Consent is Sexy

Today, I read two posts on Facebook from males who are in their late 20s, early 30s, that I really appreciated and felt should be shared. So, here they are.

p.s. I got consent from both of them to share their words.

Man #1:

“One thing I’d really like to see come out of the Aziz Ansari story, since it evokes talking about true consent versus technicalities, is a discussion about how we depict men who seek consent in media. Bear with me: I have not seen a single film or TV show that depicts a consent-affirming man as attractive, or masculine- it’s always always always the opposite. In fact, even in 2018, if I see a romantic scene between a man and a woman, and the man seems to be even the slightest bit emotionally vulnerable, and then asks ‘is this OK?’ or ‘can I take this off?’ or ‘can I kiss you?’ I immediately know something: he’s the Baxter. Not only is he not the romantic hero, he’s the emasculated, nerdy loser who just doesn’t have the confidence to take what he wants, or make a bold move. He will not end up with anyone. Those men – too pathetic to even be cast as sidekicks who are ‘gifted’ a woman at the end of the film (gross) – always wind up alone.

That’s been the message my whole life by the way: ‘don’t be too nice to women; they’ll want to be your friend, but it’ll destroy any chance of her being romantically or sexually attracted to you.’ Essentially, ‘Nice Guys Finish Last.’ And we can (and SHOULD) talk all day about how that feeds into male entitlement (‘I’m acting the way society told me to, now I demand sex as payment!’), ******but what it also does is two-fold:

1) Seek to destroy the concepts of trusting women, and being kind / respectful as a way to approach a romantic or sexual endeavor.

2) Seek to convince those attracted to men that self-consciousness (god forbid a man be bashful) and confirming consent more than once (heavens to betsy! he might be nervous about crossing boundaries! how ugly!) are unattractive, non-masculine traits.

That’s fucking damaging. For men, sure, but ESPECIALLY FOR WOMEN. Through a lot of my life I thought I had to walk this perfect balance of knowing EXACTLY what someone wanted from me without asking- especially more than once. Saying ‘can I kiss you?’ was a risk, because I thought it would be seen as a weak, emasculating thing that would ultimately discourage intimacy. What that ultimately did was make me feel like who I was – someone who wanted to be nice to women as opposed to being some Alpha stereotype – was unattractive, and gross. And that made me bitter. And that bitterness – of being denied your validity as a human who deserves intimacy because you’re just not manly enough – is a major force perpetuating rape culture. I am incredibly lucky and thankful that amazing, patient, badass women helped me see that all of it was a patriarchal lie before I became some 4chan creep. MRAs, pick-up artists, and GamerGaters are full of that bitterness. It’s easy to cultivate- masculinity is fragile, just break it.

Meanwhile, many of those who are attracted to men also buy into this on some level. I have had people express to me in confidence their absolute aversion to a guy who shows any self-consciousness in a potential sexual encounter (meanwhile, that’s considered sexy in women). I’ve had women tell me that they wish their partner would ‘stop being such a pussy’ after ‘bringing emotions into it’ by asking them to help define their relationship. I’ve had feminists tell me at my super liberal arts alma mater that they wish there were more ‘REAL men here.’ When I asked what that meant, it always involved a description of a guy who ‘wouldn’t be afraid to throw me against a wall and kiss me.’ You couple that last one with a sense that you can’t verbally ask for consent, and you’ve got rape culture stew.

My whole life I felt like society was trying to convince me that the male ideal I had to achieve was essentially Edward from Twilight. Aloof, sensitive but I DON’T WANNA TALK ABOUT IT NOR WILL I, and most horrific, always carrying the ever so smallest threat of danger.

And you know what? YUCK THAT’S FUCKING RAPEY. Idolizing that kind of behavior needs to stop.

So I’m posting one of my favorite articles about in the past 10 years about this subject, written by Julia Serano – a transwoman and feminist who can speak to the experience of moving through the world as both a man and a woman at different points in her life. It gets to the quick of it.”

Man #2:

“The Anziz Ansari news was a tough read. Was a big fan of that guy. Parks & Rec is one of my favorite shows. I actually had it on in the background when the news popped up on my laptop. I’m not sure if I’ll ever look at it the same way ever again.

It was tough to read as someone who’s been in dangerous situations where I felt I couldn’t leave because I thought it might be rude. And it was tough to read as a single guy in the dating world.

When I first started being exposed to online dating culture in my early 20s, the world was a very different place. I would hear and read things from men like, ‘You need to be aggressive.’ or ‘Women like guys who take charge.’ And I’d hear things from women like, ‘You should buy her a drink. I feel more obligated to talk to a guy if he buys me a drink.’ or ‘I like it when a guy is a bit of a pig.’

It all helped shape a mindset that at the end of the day, made me feel gross. So I went in the other direction. So far to the point where now I hear from most of my dates when I come out and say ‘I’m attracted to you.’ (because I’m not sure how else to convey it) or ‘Would you mind if I kissed you?’ They are surprised. They had no idea I had feelings for them. And it seems to be a good practice, but it can also be frustrating.

My dating frustration peaked when on a date, I asked for permission to kiss her. She declined and said she wasn’t attracted to me in that way. I was disappointed, but respected her choice and was glad I asked. However, she followed it up with, ‘I like to be surprised when a guy kisses me for the first time.’

I wanted to throw up my hands in frustration thinking, ‘Well I don’t know what the hell to do anymore.’ Situations like that one aren’t as common, but they do happen. And they leave me thinking, ‘Do I even know how to interact with humans on a basic level?’

But I’m going to keeping airing on the side of caution because everyone deserves to feel safe.”

ME

Here’s my take on these two responses.

  1. I agree with Man #1 that something has to change with the way media portrays romance, consent, and sexuality. I think there needs to be new types of content created for TV, movie theatres, commercials, online, print, and beyond that retell the story and change the message to paint men asking for consent and being considerate and sensitive as sexy and irresistible.
  2. I found it interesting that both men quoted things they have been told:
    • “You need to be aggressive”
    • Women like guys who take charge”
    • I like it when a guy is a bit of a pig”
    • “Stop being such a pussy”
    • “‘REAL men [=]  a guy who ‘wouldn’t be afraid to throw me against a wall and kiss me”

I also agree that these are the messages both men and women receive about what type of behavior is hot or attractive. The movie He’s Just Not That Into You starts with a scene of a little girl being picked on by a boy at the playground with a voiceover describing that from a very young age girls are taught,”If a boy is mean to you, it means, he likes you.” Women are also taught if a guy doesn’t make the first move, he is just not that into you, is gay, or just wants to be friends.

I don’t think either of the men I quoted’s intention was to defend Aziz’s actions, and that is not my intention either, but I do feel we live in a world where being aggressive or violent is sexualized and seen as “what women want.” Cue- Fifty Shades of Gray and Twilight- both go on and on in exhaustive detail about a man taking control and exerting his force.

My own experience with all of this is I have only had one guy ask permission once. Everything we did he asked permission, and he would ask things like “Is this okay?” It was extremely hot, and I don’t have memory of any other guy asking permission before that.

When I told another guy I was seeing recently about this experience and how I liked being asked permission, he didn’t understand, saw it as nerdy or not manly, and never tried it.

What I think made it so sexy / special to me was I had never experienced that level of respect before, and it made me feel more treasured/valued and less like an object and less like I was expected to do x, y, and z because he bought me dinner or spent money on me. I think dating often feels very transactional. A guy does x, which means a girl does y. You can fill x and y with lots of different variables- sexual and nonsexual.

My point in sharing what these two men wrote and my own limited experience is that consent can be sexy, and I wish more people talked about it and made consent normal, a normal thing to expect, not an anomaly. Instead of it being normal for a guy to expect a sexual reward after he buys you dinner, imagine it being normal for a guy not to expect anything and to ask permission before he touches a girl in any shape or form, even putting his hand on the small of her back or touching her shoulder.

This is one piece I would love for people to comment their thoughts on below. I am very curious what others think about this topic- consent, masculinity, Aziz Ansari’s sexual assault allegations, and/or your own experience with dating and consent or marriage and consent.

One thought on “Consent is Sexy

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