|tumblr user laceandcombatboots|
There are also multiple ways a "yes" can be not-consent, and until you know someone really well and have communicated with them really openly about their motivations and convinced them really thoroughly that everything will be 100% fine if they say "no"--you need to hold out for the "YES FUCK ME NOW" consent.
So if you're linking this post to prove a point about "but they said yes, so is it really rape?" ...Fuck off.
I'm starting to have a problem with the phrase "enthusiastic consent." It's well-meant, certainly: it's supposed to connote consent where the person consenting really means it, as opposed to situations where someone says "yes" out of fear or obligation or confusion or some other crappy reason that isn't "actually wanting to have sex." I'm all for that, obviously, but the phrase sucks. The phrase implies that you have to be horny to consent to sex, that the only real consent is consent given when not just agreeing to sex but craving it.
The problem is that this doesn't respect the agency of the person consenting. It ignores the ability of a sober adult to say "I don't want this with my crotch, but I'm agreeing to it with my brain." It tells people "You say you're consenting, but I know better, you poor dear." And that's pretty shitty. As someone who consents to things most people would consider gross or unpleasant (I've heard way too many times a woman can't really want to be punched black and blue) I'm in no position to tell someone else their consent isn't real. If you're unsure if your partner wants it or is just going along with it, lack of enthusiasm definitely means you need to stop and clarify--but it doesn't mean they can't clarify "yes, actually I do want this."
Which is not to say "yes" is a magic word that always makes everything okay. But what matters isn't "enthusiastic consent" but simply "real consent"--consent that's given freely and sincerely. Consent that someone gives because they're afraid they'll be physically or emotionally attacked if they don't isn't real consent. Consent that's given when someone is incapable of understanding what they're agreeing to (because they're drugged, or they're a child, or they're saying "yes" to a different thing than will actually be done to them) isn't real consent. And obviously consent that's withdrawn or never given at all isn't real consent.
But here are some examples of consent that can be very real, yet not enthusiastic:
• Consent to sex in order to conceive a child.
• Consent to sex or play to make a partner happy. This is a tricky one, because the line between "I wanted to make them happy" and "I was afraid to make them unhappy" can get messy. But consent to "I don't think I'll get pleasure from this, but I still want to give pleasure" definitely can be real.
• Consent to sex work. Sex work can be coercive, but it's not inherently, and drawing that line at "sex work is coercive if the sex worker isn't horny" is absurd.
• Consent to sex or play for curiosity's sake, despite a lack of physical desire.
• Consent to sex in a D/s relationship where the submissive agrees to sex they don't want as sex, but do want as an act of submission.
Grown-ups can decide why they want to have sex, and judging those reasons and whether they're "enthusiastic" enough is, frankly, none of my damn business. All that matters is that they get to decide.