On Explicit Enthusiastic Consent

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I've been spending a lot of time thinking about consent, as I've seen (on various twitter feeds/facebook feeds/blogs) a number of discussions of where consent was violated by people who “should know better.”

This made me reflect on the events I, and we as The Swingset, host (namely our Desire Trip). One of the reasons people have told us they feel so safe with us is because we as hosts talk explicitly about the value of consent constantly. We model it, we tell all attending that this is how things are here. We even include it in a pre-trip booklet for newbies to the trip.

As far as consent violations are concerned, it's really easy to fall back on the “well, they just didn't know better” or “their culture views consent differently” or “they were just caught up in the moment” – and all that may be true, so I'm not suggesting that one consent violation equals exile from a group or a public vivisection as is so common in our community.

What I'm saying is that we, as leaders of groups, need to OVER emphasize consent. In every class, in every conversation or welcome circle, we need to tell everybody how sexy consent is, and how bad it is for someone who knows better to violate consent. To touch, to grope, to grab, to kiss.

Our discussions of explicit consent are pushing back against a wave of media, a lifetime that has suggested “just kiss the girl, don't ask” or “their body language will tell you so you don't have to talk about it.” This is a difficult fight! An uphill battle. And this fight is won by demonstrating, and teaching, to ask for consent at the micro levels as well as the macro levels.

It's not simply “Can I fuck you?” (though that's a good question) but “Can I touch you?” and if that touch extends toward sensitive areas “can I touch your breast?”

I've heard from many that this takes “the romance” or “the passion” out of sexy time. “Never ask for permission [for a kiss],” I once wrote in a romantic comedy ages ago, when I was young, stupid, and still asleep. Now I counter with it also tends to take “the rape” or “the assault” or the “what happens if I'm afraid to say no?” out of sexy time. Like many penis-havers I know, I don't like using condoms, but I use them anyway because they protect me and my playmate. Active consent discussions, and receiving enthusiastic consent should be treated just as essential. You may feel that it gets in the way of your mojo a bit, but get the fuck over yourself.

The bottom line for me is that I've never had someone decide they didn't want to fuck me because I asked permission too frequently. (Though there have been points where I've been told I don't have to ask anymore. Spoiler alert: That's actually consent!) While in my younger, dumber, newbie swinger days, I HAVE had people decide they didn't want to fuck me because I was too touchy/grabby without asking. In the years since then, I sometimes cringe at my early behavior, but I have evolved on the topic, as well as so many others, and recognize its incredible importance now.

I believe that we all have, at one time or another, violated consent, be it on a very minor level, all the way up to some major levels. If you feel called out by this post, I can assure you that's not my intent. But, as always, if you feel called out it likely indicates you're due for some reflection. I'm asking you to think about whether it would've been so hard to say “You're fucking hot, I'd love to kiss you.” or even “Can I give you a hug?”

Society sees these things as barriers to sexy time when the consent discussions can lead to so many more sexy times. Asking for consent helps us to learn how to talk about what we want and ask to do it. This is a most valuable skill that we're sadly not taught in the world.

It also helps you meet people where they are. Asking “Can I touch your leg?” and getting “I'm not ready yet.” allows you to pull back and help make that person comfortable, rather than touching and pushing them away because they weren't ready. And you'll never again have your hand shoved off a boob like you're back in freshman year of high school. Which is totally #Winning.

(It was pointed out to me that high schoolers today tend to be pretty damned good at consent, so I'll reiterate that MY high school days were decades ago. In the dark ages before, really, anyone was “woke”)

Obtaining explicit consent is one of the easiest things in the world. And no, you don't have to go granular like “may I start thrusting now?” so don't get all bullshitty hyperbolic on me. It's “can I fuck your ass?” that requires EXPLICIT ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT.

And as a shy/introverted person, “Can I touch your arm/back?” is such an easy prelude. And the reaction this touch gets definitely tells me whether I should ask to kiss/touch/fuck/rimjob.

Bottom line, Consent Is Sexy, and the more we as leaders of groups and communities make that clear, the fewer issues we will have with violations. We all flow according to the whims of the great magnet. Let's point in a positive direction for a change.

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About Author

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About Cooper Cooper S. Beckett is the co-founder and host of Life on the Swingset: The Podcast since 2010, author of swinging & polyamory novels A Life Less Monogamous and Approaching The Swingularity, and memoir My Life on the Swingset: Adventures in Swinging & Polyamory. He teaches and speaks on swinging, polyamory, pegging, play parties, and coloring outside the boundaries of your sexuality. He is a graphic & web designer, photographer, and voice over artist, has been a guest expert on Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast, & is the announcer of Tristan Taormino’s radio show Sex Out Loud. He is currently working on two instructional non-fiction books, one about beginning non-monogamy, and another about pegging.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Very interesting blog that tackle s the difficult things that happen in adult life. These are things that we should discuss but unfortunately we hide away from them.

    Thanks for this blog and keep writing.

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