I had a blog post all lined up to write this evening, and then I came across this article on Twitter, all about consent and boundaries, and it struck a chord with me to the point that I wanted to write about it straight away.
There are two parts of the article that I found particularly interesting. The first is the bit that says:
‘Ask the people you will be having sex with what their preferences and limits are. This fosters active consent and encourages communication.’
I’d hope that most of us are pretty good at making sure we discuss limits with our partners, but how good are we really at the former? It’s taken over two years of me sleeping with someone and playing a vaguely submissive role before we actually went out, got drunk and discussed a mutual distaste for real pain. He talks more about his sexual preferences on Twitter than he does with me, and I feel bad for that – I think we tend to assume that girls are the ones who prefer not to talk about sex, while men are much better at expressing their needs and wants. I’m not sure that’s the case in reality. I have a sassy mouth, I trust him and I care about him – so why can’t we talk honestly about this stuff unless we’ve had a drink?
Following on from that:
‘In order for a sexual partner to be able to give you what you want, you have to tell them what your desires are. A sexual partner can’t respect your limits if you don’t express them.’
Again, I don’t think this just applies to limits, I think it applies to wants, too. I’m away from my erotica library at the moment but there’s a line in Kristina Lloyd’s Split where her FMC, who’s sleeping with two brothers, talks about liking one because he makes her say what she wants, and the other precisely because he doesn’t, he just knows.
I know the feeling. Despite my sassy mouth, I cringe when I hear myself talking to guys about what I want in bed – less so in the heat of the moment, and more so when I have to write it down, in emails, texts etc. There’s definitely an element of getting off on the shame of having to ask for what you want, but it’s also that element of shame that makes me less likely to discuss it outside of the bedroom. Secretly, wouldn’t we all prefer that our partners just knew what we wanted?
And when it does come to saying no, I know that I’ve had problems with that too, in the past. I lost my virginity to a complete stranger, and the whole event was so hot that it still fuels a lot of my fantasies, but the part of the story I never tell is that, when the guy in question and I were first alone, I definitely said no to penetrative sex, and technically, that ‘no’ never changed to a ‘yes.’
We were both drunk, and I was young, inexperienced and very, very turned on – I can easily see why he interpreted my behaviour as consenting, and because the sex was so good, I have no regrets at all about what happened. But if it had been less good, would I have beaten myself up more about not saying no? Probably.
There’s huge temptation I think, when something isn’t going the way you want it to, or if you’re not sure about something, to become less, rather than more, vocal. The same applies to the way I react to what other people tell me: if you tell me something you think I’ll judge you for, and I get progressively quieter rather than expressing a view, that’s not me judging, it’s me thinking ‘Shit, I’m not surprised you’re bothered by that.’
But just because the temptation to clam up is huge doesn’t mean that what the article says isn’t true: we should be more open about our sexual preferences, not just in terms of saying no, but saying yes, too.