Consent is Sexy

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with Queer Guess Code

“We’ve gotten the idea from movies and magazines that silence is sexy.  Ultimate romance means fireworks and fairy dust sprinkling down from the heavens and instilling in us some magical intuition where both people suddenly just know what the other wants.  Speaking out loud in full sentences would break the rhythm, ruining the mystical thrill of the spontaneous moment.  And GOD FORBID you ask permission to do anything.  I mean, come on, major boner killer.” Un-Memorizing the “Silence is Sexy” Date Script


I was quite taken by this article when I first read it a month or so ago, before the start of the Let’s Talk Opinion series. What struck me most was one particular insight, which I had never considered before:

“Women are not given enough opportunities to say ‘yes.’”

The piece begins with the author’s account of a personal experience: “We were kissing.  Lying on the cold wood floor, my hand travelled across her stomach and she whispered, “I think we should take it slow.”  I agreed immediately.  Before moving in to kiss her again, I said, “Just tell me when to stop.””

They thought this to be a considerate, respectful reaction. However, what followed next disabused them of this notion: “Pulling away from me, her face took on a serious expression … what she said was, “Women are not given enough opportunities to say ‘yes.’””

Indeed. We always assume that a woman has the right to say no, but it is seldom that we consider the possibility that a woman ought to be given the opportunity to say yes.

This is all a big part of how men and women are socialised to behave in relationships. Men are expected to make the first move, be the active agent. Whereas women are expected to be the recipients of sexual advances, keep silent if they concur and say no or stop if they don’t want to go any further.

This may become problematic in a situation where the advances are welcome, but where a woman feels uncomfortable to go as far as the man may want or expect it to go once the first move is made. A woman may “want a hug goodnight, but not a kiss,” may be “excited about kissing, but uncomfortable with petting,” or they may even be very “enthusiastic about making out, but aren’t ready for sex.” Saying no puts a dampener on whatever is going on, even if the no only refers to the next step and could even result in a negative feeling about an experience that was otherwise positive.

If a woman hesitates for too long, wanting for… the petting say, to continue, but not wanting for it to become anything more, then she “could end up doing any variety of things against her innermost wishes,”  and the author argues that this “silence is sexy” model is in part responsible for creating rape culture.

Queer Guess Code‘s solution to this is a simple and straightforward one: Give women some agency by pausing now and then and allowing them to say YES and ask for what they want!  I swear, it is sexy as hell to give somebody exactly what you know they want, without wondering if you’re guessing wrong.”

Not everyone agrees however. Here is irisisinspiredca’s reaction to this article: “I’m sorry, but why is it someone else’s job to ask you what you want? Shouldn’t everyone, regardless of their sex, be able to assert their needs and desires independently of being requested to do so? It is easier to learn to express yourself than to consistently check if someone else needs to express themselves. … It’s a very pertinent topic to be discussing, and I’m glad to see it raised, but I still think it is easier (and more essential for self-satisfaction in all areas) to change you, than to try to change others.”

I agree with what they say about it being important to express yourself and your desires, feel confident and be comfortable about what you want and express it as such. However, I am confused by their last statement in relation to this article: “it is easier (and more essential for self-satisfaction in all areas) to change you, than to try to change others.”

Umm… isn’t the author doing exactly that, changing themselves rather than trying to change others (i.e. the woman)? In and of itself, certainly it is a very good and wise comment to make, but I do not see how the author of this article has in any way gone against it.

After all, they are not trying to change anyone else. They shared their experience of asking for, and receiving (or not in some cases), explicit consent, and imparted how this has impacted their particular relationships with women. Certainly, perhaps by writing publicly about their experience the implication is that they are attempting to change others (there are those who still struggle with asking verbally for consent).

And yet… I get the impression from the context in which the comment was made that it is not the author that they are referring to, but rather other women.

Would it be fair to say that what they are suggesting is that women should change their own stance when it comes to the bedroom, be more explicit without being prompted about what they want, rather than change men so that they would ask explicitly for consent?

This to me appears to be the implied meaning of that sentence, and if that is the case, then I would beg to differ.

It is not that I disagree with what they say. Yes. women should take charge. However, this position on the matter – in the interest of empowerment – appears to once again put the responsibility for what happens on women.

I think there is a point in changing men’s attitudes too. They are also present in the situation.

It is a 50/50, so whilst women should be encouraged to be more vocal in expressing what they do and do not want, men equally should be encouraged in expressing the same, and each side could ask the other whether they are ok with the level of intimacy reached and whether they want to keep it there or go further.

Equality after all does work best when it works both ways.

What is your take on the matter?


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