What I, personally, regard as the largest benefit of #metoo is not that some idiots who used their position of power now have to account for it (although this is great, of course) but rather that people have suddenly started talking about consent. I think that this is a topic that is utterly important for survivors of abuse as well as for their partners. I’ve had countless conversations with friends as well as with people at work who seem concerned and confused as to whether their behaviour is okay and as to how consent can be recognized.
And that’s why I’m writing this post: I get furious when people start pretending that consent is some sort of complicated science and that you need to read thousand books to grasp the concept. Simply put, consent is a euphoric YES. It’s clear and above all it’s simply sexy. Now I can hear all those worried people who’ve asked me stuff like: “What if my partner doesn’t send clear signals and is just someone who doesn’t react so intensely?”
And again, I don’t see the problem: Just ask them for fuck’s sake! I am convinced that a question like “Are you okay?”, “Is this feeling good for you?” or “Would you like me to continue?” has never ever ruined the mood – quite the opposite!
Apparently it’s really hard for us to communicate when it comes to encounters that (might) have a sexual touch. I think that’s because many of us (and this applies to survivors of abuse especially) have never learned to say “NO!”. We can’t even say the word when we’re invited to a party we don’t want to go to – most of us might rather make up some other appointment, a headache or whatever just so that we don’t have to actually say no. If it doesn’t even work with stupid dinners – how is it supposed to work in much more intimate settings where it’s even more important for us not to hurt our partners’ feelings?
I think we can all learn a great deal from the BDSM-community. You may think of certain practices whatever you wish but it’s a fact that no other group of people discusses the importance of consent as much as persons who like kinky sex. The credo “Safe, sane and consensual” is utterly important in this community – but I think it can also be applied to really anyone’s sex life. Safe and sane might be words that don’t come up as often when you’re a total vanilla but the keyword “consensual” is obviously something we all have to discuss.
I’ve mentioned how hard it is for most of us to say “no” and that’s where I think the BDSM-community has something to offer: Safewords. In the community it’s quite common to use a traffic light system: Green for everything’s great, keep going; yellow for I’m starting to feel uncomfortable, let’s take it slowly; and red for stop immediately, something’s wrong! Another option is to just find another word for the “red” which can be really anything but should be short and easy to remember.
The reason these words are used is because “no” can mean something entirely different in certain scenarios (and only there – apart from roleplay no ALWAYS means no!) in the BDSM-community. But for everyone else, it might still be useful to use this traffic light system in order to make it easier to tell your partner(s) to stop. It’s not necessary to actually use the word “no” and when a safeword is established you know that there will be no need to justify that, that nobody will be insulted and that it gives you the possibility to explore what exactly went wrong and how you and your partner(s) can continue in a more comfortable way. Especially when you’re still in the process of getting to know your partner you might not know what works and doesn’t work for them – I know that my triggers are things that most people would definitely not recognize as problematic and before I told him my partner couldn’t have known that.
I guess what I want to say is that we all need to talk more about consent and how to negotiate with our partners. And in my opinion, safewords are a great way of doing that without making a situation uncomfortable. By the way you don’t need to restrict this just to the bedroom: I know a family who uses the traffic light system in everyday life – for example the children might say “red” when they’re playfully tussling and one of them feels it’s too much or the parents might say “yellow” when it’s just getting too loud around the house etc. etc. – that way they’ve all learned that a “stop” does not have to mean rejection and that it is okay to set and important to respect boundaries. I’m pretty sure those children will also be more confident and respectful than most when they’re having partners later on.
And that’s what we all need – especially when we’ve experienced how terrible it is when you can’t say no.