The narrative has been changing in the conversation of consent and feminism and female sexual autonomy. While the notion of “no means no” has been the focus of the conversation for a while, feminists have begun realizing that we also need to talk about how “yes means yes” and the power and necessity within that idea.
Keely wrote last week about the importance of no – in intimate settings and otherwise. She said, “[w]e need to adjust the ways in which we express and receive ‘no’”. This is also true for the affirmation and engagement of the yes.
Consent is not the absence of the word “no”. It is not the absence of physical aggression. Consent is an enthusiastic “yes”. Consent is communication with bodies and words. Consent is checking in with your partner to make sure they are comfortable and still on board because WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO BE IN AN INTIMATE ENCOUNTER WITH SOMEONE WHO IS NOT INTO IT?!?
That’s really what it comes down to. Consent – the presence of an enthusiastic yes – provides you with the knowledge that you’re being physical with someone who wants to be physical with you. And how great is that? The feeling of wanting and being wanted is so awesome and there is so much to unlearn about the place of men and women in the bedroom.
An enthusiastic affirmation is one which you come to on your own. You have not been coerced or manipulated into agreeing to something. Consent is not being talked into something – it is not okay for intimate situations to be used to wield control or power over another. Your enthusiastic consent means you are into whatever you’re doing – that you’re all into the moment!
It is time to empower women and ourselves to take charge of their own sexuality. To teach women and girls that they are allowed to say yes just as loudly and often as men and boys are taught to. Not only do men deserve partners who are able to ask for what they want, women deserve to be affirmed when they do so, and vise versa.
And as always must be said in discussions such as these: an affirmation once in word or body is not a blanket yes. It is not a blanket yes for any future sexual encounters. It is not a blanket yes for the next level of intimacy. You are always always allowed to change your answer. Always. Yes means yes and no means no.
And “no” does not need a detailed explanation as Keely told us last Monday because one no is enough and any other contact after it is non-consenual. However, I would argue that yes does need more of an explanation. Tell your partner what you are saying yes to in that moment. What you are ready and excited for. Ask your partner what their yes means. It’s time we stop acting like we only want to get some or stop pretending like we don’t reeeeeally want to get some – and time to start communicating. We can learn how to make communication and consent sexy and more enjoyable than those tired, traditional roles we are living into because we think we have to.
Intimate situations are a dance where – despite what we may have been taught – the moves are not choreographed, there’s not a progression that all people have to understand beforehand and it is beautiful and satisfying when both partners want to be there. We should not settle for less. Ever. And that goes for all genders: we should not settle for less than enthusiastic consent. Your “yes” is powerful and vital and gorgeous. It is necessary and sexy and respectable.
Consent is mandatory.
The narrative is changing. And it starts with you.