Friday, May 11, 2012


I've mentioned a couple times that Rowdy and I, despite being together almost two years now, always ask for consent before sex.  I feel like sometimes that comes off a little pious, a little bit like this unsexy ritual we go through (or claim to go through) so we can achieve ISO 9000 Consent Compliance or something.

The truth is, though, that it's an incredibly simple and casual thing.  I mean, I ask "honey, do you want to go for a walk?" too; I don't just grab him by the arm and start dragging him down the street.  It's natural to ask someone before involving them in an activity.

We ask in different ways, too.

Sometimes we ask casual, and the answer is "well alright, sounds like a good time to me."
Sometimes we ask sexy, and the answer is "oohh God yes please now."
Sometimes we ask silly, and the answer is "yes, but without the ferret, okay?"
Sometimes we ask in whispers, and the answer is "...uh huh."
Sometimes we ask through kisses, and the answer is "mmmfffyesmmmfff"
Sometimes we ask pervy, and the answer is "yes Sir."

Sometimes we ask and the answer is "no."  Most of the time we're okay with that and cheerfully go on to other things.  Other times we're not okay with that and we feel unwanted or deprived or frustrated. But those feelings are still better than the way I'd feel if I realized I'd forced my beloved into something he didn't want.

I don't think I've ever made someone stop desiring me by asking.  I've only found out that they didn't desire me.  And holy shit, am I glad I did!  Whether as serious as keeping me from becoming a rapist or as bittersweet as turning sexual tension into "at least I know now," only good things have ever come from finding out someone doesn't desire me.

I've heard people say it's not sexy to ask.  I can't think of anything sexier than knowing my lover wants me.

I've heard people say it's not romantic to ask.  I can't think of anything less romantic than making your lover decide whether they're going to to yell "stop" at you or push you away or tolerate sex they didn't want.

I've heard people say "consent is sexy," but say it in that resigned sort of way, like "safety is sexy," that doesn't really mean it's boner sexy, just it's something they're sort of trying to promote.  I think they're doing it a goddamn disservice.

For me, consent isn't just sexy.  Consent is the only sexy thing.  My partner's desire, the fact that he wants me and wants this, is the only reason sex is better than masturbation.  I've got dildos, you know? I've got dildos in multiple sizes that vibrate and never go soft.  So my partner's body isn't a big deal to me.  The ego rush, the head rush, the racing heart and the throbbing crotch I get from sex all come from his enthusiastic participation--from the joy and the umf of knowing he wants me and the things he does because he wants me.

So fuck yeah Rowdy and I ask every time.  That's not a chore.  That's when I start getting wet.


  1. I entirely agree with the sentiment, but my husband and I seem to ask each other noon verbally, and when we do verbalize it, it's just....weird.

    1. I'm wary of non-verbal "asking" because I think it's very easy for one partner to see what they want to hear in the other person's reaction. It takes a lot more sensitivity and guts to say "you don't seem to be into this, I'll stop" than it does to accept a verbal "no."

      And I have to confess, I don't understand how it's "weird"? I mean, you ask each other about other things, right? You ask "do you want to go out for dinner?" or "do you want to go hiking this weekend?" or whatnot, right? Why is this different? (I'm not being snarky, I genuinely don't understand.)

    2. I think it's because Hollywood has been doing us a great disservice when it comes to romantic expectations. Given the way movies handle the buildup to a sexual encounter, where everything is witty and perfectly timed (unless it's played for laughs), just plain asking could, to some people, seem awfully unromantic and, as such, a mood killer.


    3. Totally.

      It took me a while to figure out that Real Sex wasn't supposed to be like it was in movies, when I was growing up...

    4. In an environment that say "sexual desire is shameful" it can by difficult to ask verbally; at the very least, it requires a degree of untraining.

      Add "male sexual desire is aggressive, and women need to be protected from it" and men in relationships with women need even more untraining, though that's more strawfeminist than something that's common.

    5. My wife this morning: "Do you want to have a quickie before we go shopping?" "Sure!"

      *boink* *boink*

      Not weird at all!

    6. There was an interesting point in Clarisse Thorn's recent book "Confessions of a Pick-Up Artist Chaser" about how one of the (few) neutral-to-positive things the PUA community was doing was looking at non-verbal communication, and Clarisse talked for a while about how she privileged verbal communication because she is very good at it, and when she is communicating with someone who is less good at it that can put her in a privileged position because she can control the exchange. I think that verbal communication is less important than clear communication, and people on the internet (where we can only communicate with words) sometimes tend to forget that there are other ways to communicate clearly besides words. Then again, I still think words are GREAT and MOST CLEAR, and I think as long as people take time to check in (ahead of time! I hope!) and make sure the other person has an "out" that can still be clear consent.

    7. I think nonverbal consent, while it shouldn't be considered the norm, is fine for individual couples, if they've decided they know each other and each other's reactions well enough to make that call. I think it's okay for couples to predetermine implied consent, if talking during the moment really, really kills the mood (and it does for some). Of course, it all comes down to communication: the reason it's okay is that it's been established by the couple.

      @aris-tgd: *Verbal* communication vs. *clear* communication - that's a great way of putting it, and I definitely agree.

      To answer your question, Cliff: sex is such an internal thing for me, and I'm so in my mind and body and spirituality that I prefer silence. Using my voice kind of brings me out of my happy place and into the rest of the world. It jars me into non-orgasmic reality.

    8. "Sex is such an internal thing for me, and I'm so in my mind and body and spirituality that I prefer silence. Using my voice kind of brings me out of my happy place and into the rest of the world." I think that's beautifully put.

      There's something wonderful - for those of us who tend to live in our heads a lot and be very verbal - about feeling so attuned to your partner's body language that you don't need to use words. About how a gesture can simultaneously be an instrument of pleasure and of communication, how each touch and look builds on the next and you are following each others' cues perfectly.

      Think of a couple dancing tango. Something would undeniably be lost if instead of guiding his/her partner through touch so subtle the audience can barely perceive it, the leader was instead whispering "now turn left... now turn right... now we're going to take three steps back... now two forward..." That's what people do when they're still learning to dance, not once they've become good at it. Part of the pleasure of nonverbal communication is the enjoyment of one's own mastery of the art.

      Now, I do think it's irresponsible to presume such mastery when you're dealing with a *new* partner, one whose cues you haven't learned to read yet. But part of the pleasure of long term relationships is mastery of each other's nonverbal language, and of course the trust that if a cue is misinterpreted, verbal communication ("oh, sorry, I'm not actually in the mood") is still there as a backup!

      That potential is not as often there when it comes to non-sexual matters like "do you want to go for a hike?" but it does happen and it's kind of cool to realize your friend has just had the same impulse to say, go dance in the rain as you, and you both do it.

      FWIW, my boyfriend and I *almost* always ask verbally, since we do like dirty talk and fetishize the act of saying yes a bit, but the nonverbal thing is not always all about nonconsent or not listening to each other. Sometimes it's just dance... a private sign language of two.

    9. In the course of play, as well as vanilla sex, my mate and our gf and I have established both verbal and nonverbal cues as to "yes," "no," "I'm not quite okay and need to step back for a minute." Sometimes I have a hard time vocalizing and need the option to use a hand signal. When all three of us are together we verbally sit down beforehand, usually snuggled up and handholding or other no-pressure caressing, and negotiate who is willing to do what.

      Both my primary partner and I have had bad experiences with consent or lack thereof. So yes, we kind of fetishize it. There's the times we'll be snuggling up, kissing, and I'll slide his hand up my shirt or into my pants and whisper, "Please." He always has the option to say no, and sometimes does. Or we can be in the middle of sex and he or I want something specific. That person will whisper it in the other person's ear, and the yes or no cue is given. Then there's moments like 3 am today when he finally got his ass to bed, tried to get into my boxers and said, "I'm really horny and I want you," and my response was, "Mmmmfff... *snore*" And he left me be because sexing on someone while they're sleeping and can't consent is fucking assault.

      Asking for consent can be sexy as hell. It just takes a bit of shedding cultural norms and a willingness to let go of the shame of actually wanting sex.

    10. I want to get better at communicating "I want sex", and I keep pointing my boyfriend to these entries, but he doesn't really get what I'm trying to say.

      I haven't figured out a way of asking verbally that doesn't make me feel silly. Since the beginning of the relationship, I've tended to communicate by poking and prodding and other "I want attention" actions. He thinks it's a bit silly, but I also feel strange saying flat-out "I want sex". He tends to chuckle at me, because I say it self-consciously, and that in turn makes me feel more self-conscious. The boyfriend has told me that I can just head straight to his dick and that will let him know I'm horny, but that's too sudden for me. I like foreplay. I especially like when he initiates, so that creates a problem when I'm horny but want him to start something.

      Cliff, I'd love it if you would provide examples of how you and your partner(s) ask. It would be good food for thought for someone who is not practiced in verbal communication.

      (Strangely, I'm good at communicating other things, like feelings. We're big on honesty, and I tell him lots of things. It's just asking for sex that weirds me out.)

    11. RE: Alanna

      I am a total master of verbal communication. At times, when I get desperate enough and my husband wants me to use my words, I end up blurting such suave lines as, "I WANT YOU TO DO THINGS TO ME," usually in a voice-crackingly high pitch with much embarrassment.

      Do I feel like a fool? Of course. There's no way to say shit like that without looking like a first-class dork. However, it gets his instant attention and massively ups my chances of getting exactly what I ask for. And also, over the years, it's taught me that being embarrassed or feeling silly? Not that bad, definitely not a mood-wrecker.

      Course, it helps that he has a kink for embarrassment, but I digress.


    12. Originial anon here. Haha, totally mundane and non-societal-shame reason for weirdness behind verbal requests: I grew up with a deaf mother, my first instinct for making sure I am 100% understood is to sign what I'm trying to say.

  2. "I can't think of anything sexier than knowing my lover wants me"

    I can think of a few that go along with that but on the whole I completely agree. Knowing they want you, hearing it, seeing the body language that goes along with it all of those combined help to make consent sexy. At least to me.

    1. Oh sure, I agree there are some sexy actions he can take, but I think the appeal of all those actions is dependent on the fact that he wants to be doing them.

  3. It's so sexy, in fact, that my exbf used to ask me not just once, but lots of times.
    "What do you want?"
    "I want you to fuck me..."
    "You do, hmm? Tell me."
    "I do, I want you to fuck me, I really really want you to fuck me."
    "How do you want me to fuck you?"
    "Well, I was thinking I could lean over the side of the bed and you could go behind me."
    "So that's what you want, is it?"
    Then he'd do what I asked, sometimes stopping to ask me a few more times first.
    "Is that what you wanted? Do you like me fucking you?"
    "Yes it is, yes I do..."

    That boy just couldn't ask me enough times. It was always sexy.

    1. Hope he's your Ex for not-bad reasons, Anon. Sounds like he knew what consensual sexy meant. But sounds like it was a good place and time. Congratulations.

    2. Awww, thanks. Actually it kind of sucks that he's an Ex, but yeah, it was a good place and time. Cheers, V

    3. I do that. Maybe I sound like a broken record sometimes, but it means I know exactly what he wants me doing to him and he hasn't complained yet!


    4. The boy and I have actually made kind of a kink out of asking for consent. Say there's something that he (or his character in roleplay) finds it humiliating that he wants to do. I demand that he express his consent to it and in fact ask for it multiple times before I go on, and play off of how badly he wants it. >:)

  4. Sexy or not, I think it's way better than the non-verbal thing.

    When we're not doing the D/s thing (which is rare, admittedly), we usually make some kind of physical 'pass' at the other, generally silent. This can be incredibly sexy if it turns into a full blown fuck-festival. However, if one of us isn't really in the mood it can involve going quite far down the road to that festival, out of not wanting to upset, before the dreaded 'Not just now' is invoked. The ensuing feeling of having coerced the other into even kissing without really wanting to is unquestionably vile.

    Why don't we just ask? I have no idea, but having read your article, I'm guessing we will do in future! Thanks.


    PS: Love the new name!

    His Pain Her Pleasure

  5. While I do think that your examples of giving consent are sexy, I have to admit that I find it, well, a little suspicious that you chose to omit the actual questions - which is at least half of what this post is about. Maybe it's just too personal, but it leaves me with the feeling that you just glanced over something very important and relevant to the topic.

    I, as a het cis male, agree that consent, being desired and wanted is sexy. I want to feel it, every time. Being asked is sexy, giving it is sexy, getting it is sexy - but I'm not yet convinced that asking it is sexy if you're a het cis male dating a het cis female. I'm afraid (as in, "I suspect and I don't like the prospect that it might be true") that in our culture, sadly, a man asking a woman for consent comes across as... well, either obsessively Feminist ISO 9000 compliant or very insecure. Possibly both. Especially if the woman is not bi, queer, kinky, an activist or otherwise likely to have thought a lot about consent.

    You obviously disagree, but judging by your second-to-last paragraph, you are (pretty much literally) a consent fetishist. Not someone with a consent preference or a consent kink, a consent fetishist. Yes, it's also the safe and sane thing to do. Should I assume that all (potential partners of my preference) are into (thing) because a fetishist assures me that it's totally hot, even if I agree?

    Devil's Advocate

    1. A couple of thoughts:
      1. I would suggest that you do not go into relationships making the assumption that the cis het woman you are dating necessarily thinks that consent is unsexy. They might as well love it when their partner whispers a question in their ear.

      2. A good phrase for asking depends entirely on the situation--either "Do you want to make love, honey?" or "I want to fuck you hard and make you scream, how does that sound to you?" or "...can I?" might be either the epitome of sexiness or completely out of place, depending on who is asking, who is being asked, what the situation is etc.

      3. But yes, some people DO think that asking is unsexy. And some of these people are heterosexual women. If you find yourself in a relationship with one of these people, or at least if I did, I'd have two options. Either I'd leave them, because I don't want to risk traumatising someone with unwanted sex, or, more likely, never getting sex because the other person can never say yes. If I were a good breaker-upper, I'd also explain that my chief reason is their inability to communicate about sex, so that maybe in their next relationship they'd be a bit more communicative. Or I'd try to get them to think about consent a little bit. (Because yes, I do think you have to have thought about consent a bit in order to have successful relationships! I don't, anyhow, think you have to be bi, queer, kinky, trans, or a huge activist to think about consent.) I'd explain how I can't guess what they want, and how we both have to be able to make sure the other person wants it before we can do anything sexual. And maybe try to convince them that consent can be sexy, or at least tell them that I strongly feel so, to open their mind a bit.

    2. If you're looking for ways to ask, here's a couple of questions from my own relationship (which my cis het male partner has all used with great effect, and have worked about as well on him):
      - [while engaging in light sexy touching that I enjoy] Would you like to have some sex?
      - Hey, d'you think you might like sex in half an hour or so?
      - So I'm thinking, how about we have dinner, rest for an hour, shower, then have sex?
      - Sex now? (asked lightly, often answered with a thoughtful hum and "Ten minutes?")

    3. When you read Anonymous at 1:28AM, do you think that comes across as obsessively Feminist ISO 9000 compliant or very insecure? I think it comes across as very fucking hot.

      See also: "I'd like to [stroke your ass and gently fuck you/tie you up and whip you till you scream/lick your cunt and taste you and then kiss you with the taste of you in my mouth/any description of sex], would you like that?"

    4. A "consent fetishist"? This is a new and novel way to dismiss something.
      "Oh, don't listen to her, she's just one of those freaks who gets a boner for not being raped. Weirdoooo!"

    5. Okay, I'm still having trouble getting over "gosh, she's just a kinky weirdo for thinking it's good that her sex partners want to have sex with her," but here are my thoughts on the whole "you don't understand, het cis women don't want to be asked" thing:

      1. If you go around not-asking, you don't actually know this.

      2. If you ask and someone says "no," or "you ruined the mood," this does not necessarily mean that you asking was the problem.

      3. If you don't ask, it is very hard to make the judgement call that someone doesn't want to have sex with you. Either they have to get up the courage (and it takes courage; a guy who will start forcing sex on you is a guy who might do something horrible if you stop him) to shove you off, or you have to be really observant of their body language and really willing to say "okay, it seems like you're not into this, I'll stop."

      Are you willing to bet the guilt of having raped someone on your ability to do that? When there's a very simple alternative available?

      4. You don't have to ask like "Do you hereby consent to one (1) act of intercourse between us?" You can ask by breathily whispering "I want you" in their ear and waiting for a reaction. I have great difficulty seeing that as mood-shatteringly unsexy.

    6. Personally, if someone accused me of "ruining the mood" by asking for consent, I seriously _don't_ want to have sex with that person anyway!Aside from anything else, if they so easily disregard my care for their consent, how do I know they're going to care about my consent?

    7. Pardon me, but this was not intended as a dismissal at all, but I'll take "new and novel" as a compliment, thanks. I actually think "fetish" fits the description rather well: It's not just a turnon for you, it is the turnon, and without it, sex isn't even worth bothering.

      Granted, without consent, whether the consent itself is a turnon for the participants or not, it wouldn't be sex, but rape; so naturally a date with Rosie Palms is preferable. But we're not talking about enthusiastic participation here (at least I think we don't), but specifically about explicit verbal consent.

      What I'm saying is that I doubt you'd find many het cis women who are "not kinky, an activist or otherwise likely to have thought a lot about consent" and would identify asking for or giving explicit verbal consent prior to every single sexual encounter as a turnon, much less the turnon.

      What I'm saying is that I think that a blanket statement like "no one will ever perceive a request for explicit verbal consent as a turnoff" may be a bit of an overgeneralization.

      What I'm saying is that I don't think it's less romantic to make your partner decide whether to say "no" than it is to, well, make your partner decide whether to say "no". I assume the answer to this is that the difference is that asking for consent does not require a "no" to withhold consent, just a lack of "yes". But suppose Bob were to say something like "I want to lick your pussy and then fuck you 'til you can't walk anymore" and Alice responds by humping Bob's leg and vigorously nuzzling his neck. Now, I'm enough of a nerd to find it highly amusing to say something like "I'm afraid that, despite my previous declaration of intent, I have to refuse any further participation without an explicit verbal response in the affirmative to the implied request for permission to do so", but I'm very sure that many people would react to that with an annoyed "What the fuck, are you making fun of me?!" And I can't really blame them.

      I'm not trying to make a strawman argument here, but this is actually what I picture in my head (it's a weird place) when I try to imagine this kind of consent requirement. I do, however, think it's more or less accurate. Bob would indeed have to stop everything until he got an explicit "yes" or something very similar from Alice, even if she otherwise actively participates. And that, I'm really sorry to say, I do find at least potentially mood-shattering, and I cannot help but think this is a bit overcautious. You might say that it's better for a thousand couples to not get laid than for one person to be subjected to unwanted sex, and I'd agree, but I think this is a false dichotomy. Even if "not yes" does not mean "no", "no" still means "no".

    8. (You posted a second response while I was still typing this one, so I'll just incorporate it in here. And now it turns out that I have to split it up anyway because I went over 4K characters.)
      "Either they have to get up the courage (and it takes courage; a guy who will start forcing sex on you is a guy who might do something horrible if you stop him) to shove you off[...]"

      Maybe my problem is that some of us assume steady relationships and others assume third (or whenever one feels it's time to get physical) dates. In the latter case, I don't think it'd take much more courage to say "no" when your date (e.g.) leans in to kiss you, than it takes to say "no" when your date asks "wanna take this upstairs, to my bedroom?" Maybe I'm wrong. If so, please enlighten me. So, I don't quite get why demanding explicit consent is so much more preferable than the failsafe of "no means no", especially if obtaining consent is not a specific turnon and, as such, part of foreplay for the participants. Besides, the kind of guy who'd start forcing sex on you is not the kind of guy who'd ask for consent in the first place, and if he was, he'd ignore the answer if he doesn't like it. I don't see what could be gained with this in case one runs into a specimen like that.

      Maybe my problem is that, in my head, "to start forcing sex on someone" does not include "leaning in for a kiss". One is attempted rape, the other is a romantic gesture. Could well be that you disagree.

      Or maybe my Asperger's is just acting up.

      Not that I have a dog in this fight. I'm so gorram shy that I'd wait for her to make the first move anyway.


    9. The best research I've seen suggests that somewhere around 1 in 6 women actually positively dislike being asked. Some of 'em are sensible enough to put up with it just like people put up with condoms, because the alternative is awful. So if you want to just assume that asking is a good idea, you're approx 10 times more likely to be right than to be rebuffed purely because you asked. That's pretty good odds compared to the risk associated with assuming that all het cis women who are not feminists or kinky will hate being asked, namely that you might accidentally pressure someone into sex they don't want. I mean, you might ask and be rebuffed because the person doesn't want sex, but that's a successful outcome, not a problem with asking.

      If even those odds aren't good enough for you, you could, y'know, not assume! You could ask your partner whether they like being verbally asked about sex, whether they feel neutral about it or whether it's a turn-off for them. And if they're part of the 1 in 6, well, _then_ you need to work on ways to negotiate sex through non-verbal communication.

    10. It's not just a turnon for you, it is the turnon, and without it, sex isn't even worth bothering.
      Well, NO SHIT sex without consent isn't worth bothering. I've got a condom fetish too. And an oxygen fetish, if that's how you define things. No, I don't get off to consent alone, but everything I get off to has consent as a prerequisite.

      But suppose Bob were to say something like "I want to lick your pussy and then fuck you 'til you can't walk anymore" and Alice responds by humping Bob's leg and vigorously nuzzling his neck.
      That counts. Consent doesn't have to be verbal, it just has to be unambiguous, and unprompted humping is pretty unambiguous.

      And saying deliberately dorky things is a strawman. You can say "so I take it that's a yes?" to the humping and that's not exactly "ROBOSEXCOP CANNOT PROCEED WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION."

    11. Well, consent as a prerequisite is pretty much a no-brainer, as I have pointed out myself, so I don't think there's a need to be snarky about that. And you phrased your OP in a way that made it very specifically sound like you were getting off on the consent itself. After all, Rule #36 states: "No matter what it is, it is somebody's fetish. No exceptions." Sorry if I took your words at face value in a post that is pretty much about taking people's word at face value.

      More on topic, thank you for the clarification about enthusiastic participation. It makes a lot more sense to me now.

    12. I don't think it'd take much more courage to say "no" when your date (e.g.) leans in to kiss you, than it takes to say "no" when your date asks "wanna take this upstairs, to my bedroom?" Maybe I'm wrong.

      For someone in a less privileged power position, once you've started a chain of sexual activity it can absolutely take more courage to say "no" to one activity after you've already participated in another. So if Alice is on a date with Bob and they start kissing after watching a movie on his couch, if he starts moving his hand up under her shirt she might think "Oh, we're already making out, I don't want this to get awkward," and if he then proceeds to undressing->sex without ever, y'know, asking if she wants to, she may go along with each individual step on the theory of "Well, I'm already [next step], I don't want to be [rude/awkward/a cocktease]..."

      This happens, and it's not cool. A pause to verbally ask is at least a pause for breath.

      But again we're at the date getting physical/established relationship dichotomy. I think that explicit nonverbal communication/consent can exist, but it's a lot less clear than just using your words, and the downside of using your words is almost nonexistent.

    13. I don't think "consent fetish" is derogatory, and I understand exactly what the original poster means. Personally, I find the moment of saying "yes" and owning my desire particularly hot, hotter than some other elements of sex, and enough so that I can get off on a fantasy of that particular moment alone without necessarily connecting it to physical acts. To me that equals a (mild) fetish. It's the difference between "well, of course I'm not going to have intercourse with a stranger without a condom, duh" and "OMG I really *love* the act of rolling a condom on."

    14. sadly, a man asking a woman for consent comes across as... well, either obsessively Feminist ISO 9000 compliant or very insecure. Possibly both. Especially if the woman is not bi, queer, kinky, an activist or otherwise likely to have thought a lot about consent.

      I'm a straight cis woman, not particularly kinky, and any activist cred I might have comes mostly vicariously from my brother. And I definitely prefer my men to ask. Even if they say "I would like to have sex with you; is that all right," in the most awkward way possible, I can't imagine being UPSET by that. I would rather a man who's insecure or "obsessively feminist" (I'd rather that than obsessively sexist!) than someone who cares more about his ego and his trappings of being a "proper man" than finding out whether I actually want something.

      I am also a bit offended that you, a man, think you might possibly know more about how women feel than another woman does. It comes off as being a bit know-it-all.


  6. We always ask. Admittedly, sometimes 'asking' is me pulling my underwear off and yelling "BOSS FIGHT!" but we both know what that means, and I wouldn't use it on anyone who doesn't know that I like receiving oral sex during boss fights.
    (I now have a pavolovian reaction to boss fights. Good old classical conditioning.)

    Normally, it's through dirty talk. "I'd like to [sexy things]" "mmm, yes please..." etc. etc.

    1. Admittedly, sometimes 'asking' is me pulling my underwear off and yelling "BOSS FIGHT!"



  7. I love this post.
    I would also be interested in some examples of your personally used questions not only answers but I can imagine enough questions and some other commenters gave examples to. I totally agree. I always ask in some way, be it as "Do you want to..." or "I feel like ... Are you in?" or "Let's work and at 7 we'll have dinner and for dessert I'll (fuck you / let you fuck me) into oblivion?" or any other way. My girlfriend is a bit reluctant about asking, but has realised that it is so much more fun to state what you want than keep your partner guessing until you're metaphorically blueballed.

  8. Yes! This this this!!

    My partner and I always ask, too. Sometimes it's as blunt as "hey Love, I'm really horny, want to have sex tonight?" Often it's via our D/s dynamics (we switch. Making whoever is being submissive ask/beg for what they want is particularly hot!) Sometimes we'll just be making out and one of us will say " you want to?" I really struggle to see any of these as unsexy. Besides, I really really agree with your point that one of the sexiest parts of sex for me is knowing that my partner wants me and wants what we're doing/going to do together!

  9. My husband and I don't have similar ideas of frequency. This used to result in a lot of resentment and feeling hurt and unwanted on my part. When I started asking instead of just coming on to him, everything got better. We now establish that we aren't going to have sex and so we can kiss and play and snuggle without him being afraid he's going to bluelip me and I don't have to feel ugly and unloved. Consent is the only sexy thing.

  10. Yeah, asking spoils the mood like using a condom spoils the mood. I mean, you have to Stop The Things and put one on, and what *will* the other person think? [/sarcasm]

    For some reason people seem to think consent turns you into Robocop of the Robopolice of Awkwardtown. There are SO MANY ways to ask for consent that can be sexy, funny, endearing, geeky, interesting, human. It doesn't have to be formal or awkward at all, but it seems some people can't picture it any other way. So here's a few ideas for the unimaginative:

    *look into partner's eyes and declare happily:*
    "I want to be ON you."
    *wait for response*

    "Well I'm horny. How bout you?"
    *look innocent and wait for response*

    "Hey sexy, ya wanna...?"
    *make rude gestures while grinning evilly and waiting for response*

    "Hey Batpartner, wanna have Batsex?"
    *wait for response, if positive, yell:*
    "To the Batsexmobile!"
    *race to bedroom*

    "Wanna play Starbuck-and-Lee and frak like spacebunnies?"
    *wait for response*

    Just don't actually quote Robocop at them.
    "Dead or alive, you're coming with me!"
    *unless they're a fan and crack up in knowing knowly knowledge at the reference, in which case carry on*

    If you're on the receiving end of the question, saying yes could be "Thunderbirds are Go", or if you're not in the mood, "Computer Says No".

    If you don't know the person all that well, then there's no WRONG way of asking for consent, but it's more likely to be awkward and impersonal, because you don't know their inner humour yet. This is a good time to be more classically romantic, as in "I would like to sex you now, how's that sound?", or "You're beautiful, I'm beautiful, wanna get nekkid?" Important part is waiting to see how they respond. Enthusiastic consent is pretty hard to miss when you see it. If in any doubt, keep your pants on.

    Now obviously I'm a dork, so that will flavour my word-using-regarding-sexytimes just as it influences my word-using-all-the-times. If my potential sex partner is turned off by my dorkly word-using, then they probably wouldn't have enjoyed my dorkly conversations or dorkity dorkness in general = not appreciating my awesome = important information which would lead me to think twice about sexing them = good to find out before not after.

    If they are a person who is turned off by any asking for consent regardless of method, then they are not responsible adult sexers and I do not wish to play with those.

    1. "Hey Batpartner, wanna have Batsex?"
      *wait for response, if positive, yell:*
      "To the Batsexmobile!"
      *race to bedroom*

      Dammit random commenters STOP GIVING ME IDEAS AND SNICKERS!


    2. hahaha

      Thank you so much for this :)

      If they are a person who is turned off by any asking for consent regardless of method, then they are not responsible adult sexers and I do not wish to play with those.

      I'm with you here.

  11. This is great!

    We don't always ask. But that's, you know, part of our kinks, and we've talked about it previously, and if either one of us really wanted to stop for real, that would be respected. There are lots of different ways to establish consent, but it should always be done.

  12. I always have mixed feelings reading your consent posts.
    On the one hand they are fabulous and I love all the things you say and how you have all the practical and sexy ways to get that verbal consent. In theory I love this idea and think it would be wonderful to implement in most relationships.
    On the other hand, I do the d/s thing pretty hard and my partner and I have explicitly agreed that on a day by day basis he does not need my consent to fuck me. Not being in the mood is not a good enough reason. If there are health reasons or I'm just really really not feeling it the onus is all on me to tell him. We both like it this way. There have been plenty of times when he's fucked me when I'm not really feeling it and the pseudo-non consent is hot. I usually end up really turned on and very glad he initiated. And if I don't I still actively enjoy that he can fuck me whether I want it or not.
    If I'm the one initiating then there absolutely will be asking (and usually begging...) but that's the nature of our dynamic. He gets what he wants, and I get what I want in a bit more roundabout way.

    So yeah, consent is awesome! and I love your posts about it. Your particular system just ain't for me.

    1. But you've discussed this explicitly with him, right? It didn't just start happening.

      I think you're still consenting, even if you didn't do it right before each particular sex act. He's still on the same page with you and has been explicitly informed that it's something you like, not something he's just getting away with.

    2. oh for sure it was discussed explicitly. And is discussed explicitly frequently. We both really love that he doesn't need specific consent! "I'm going to fuck you and I don't care if you want it or not" is pretty much our dirty talk. And i'm really the instigator of this particular dynamic, spent the early years of our relationship slowly convincing him that yes, I really was okay with that.
      And now I think it's probably been 2 years or so since he asked for specific consent for something. My opinion is welcome, but he has the right to ignore it. (and I know this is a good dynamic for us cuz I get all hot and bothered writing about it)

      So yes, I'm consenting but it doesn't look like what you talk about here with consent determined every time.

  13. Hi, great post as always!
    Frankly, I don't get all that bitching about how asking isn't sexy. I mean, a little bit of converstaion is part of the foreplay, yes? Or am I just weird? I have a hard time imaginig other people just stare at each other, then proceed to making out and ripping each other clothes off without saying a word.
    So, it can't be too hard to slip something along the lines of "I'd like to end this in the two (or three, or more) of us having sex, that OK with you?" into the conversation.

    Anyway, I want to tell you something that bothers me.
    My partner and I talked about our exes a while ago and a one point, he said, roughly, "Unlike (his ex), you never talked me into sex when I really didn't want." Obviously, I was appalled. I mean, what? Who does that?
    So, what I'm trying to say is, asking is not everything, you also have to accept the response. Cliff was clearly implying this, but I just had to tell this story to someone. I'm confused.

    1. Well, Lu, I'm going to reply to your confusion, because I once dated someone who had another partner named Lu, who I sometimes tried to persuade to fuck me. For the sake of argument, let's call this guy George.

      I often tried to talk George into sex, because he'd show up all, "Hi I'm Dom Domlypants and I'm going to do A, B, and C to you and you're going to like it." To which I replied, "Ok, let's make this happen now that you've been talking about it for the past two hours, and I am wet, horny, and ready to go." Then he said, "Actually I'm busy."

      Gah! On my side, this is when the "talking him into sex" generally started.

      One idea this line of conversation does bring up is whether persuasion is ever appropriate anywhere near the consent talk. Trying to convince someone to have sex, without using force, is not exactly unusual. It's probably standard fare between het teenagers making out in a car, and I'd say there is sometimes a confusing grey area there.

      The way I saw it in this case, words are not force. George was very much an adult. I am allowed to be flirtatious and make logical arguments, and if he has sex with me, I am not committing any crime. I draw the line at belittling anyone, calling names, threatening, or of course using any physical force. Sure, "No," means "No." But, "Eh, I'm kind of busy and have had a long day," directly following two hours worth of, "I am going to A B C you eight ways from Tuesday," leaves some room for persuasion.

      Obviously, if the consent talk usually has to involve level 10 flirtation and logical arguments to get to yes, then it's probably a crap relationship that will end. As my relationship with George did. Looking back, though, I really don't think I violated him in any way. I also don't think it's confusing that I'd try to talk him into having sex with me after he got me so turned on. I didn't rape anyone. However, I guess this does get into some murky consent issues.

      I should probably have stopped asking after asking once. I allowed myself to be a little more persuasive than normal because he was Dom Domlypants at the time and it was all sort of a pervy game. Maybe it's wrong to have treated him differently because it was a kinky scenario in which me begging was sometimes part of the game. I'd maybe argue that as Dom Domlypants, he could have safeworded out of that or at least changed his tone and said, "Hey, I'm actually really not in the mood," instead of, "Ok fine."

      Just some food for thought...

  14. "Sometimes we ask and the answer is "no." ...Other times we're not okay with that and we feel unwanted or deprived or frustrated. "

    this is something i'm curious about. can you have enthusiastic consent (more or less) all the time in a long-term relationship?i feel hugely guilty when i'm not in the mood and my partner is frustrated most of the time when i turn them down. this has caused problems.

    sometimes i've gone along with things and felt generally unenthusiastic. i don't want that, but i don't want to cause my partner so much frustration. (clearly, this isn't working out, but this relationship is all i know, so i need to know how to handle this stuff for the future)

    i've looked around for info on the nuances of enthusiastic consent and found a schweizer article which had some worthwhile info but also partly blamed his then-gf for...feeling pressured. uncool. would you have any advice or links that might talk about negotiating consent so both partners can be reasonably happy, or the nuances of enthusiastic consent, or just dealing with saying no?

    1. Yeah, Schweizer isn't such a good source of info on... anything, if you ask me.

      Speaking as the (somewhat) higher-libido partner in my relationship, it starts and ends with communicating. Your partner needs to inform you of the minimum amount of sexual gratification they need to be happy in a relationship. If you aren't happy providing that gratification, you both might look into other ways of getting your partner satisfied - opening up the relationship, possibly some sexual acts that are satisfying for your partner and you don't mind.

      If solutions prove uneffective - either your partner is unsatisfied or you are doing things you Do Not Want, then perhaps this relationship wasn't meant to be.

      Bear in mind, though, that "enthusiastic" doesn't necessarily mean "rip-your-clothes-off horny for it". I've also had sex where my enthusiasm was primarily for the feeling of connection and the knowledge of pleasure I gave my partner. But I was still 100% happy to have sex - as I've put it to my partner in the early days of our courtship, when my libido was nowhere as high, "Sex is the continuation of cuddling by other means."

    2. I'm not a huge fan of the phrase "enthusiastic consent." (I might do a whole post on this at some point.)

      I think "sincere consent," or "freely given consent" are better standards. As long as you're agreeing without coercion or impairment, whether you're enthusiastic or not isn't really my business. "People have to be horny to agree to sex" is not, in my mind, a fair stand to take.

    3. "Enthusiastic consent" seems to have developed in reference to hookups. It's not so much "people have to be horny to agree to sex" as "horniness is an easy way to confirm that your belief the person is agreeing to sex is well founded."

      If you have a history of interactions and a better-than-baseline understanding of each other's body language to supplement verbal exchanges, and you're comfortable enough with each other and secure enough about the relationship (or whatever it is) to say "no" firmly when a firm "no" is what's intended, that takes care of a lot of what the "enthusiastic" part is about.

    4. "sometimes i've gone along with things and felt generally unenthusiastic. i don't want that, but i don't want to cause my partner so much frustration. (clearly, this isn't working out, but this relationship is all i know, so i need to know how to handle this stuff for the future)"

      While I sometimes feel rejected when I get a no, I'll take that over unenthusiastic sex any day. A no is concrete, and I can respect it even if I really wish I'd gotten a different answer. With unenthusiastic, or mechanical, or inattentive sex I really am wondering if my partner is sexually interested in me at all. That makes it harder the next time I initiate. A single no leads to temporary disappointment. A yes that's given "to go along with it" leads to me questioning the sex as a whole in the long term relationship.

    5. "sometimes i've gone along with things and felt generally unenthusiastic. i don't want that, but i don't want to cause my partner so much frustration."

      oh hi, i posted the above. i debated over the wording, because i wasn't sure how to describe it. it's more than unenthusiastic--i have felt pressured and uncomfortable.

      i've wondered how people balance out their needs in a healthier long-term context. maybe with good communication, this is not such an issue.

      "I think "sincere consent," or "freely given consent" are better standards."

      that phrasing seems to cover a wider range of good consensual situations.

    6. Hi! With regard to "how people balance out their needs in a healthier long-term context," when those "needs" are sex, it might be helpful to consider this: that my human rights end where yours begin. What that means is that your partner's need for sex is all very well and good, and they have a right to have that need, but they sure as shit don't have any rights at all to use your body, emotions, love, or compliance in order to get that need fulfilled. That means you have zero obligation or responsibility to have sex with someone. Even if you're in an intimate relationship with them. This isn't just my wacky consent fetish, it's the law (in a lot of countries, anyway.)

      So yes, it's ideal to get comfortable with consent (and your right to give it or not.) Unfortunately, this is often complicated, especially if you're with a partner whom you feel actively pressures you, rather than "accidentally just not noticing that you don't want to have sex," which is still problematic. Some partners fear the other person might get violent if they say no. Some just fear awkwardness, or guilt, or emotional payouts like coldness or constantly being reminded of how inadequate you are. Often there's real concern over economic or financial stability for one partner if that partner is dependent on the other, and the other one is the one whose "needs" aren't getting met. These are issues that aren't touched on in the above blog-post, because they're a bit more complicated than "consent is awesome!" (However, blog posts that are all about "consent is awesome!!" are still awesome.)

      "Sincere consent" and "freely-given consent" are important distinctions - and if you can't consent freely, then you gotta ask yourself if it's really consent. Some people would argue you can't consent freely if you're being pressured; some would argue that you technically can consent, but it's still gonna feel shitty. Simply put, I don't think there's any way to feel good about being pressured; the solution is to stop the pressure, not find better ways of dealing with it.

      Ask yourself (or your partner, if it's safe to do so) whether your partner is truly okay with you having sex when you don't want to. Is it maybe the case that they want to feel wanted and desired, so they want you to want and desire them, and sex is "proof" of that desire, so that's why they want sex and get frustrated when you don't? Or does it just not matter to them, what you want?

      If your partner is willing to engage with this stuff, and wants you to be happy, it might be useful to negotiate a set period of time during which your partner does *not* request or initiate sex, or pressure you otherwise, so that you can figure out when and why and what makes *you* want sex. A lot of women find they desire sex more when they don't feel pressured. Then you can think about whether you want to initiate sex, what that means to you, and then if there's an opportunity to talk to your partner about that, then great. If they're not willing to engage with this stuff, then you have other problems. Wish you the best of luck. Xox

    7. I've struggled somewhat with this with my gf, from time to time, in that I've wanted sex when she wasn't in the mood, but I spent a good deal of time searching myself for what's going on there and what I really need.

      For starters, I should say my gf wants sex *almost* as much as I do, which is quite a bit, so when she says no, I often feel guilty for even minding, since I'm generally so much more sexually satisfied with her than I have been with anyone before.

      I realized, though, that what was really going on was that when she says no, I felt unwanted, and it was really that feeling of unwantedness that felt bad. So I got in the habit of saying things like, "But you still want me, right?" And she would say, "Yes, of course! I'm just too tired [or whatever]". I've also found that just making out passionately gives me what I need to feel wanted, as well, and after that I can just be ok that we'll likely have sex sometime soon.

      Also, quite frankly, going to look at porn and masturbate takes some of the physical tension off of me and I no longer feel like I'm all hot and bothered and she's rejecting me.

      I do think couples should have pretty closely compatible sex frequency desire, otherwise it can be hard. For me, it just took me time to trust she really does want me. My last partner and I didn't have nearly the same kind of awesome chemistry and she wanted sex way less frequently than I, and those were really harbingers of a non-workable relationship.

  15. I am all about enthusiastic consent, and I love that this system works for you. At the same time, there are people (my partner's one) for whom sex and words occupy different parts of the brain. There are times when asking jolts her out of the sex headspace into a more work-oriented headspace; once that's happened, it's hard for her to get back into sex-brain. She also doesn't always know exactly what kinds of sex she'll feel up for before we get started, so asking if she wants sex in advance isn't a great way to establish consent throughout an interaction. This has been a communication challenge for us over the years, because I'm extremely verbal and much more interested in planning ahead.

    You seem like a highly verbal person to me, and I think you might be assuming that other people communicate the same way you do. I don't know how common my partner's experience is. I certainly don't think it's a reason not to ask in casual situations, where you don't know much about how the person you're interested in fucking communicates. But I do think that in talking about consent, it's really important to accept that people experience the relationship between sex and talking in a lot of different ways. My partner's feelings might mean that you and she couldn't have a satisfying sexual relationship, but that doesn't mean her way is bad or wrong or involves non-consent.

    1. You seem like a highly verbal person to me, and I think you might be assuming that other people communicate the same way you do.

      I'd like to second this and also add that it's problematic at best, for reasons that ought to be obvious after some further reflection...

    2. At the same time, there are people for whom sex and words occupy different parts of the brain.


      I never knew how to put in words one of the reasons asking/being asked for sex doesn't work with me, and you just did it really well.

  16. "I've heard people say "consent is sexy," but say it in that resigned sort of way, like "safety is sexy," that doesn't really mean it's boner sexy, just it's something they're sort of trying to promote. I think they're doing it a goddamn disservice."

    Yes! This is why the whole "Consent is sexy" thing has started to annoy me, because most of the time the people I hear saying it or promoting it don't sound like they actually believe it. It's become this awkward catchphrase completely divorced from the actual meaning of the words.

    1. "Smart is sexy" bothers me too. I mean, some people really are turned on by intelligence, and good for them. But more often I see it used to mean something more like "hey ladies, don't be afraid to be smart," and... ugh.

      I'm not smart because it's sexy. I'm smart because I want to know things. Saying "smart is sexy" when you don't mean it devalues both sexiness and smartness.


    2. I'm not smart because it's sexy. I'm smart because I want to know things. Saying "smart is sexy" when you don't mean it devalues both sexiness and smartness.

      Yesssss. I like sex, but most things in my life are done because they bring their own non-sex-related rewards.

  17. I can't even get my husband to call it fucking when that's exactly what I want at that moment. For 19 years, I've had to hear it called "friskies" or "you know" when, on the very rare occassions, he was interested. I've just recently discovered a very frustrated submissive in me screaming for some Dominant to take charge and use her 10 ways to Sunday for no other reason than he wanted to. And yes, I would still expect to be asked, but hopefully he won't ask me for "friskies".

    1. That sounds like he wants cat food.

    2. I gave him a bowl once. He was not amused. But seriously, man, you're 45. Grow up and at least call it sex. ;-)

  18. Yeah, consent's definitely a turn on. I want to be with someone who wants me as much as I want them. If that's not the case, then it feels like an imposition. When I have sex with someone, I want it to make them happy. If sex isn't going to do that, then I'd rather find something else to do with them instead. Snuggle in bed and watch a film maybe.

    On the other hand, there's ways I'd rather not be asked. I had a girlfriend who used to do meerkat impressions and say "Is the cute boyfriend frisky?" She also used to sing about how she was small and cute and squeaky. Lovely person, but it just used to set my teeth on edge.

  19. My partner and I have recently decided to also ask for clarification on which one of us will be the dominant and which the submissive. We switch (obviously), but for me it's not like a light switch I can turn on or off. I'm either feeling one way or the other, and it is extremely difficult (and a huge turnoff, and very upsetting) for me to act submissive when I'm feeling dominant and vice versa. Asking beforehand eliminates the "when I said yes, I didn't mean THAT" moments.

    I have a tendency to just go along with it to avoid upsetting/rejecting him, but I'm trying to change that. Enthusiastic sex twice a week is much better than lukewarm sex four times a week. Also, if I'm not in the mood for it, him saying things like "who said you could touch yourself?" can make me burst into tears in the middle of sex, which is just about the least sexy thing that can happen.

    TL;DR: Yay consent!

  20. Data point: I'm a straight woman dating a straight man, and we both ask the other for consent all the time. I love that we do it, as it makes me feel secure that a) I won't have to do something I don't want to and b) I will never be subjecting him to anything he doesn't want. Makes a lot of sense for us.
    Neither of us has a big background in a sex/consent-positive community either. (I mean, I read this blog but IRL it's not my hobby or friend-group.)

  21. With my partner and I both being trans and our sex lives impacted by dysphoria, in addition to me being a trauma survivor, I really can't imagine not asking for sex. Like you said, Cliff, not in a dry, legalspeak way, just asking.

    I guess the most important part of consent for us is just having space for feelings, those funny little things that we have. We've both learned the hard way that wishing them away or hiding them never helps. Sometimes they're not fun, but they always end. Not wanting sex will end, being scared, hurt, frightened, dysphoric will end (or at least get better). And at the end, we still love each other, always.

    So for us, asking is just something we do in the moment, the most obvious part. What allows the "yes" happens constantly, every moment we're together.

  22. I would never presume to tell people their preferences aren't valid or real, and I'm aware there have already been a couple of posters above who have said they/their girlfriend is bought out of their head "sex space" if asked. I do not mean to minimise your (or anyone's) experiences with the rambling I'm about to embark on.

    With that noted, I think a lot of the ideas about "women* don't like to be asked" are a result of the way women are socialised. We're conditioned to be demure and accommodating, and the idea of being consulted - not just there, or swept off their feet - can be quite a new and unexpected experience. So I just wonder if the 1-in-6 statistic is women who ACTUALLY don't like being asked, or who just aren't USED to being asked yet, because it's not something that we're told is a priority so it feels awkward and unnatural at first being consulted.

    It was a bit of a watershed moment for me when my then-boyfriend explained that he asks, because he cares what the answer is. I realised - ALL my partners should care what the answer is! And shit, I should care what THEIR answers were too. I wonder how many dudes could be spared the awkward "dudes are up for sex 100% of the time" fallacy if their girlfriends just asked if they were up for it? (side note: I married the guy, we still ask each other)

    Communication only makes sex better. Asking, then one partner communicating that they don't like being verbally asked? That just made future sex better. If a (potential) sex session can't recover from a bit of an interlude of "honey, the leg-humping IS the answer" - then maybe the asking isn't the only issue?

    *p.s. I say "women" only because that was the statistic discussed in the comments already, I fully realise dudes are rarely consulted about their readyness for sex either. Which is kind of the point (unless I've missed it grandly) - it's sort of important that both partners know the other is absolutely, unequivocally, up for it. There's much to be gained by knowing the answer, but a WHOLE lot more to lose if you get it wrong.


    1. I'm very well aware there's a terrible lack of research about men's attitudes to and experiences of sex, because it's just assumed to be simple and straightforward and obvious. This is a problem <- understatement.

      I don't completely believe the 1 in 6 statistic I quoted; those numbers depend so heavily on exactly how a question is phrased and what population is studied and so on. And I don't have access to the original research, I've only seen it reported. But I do find it easy to believe that a minority of women genuinely don't like being asked, whether that's 1 in 10 or 1 in 4 or whatever, it's not absolutely nobody ever unless they've been socially brainwashed into it, and it's not basically all women unless they're some kind of weird "consent fetishists" as DA's comment implied.

  23. I recently have seen the posters saying "Consent is Sexy." And, I agree they do seem be doing a disservice. It seems as if they are attempting to coax some drunk college kid not to rape. Consent is not just sexy. It is necessary.

    1. I don't think it's a disservice -- it's just a very, very limited context, trying to address one specific problem people need to get past.

  24. A problem I have with these example-questions I've seen in the previous comments is that in context of combining them with Dirty Talk tm, they become more of assuming statements where the positive response is a forgone conclusion. Seems to me that "everyone" is so damned enamoured with precious pornspeak that they miss that huge implication.

    Simple "Do you want to have sex?" before anything heavier than a cuddly hug would be way better IMO.

  25. Nowadays, me and my husband always explicitly consent before sex... since we live with a whole pack of dogs. So the question is usually phrased in terms of "should we get the dogs out of the bed room?" or perhaps "should we go out to the guesthouse [and leave the dogs in the main house]?".

    Everyone should have a pack of dogs.

  26. I'd like to second what someone said above about Dirty Talk - I see a major, big-huge-problem with this kind of phrasing consent. I've been asked in all those ways and more, and none of them gave me the space to discuss my real needs and desires. None of them gave me the space to figure out how I even really felt. I mean, seriously, just because it's explicitly verbal doesn't make it simple - verbal communication *isn't* simple. I've been asked explicitly "do you want to -" and because it's in sexy-voice and the clothes are coming off and it's all sexy-times, I've said yes, because to say no would have *wounded* the other person. Sure, that's mostly on me; I need to communicate better, to stand up for myself, to be brave and set boundaries. Dirty Talk isn't going to help me do that though!

    I'm a person who both loves to talk during sex and also loves to be silent, loves to have that (however illusory) feeling of deep almost-psychic connection through the skin. However, irrespective of how I like the act of sex itself (talky or silent,) I *always* love and am *always* turned on by talking *beforehand* - not dirty talk, but talk-talk. Some can be flirting, but mostly I just love the talking, and I've learned that this is the best time to talk and discuss desire and consent, and that it's extremely hot to sit down across from someone, fully dressed, with a glass of wine or a soda or a cat on your lap, and talk frankly about whether or not you want each other - frankly and freely, because you don't have your hands, lips or other parts already tangled up in each other.

    For most people this seems crazy and impractical and even impossible, like it might "ruin the mood," but I reckon if the idea of talking to someone about the possibility of having sex with them ruins the mood, then the sex itself isn't going to be any better.

    Some people, when they're more familiar with being intimate together, do have an effective short-hand, but I feel like what's described in the post and by other commenters is more "consent to individual acts in the moment when enthusiasm and yumminess has already been established overall" rather than consent to Sex(tm).

    1. All my relationships bar one have been with people who've said no more often than they've said yes. I've always appreciated that. Knowing that someone trusts me enough to be honest is more important than sex which after all is not going to be that good if one person's not into it. Being told that someone doesn't want sex, but would like cuddles or talking or whatever isn't wounding. Disappointing perhaps at that precise moment, but there's alwys the knowledge that it might happen tomorrow or the day after or whenever.
      The other relationship went badly wrong. My partner felt that she was being used and I felt that I should have realised how she felt. Given that it started with her telling me that she'd been in love with me for years it's horrible just how badly it went wrong.

  27. The best research I've seen suggests that somewhere around 1 in 6 women actually positively dislike being asked. Some of 'em are sensible enough to put up with it just like people put up with condoms, because the alternative is awful.

    This is me. I do not find consent sexy, however I'm fully capable of recognizing that something is vitally important without actually getting off on it. I wouldn't do well being involved with someone who was really into spoken verbal consent and was constantly going "Do you want this? How about this? Do you like this?" during sex and expecting it to be an enjoyable experience for both of us, but I'm not going to go into a "Well now you've completely killed the mood!" huff and swear off ever having sex with anyone who wants to verify that I'm actually willing to do what they have in mind. There are a range of options, and one of them is working out the basics in advance and then, once you know you've got similar ideas in terms of interpreting body language/willngness to say no/what kind of things might reasonably be tried in the heat of passion/etc., going at it without having to get all talky.

    Even if you and/or your partner don't find it thrilling to verify consent, it's still worth doing and not likely to ruin things. It may mean adjusting how you do it, but one or both of you not finding consent sexy doesn't make it a good idea to not ask.

    (And yes, I'm familiar with a variety of ways to ask for consent, I've read the different examples, and it isn't just the robot lawyers stuff that isn't thrill-friendly, but also the stuff that other people describe as hot and exciting.)

    1. If it's not too personal a question, would you describe yourself as a submissive? Because that's the vibe I get, a lot like Rianne's comment way up there but phrased in a vanilla way.

      So I don't see anything objectionable about not being asked, provided 1) you indeed can (in every sense of "can") shake someone off if they grab you when you're not going to consent (alternatively, 1') you are literally never not feeling it when your partner is within grabbing distance) and 2) you say at the outset "if you want to fuck me, don't ask, it turns me off; just grab me, I'll shake you off if I'm not feeling it."

    2. It wouldn't have occurred to me to describe myself as submissive before you ask, but you got me thinking about it and...maybe? Depends on how you interpret it? (I don't tend to get a lot of excitement out of "I am being obedient", but "I am being done to and controlled" is a major part of my fantasy life.)

      I'm totally cool with explicitly verbally saying "I don't want this" if things are at the I-seriously-don't-want-this stage, because at that point it's not going to be a big thrill either way. But yeah, taking some non-sex time to explicitly lay out "I'm not fond of asking, please go for it and I will say/do the following things if it's a serious no" is a good approach for a lot of relationships (whether explicitly kinky or not), and I was mostly jumping in to confirm that "I don't personally get a big thrill out of the process of establishing consent" doesn't mean "and therefore there is no way of establishing consent without ruining everything".

  28. Following a conversation with @Clarisse Thorn a while back, I took a shot at writing Consent Porn -

    I still want to try writing well negotiated and healthy consensual BDSM porn (as opposed to the usual BDSM porn that's so very heavily anchored around non consensual or at least not very healthy dynamics)

  29. Thanks for bring up the issue of enthusiastic/explicit/sincere/etc consent, that has given me something to chew over.

    Really, though, what's sexier than wanting someone and knowing that they want you too?
    (And now you're giving me ideas about explicit consent being fun as opposed to sexy or just required. Thanks.)

  30. RE: the "consent is sexy" thing

    I've always felt a similar awkwardness whenever anyone in a kink context says in that nudge-nudge-wink-wink tone, "oh, nobody REALLY fantasizes about the making of rules and consent-making and such, but that's just what you gotta learn."

    And then I feel like WTF I BE BROKEN KINKY. Because to me, without any of that laying down of rules, without having that included, I'm just watching people assault each other, and that's horrifying to me. I just assumed other people liked the talking too.

    1. *blink* People do that? Yikes. I don't think I would ever presume to say that there was ANYTHING that NOBODY fantasizes about. Especially in front of A BUNCH OF KINKY FOLKS WTF.

  31. theLaplaceDemnonMay 14, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    So, when I was a bit younger (maybe 17-18) I was one of those "it's an active turnoff if you ask" women.

    I was a fucking idiot.

    After a couple years with a partner who also didn't think it was sexy to ask (and, I should probably add, was not always good at hearing "no") I had a lot of awful, upsetting, just-think-of-England sex. And here's the thing - that partner was very well intentioned. That partner probably has no idea that I felt incapable of saying no, and that a lot of the sex was really horrible.

    I don't ever want to be in that situation again. But even more than that, I REALLY don't want to put someone else in that position. So I ask. It's not all legalese or stiff, but it's not always dirty talk either - my current partner and I talk about sex and what's okay and not okay to do without asking we aren't engaging in sexytimes, we ask in simple, straight forward ways, and sometimes we ask in dirty talk/sexy ways. And sometimes we just look for active reciprocation - and when that isn't clear we check in. We rely a lot more on non-verbal signals now then when we first started dating, but we've spent a lot of time talking about sex and boundaries and both have spent a lot of time demonstrating that we're good at hearing "no."

    This all flows very naturally and smoothly now, but it WAS a little awkward in the beginning. But we got over it, because nothing helps you recover from awkwardness like mutual horniness.

    To the people who really genuinely do not like talking immediately before/during sex...what do you do? Do you talk about it not during sex? Do you have certain tell-tale signals? I am curious about what that looks like.

    1. WHY was being asked explicitly for sexual stuff a turnoff for you? I've always wanted to ask someone that, but have not (to my knowledge) been on that personal of a basis with someone who ever felt that way.

    2. Honestly? I think it went something like this: I was desperate to be perceived (and perceive myself) as strong, independent, and experienced. But I didn't actually have any good positive role models for what that looked like, or what good healthy conversations about consent looked like, so I decided that if someone explicitly asked if I wanted to have sex that meant they were somehow looking down on me - like, they were trying to condescendingly protect me or something. Like they were suggesting I wasn't capable of saying no to non-verbal advances, and that offended me to no end...which is funny, because I wasn't always capable of saying no, and all of my sex partners back then very much had the "lack of no = yes" philosophy.

      And supporting my misguided attempt to appear mature and independent was the fact that 1) I didn't have a sexual script that wasn't the Hollywood no talking -> kissing -> undressing -> penetration -> man orgasms -> sex ends, and 2) If I had to talk explicitly about sex, I had to be open about what I wanted/what turned me on, and that was TERRIFYING. I was very much a people-pleaser, and that did some scary things to my ability to ask for what I want and to set boundaries.

      What got me out of it all was a combination of education (mostly in the form of feminist or feminist-leaning blogs/internets, actually), some bad experiences, and growing up a bit.

      I should also note that my opinions re: explicit consent when I was 18 were not that well articulated - this is mostly retroactive analysis. If you asked me back then, I probably would have just shrugged and told you I could say no if I wanted (ha ha) so asking out loud was unnecessary. I also, to my knowledge, never actually turned someone down because they asked (not that there was a lot of explicit asking going around).

    3. So tl;dr: nothing good :) Live and learn...

    4. Hi, I know that you were asking theLaplaceDemon, but you seemed generally interested in a reply, so I thought I'd jump in. (I'm the anon who started commenting at May 13, 11:10 am.)

      Anyway, for me, it's a lot of different things. Some of it is just the mental energy taken up by communicating in straightforward and logically coherent words. (When my thoughts are in words, they're heavily sprinkled with the sort of imagery and poetic metaphor that makes perfect sense for me, but requires translation to make sense to anyone else.)) It's not a huge amount on a normal basis, but needing to think and express things and communicate in words adds a bit of extra stress and distraction which can interfere with arousal.

      Some of it's the general personal stuff. I've never had any experiences of actually having sexual things done to me I didn't fully consent to, so I don't have as much anxiety about that as many people do, and a lot of my fantasies tend to involve sexual things happening without me having to put in the effort of control and decision-making. Most of my stress (me being both lucky and privileged in many ways) tends to involve things like trying to control things, having to make a lot of decisions, and thinking through how to communicate effectively, so those things can create a distracting level of stress when it comes to sex. Not that I don't like doing those things, but I like them in a very brain-focused way that can interfere with enjoying things physically. Like a lot of turn-ons and turn-offs, it's really personal and variable.

      (Also, in response to The LaPlace Demon - I tend to combine pre-sex talking, certain understandings about behavior and body language, and being prepared to speak up when it's heading in a direction I seriously don't want, because given the choice between mood-killing talking and mood-killing having stuff I seriously don't want done to me, the first option is obviously way less bad. Some people may be lucky enough to stumble into a relationship where they never have to put what they want into words, but I've never been willing to take the risk of assuming that it would just work.)

    5. Thanks for the fascinating and well-thought-out replies!

      The LaPlace Demon: Hmmmm. When I was seventeen and first having sex, I felt pretty conflicted about it; I was terrified of being perceived as a slut and had pretty ludicrously strict ideas re: what constituted sluttiness. It's entirely possible that being asked "do you want to have sex?" would've freaked me out back then because it would force me to admit I was into it instead of letting me pretend (to myself, and to my partner) that I was just kind of falling into sexytimes by accident. There but for the grace of god, etc., etc.

      But nobody ever asked if I wanted what was happening. And, in fact, a number of guys kept doing stuff to me even after I gave strong nonverbal signals that I wasn't into it (like taking a guy's hand off my boob for the fifth time and squeezing it with intent to hurt). And so somewhere along the way I really, really started wanting guys to show more interest in my consent.

      Anon: I kind of know what you mean about the mental energy it takes to talk during certain situations; with me, though, my capacity for speech doesn't go away until I'm really overloaded with sensation - long after I'd expect someone to ask me if we were going to have sex or just do other stuff. So it works out okay for me.

      My partner and I have had to work out some physical signals for "STOP DOING THAT RIGHT NOW" for massages, though. Overzealous massage puts me in a position where it hurts and I hate it but I'm physically unable to speak. It's led to some pretty awful misunderstandings, but we've pretty much solved things now. :)

  32. Personally, I love "consent checks" during physical shenanigans - and if I'm with someone new, I wanna confirm consent every step of the way. Even in my current long-term relationship - where we frankly don't ask about too many of our activities beforehand - I'd find it really damn presumptuous if my partner and I were making out and he got out a condom without either of us having mentioned the word "sex". If there's naked stuff happening and I'm obviously enthusiastic about it, it's reasonable to assume I'd like an orgasm. It is not reasonable to assume that I want penetration (I'm not speaking for all women here, just me).

    My bf isn't always up for penetration, either, so that goes both ways - one of us always asks if the other is up for sex before reaching for the bedside drawer.

    Judging from most of the other comments, it seems like my bf and I must be...weird, or something...because we're rarely in a situation where physical stuff is happening and we have to decide if it's "going somewhere". Like...we don't often have spontaneous makeouts that may or may not progress to sex; usually sex happens because we're sitting around watching movies or something and one of us goes "Hey, wanna have sex?" and when the other says yes, that's when the making out begins.

    Other times, one of us will initiate makeouts by saying "Make out with me!" - but I don't recall this leading to other stuff very often, if ever.

  33. I've been thinking about the preference for non-verbal sexual negotiation. Initiating sex in a non-verbal way doesn't have to be a problem, and expressing consent in a non-verbal way doesn't have to be a problem. The issue is whether non-verbal *refusals* are going to be noticed and accepted. I mean, if you initiate sex by, say, leaning in for a kiss, and your partner turns their head away or their posture stiffens, are you going to interpret that as "not just now, thanks" or are you going to escalate to further seduction moves?

    My feeling is that it's all too easy to fail to notice a non-verbal refusal. It doesn't require that one partner is intentionally trying to assault the other, it's just that there's so much benefit to not noticing: you're horny and you want to have sex, and you don't want to deal with the ego blow of being refused. And non-verbal refusals are inherently more ambiguous than "no thanks".

    Equally, explicit verbal negotiation doesn't go very far if saying no is going to result in either being pressed to continue anyway, or being punished (in a non-kinky sense, things like sulking or withdrawing affection and non-sexual favours, right up to abusive behaviours that are basically just threats).

    tl;dr: the mode of negotiation is less important than creating a situation where it's safe and accepted to refuse advances.

  34. In response to all those who think verbal consent can ruin the sexy mood, I have this to say:

    I want someone who wants me so much that expressing my desire in any form could NEVER POSSIBLY TURN THEM OFF.

    And I've been convinced by some of these comments that have specific kinks surrounding non-verbal consent that that can certainly work and good for you for having some way to communicate consent unambiguously.

    But again, I want to be with someone whose horniness and interest in me are not so fragile and delicate that the wrong honest words from me could make much of a difference in their sexual interest.

    It seems sad to me that this is really a problem for some people. I realize there is a lot of neuroses around sex, which is more the fault of centuries of sex-negative cultural conditioning, but really, this still seems like something to get over, not something to accommodate.

  35. I just realized something about the "explicitly asking means it'll never happen" crowd.

    If you think about vanilla dating practices, the idea of taking a while and gradually ramping up the physical element has a practical use. It allows you to get used to your partner's body, their comfort zone, their tastes, and their methods of nonverbal communication in a measured way, with sex happening only after both people had a solid foundation of understanding for each other. (In theory at least. we can discuss where practice falls short elsewhere.)

    Which on the one hand, brings up the value of fumbling around like teenagers. Sometimes there's a lot to be said for exploratory play without focusing on sex proper. Something I'd like to see sex positive communities acknowledge.

    And then on the other hand, counters the "if I don't press the issue, nothing will happen" argument. You're free to go at it without saying a single explicit word to each other, so long as you're willing to wait out the process to learn what all their signals really mean. Explicit communication is just so much easier and faster.

    1. If you think about vanilla dating practices, the idea of taking a while and gradually ramping up the physical element has a practical use. It allows you to get used to your partner's body, their comfort zone, their tastes, and their methods of nonverbal communication in a measured way...

      This kind of applies to teenagers (provided the teens in question are exactly equally assertive so one person isn't trying to push the other one too fast), but the dating script for adults generally doesn't involve gradually ramping anything seems to be an unwritten rule that after a certain point in physical activity, you're going to have sex. Some people even cite that it's "supposed" to happen on the third date.

      Sometimes there's a lot to be said for exploratory play without focusing on sex proper.

      Hell fucking yeah. When I was single, I took penetration right off the table for a while and told casual partners we'd be doing other stuff instead. It made us more creative and resourceful 'cause we weren't assuming an end goal of coitus. But I guess the anti-talking people won't get to experience this except by total accident.

      Something I'd like to see sex positive communities acknowledge.

      I was not aware that they don't. Kinda thought the whole point of sex positivity was to encourage everyone to act on their sexual feelings (or lack thereof) in whatever way feels right to them. Am I mistaken?

    2. "the dating script for adults generally doesn't involve gradually ramping anything seems to be an unwritten rule that after a certain point in physical activity, you're going to have sex."

      You're talking about the reality. I find that most people I meet like the ideal of taking things slow, even if they act differently in practice. I'm in my thirties.

      (In fact, feeling pressured by the idea that everybody else is doing it seems prevalent throughout the 20s and 30s. I'm deeply convinced that adults are just like high schoolers, only more adept at polishing their BS.)

      "I was not aware that they don't. Kinda thought the whole point of sex positivity was to encourage everyone to act on their sexual feelings (or lack thereof) in whatever way feels right to them. Am I mistaken?"

      Nobody's really against the idea, it's just one of those things that doesn't come up often. The sex pos community tends to focus more on the macrosocial and on established relationships. Largely because people tend to talk about what's top of mind to them, and the odds of any given blogger being in an early exploration-stage relationship at any given moment are slim.

    3. Kinda thought the whole point of sex positivity was to encourage everyone to act on their sexual feelings (or lack thereof) in whatever way feels right to them. Am I mistaken?
      Straw-sex-positivity doesn't recognize any good reason for not having sex with anyone you have any pantsfeelings for at all.

  36. I really do enjoy your blog. Thanks for writing about these things. Maybe I'll get up the courage to ask too! Instead of, you know, being a sexless twenty-something.

  37. My take on the discussion whether asking for consent is or isn't sexy or mood-ruining is that asking for it in a good way is a skill that you'll (most likely) actually have to learn before you get good at it.

    I stumbled over this idea not that long ago, and if I hadn't, I'd probably still think that explicitly asking ruined the mood. For me, the few times I've tried asking, it wasn't very suave and it didn't lead over into sex very well.
    I felt disappointed because I had read the earlier posts about consent on this blog, which already said that getting consent was sexy in itself.

    So I think that you should make clear that while you might feel clumsy and awkward asking for consent the first few times, that's similar to how the sex itself is rather clumsy and awkward the first few times.

    1. My take is that people find different things sexy. Some people will find the process of asking sexy almost any way it's done, some people will only find it sexy when done in specific ways, and a few people are never going to enjoy the process of establishing explicit consent. It's still necessary to establish consent, but it may be a good idea to adjust how you ask in line with your partner's expectations. (For instance, if they enjoy being asked playfully but not in deeply serious "Tell me how you feel" way, it may be a good idea to ask in a fun way when you want them to get in the mood and save any serious discussions for "I would like to have sex with you in the near future, but I'm not expecting you to get aroused right now" moments.) There are certain ways of asking that are more commonly appreciated, but it's individual enough that there's no magic formula.

      If there's someone who not only never gets aroused by the consent conversation, but is totally unwilling to do any kind of potentially-unexciting clarification to make sure that it's possible to communicate about consent in a way that works adequately for the both of you, it's probably better to not get into a relationship with them.

    2. yes I totally agree with that. There are different kinds of people who thinks Consent is sexy.

  38. you've got my eternal love for the phrase "ISO 9000 consent compliance"

  39. Hey,

    I've been reading your blog a while now, and I just wanted to say that this post (as well as the "Supply Side Rape Prevention" one, with its injunction to redefine sex) are two of the best things I've found on the internet (or even anywhere) about consent. They get it exactly right about what sex is, and what is important about it, in such a blunt and concise way.

    Would love another one on the problems with alcohol and consent, but more broadly, just keep doing exactly what you're doing. You're absolutely brilliant! I hope the people who are actually in your life (instead of those who just follow you on the internet) know how lucky they are to have such a smart, funny, interesting and impassioned human being as their friend.