but they seem to have stopped carrying them.  But *this* shirt (customer points to his chest) they are carrying and isn't it so great?

His shirt says the following: "Just the Tip... I promise."

Nod-and-Smile::Bite-Your-Tongue time has just occurred.  I wish I could just gently (or not so gently) say that I do not find something funny, but I actually like my job and wish to keep it.

In case you are not following, the statement on that shirt is someone with a penis, who wishes to insert it into someone else who is reluctant.  The penis person makes a "promise", that sounds insincere, about inserting only a small amount of the penis in order to coerce the other person into agreement.  This is an enormous, red-flag waving, Holy-Hippopotamus-Stop-Signs assault on the concept of consent.

Consent is a tougher, more complex thing than most people realize.  Understanding it as an answer to a question, is the shortsighted way that our society has boiled down this complex subject into "yes" or "no".

Wait.  Let me say that again.  Consent is more than "yes" or "no".  Seeing it as that is not wrong, per se, but it is the grammar school level of understanding.  Most of us never get education past this point.  The only education I remember past this** was in my first year at college when a group of students put on a skit for us newbies in which one person repeatedly asked for someones water bottle and the other person gave them varying answers including a non-verbal answer.

Oh, so we need to pay attention to non-verbal yeses and nos.  Wow.  How enlightening.  And also, I get what they did there, but most people when facing the situation of deciding whether or not someone is into having sex with them, are not going to think "Ok, is this person treating the sex I want to have like that water bottle?"

If we move our concept of consent from answer to agreement, we change the map.  This is no longer call and response like we did in kindergarten.  This is a conversation, the way adults have.

Whoa, what's that look like when it comes to sex?  Let me illustrate:

Old way
"I like you..." Mmmmphphphmmmlllph <-- kissing etc. ensues leaving participants to feel anything between super happy and super unhappy.

Or, this way that I think people fear when we talk about getting consent:
"Is it okay for me to touch your thigh?"
"Yes."
"Okay" -touches thigh.
"Is it okay for me to kiss your mouth?"
"No."
"Okay."

Not very sexy, eh?  No.  But sex with consent doesn't have to look like a misshapen tangle of partial communications and solitary pleasures, or this stop-and-go action of asking at every juncture.

New way
"I want to touch your thigh and kiss your mouth.  Would that be okay?" "Mmm, I'd love you to touch my thighs, but I don't want to mouth kiss yet. Would you suck on my ear too?"

And we can dress up that conversation with whatever hot scenario stuff we want.  Kinky?  Change it into a command, where someone's non-yes or no response tells you what they want.  The best example of this I have read was from Dossie Easton who mentioned the clever way that someone got their answer by telling the bottom "If you want me to spank you harder, you better get your ass up in the air."  Clever, eh?  No one had to break roles and there is an easy indication of desire based on whether the bottom wiggles his butt higher.

When we become partners in consent like this, each person has to be responsible for their own desire, naming it, being honest about it.  It takes trust and faith that the other person will be honest, with you and themselves.  This is one of the things that makes sex into a seriously adult venture because that is difficult!

I recently said to a teen "what would it be like if all the sex you ever had, you enthusiastically wanted to have?" and it seemed like I had asked him something far more bizarre like, "If you could have lunch with Grover, lamp post or my sneakers, which porpoise would you connive?"  

Learning how to know what we want is often befuddled by expectations of what we are supposed to want and not want, which often conflict.  For those of us who feel this, the time it takes to figure out what is genuinely desired and how to be honest about it with ourselves and our partners... that's a lot!  And that's the beauty of explicitly asking and taking the time to agree -it gives us time to figure out what we want.  We do not have to answer the question right away.  We can think about it because asking the question leaves us with the latitude to create an answer.  For those of us whose wants and desires conflict, we need that time to reconcile these differences.

This means enemy of consent is going too quickly.  Betty Martin advises us to slow down by half at least, and then half again if needed.  Additional time, allows us to feel more fully what is true for us in any given moment, and to build the resolve to name it or ask for change.

Does that mean we have to give up the fantasy of a frenzied fuck?  No!  Because we can agree to have fast, sloppy, button-popping sex ahead of time.  We just have to agree what we're going to do.

When we understand that we are agreeing on what to do together, we leave behind wishy-washy notions of "well, it is okay with me" and "I didn't mind".  After all, who wants to have sex with someone who "didn't mind"?



*Name changed
**Until taking Betty Martin's Like A Pro workshop