Home > activism, feminism, politics, sex > For the men re #metoo – learn about, discuss, and model good consent

For the men re #metoo – learn about, discuss, and model good consent

Seen lots of posts from men saying yes they want to be good allies to women and trans people re #metoo but don’t know what to do. Maybe something men could do is to learn about, discuss and model good consent?

For the past few years I’ve made a habit of making the first move – I realised that if I didn’t the only lovers I would have, out of the total pool of “we find each other mutually attractive” would be the ones that were also confident enough to make the first move and knew that I was interested. Even as someone who’s not particularly attractive, its been going super well. Of course I get rejections – but I take them as a positive – that means that people feel safe to say no to me. And there’s not been a single instance where a yes or a no has damaged our friendship.

In wanting to be more confident in making the first move I was also very concerned that nobody would feel harassed in any way by me.* Also it is super important that whoever I am engaging in shenanigans with actively wants it too. So instead of asking “Can I kiss you?” I ask some version of “Would you like a kiss?” For me as someone socialised as a girl/woman in this society I will say yes unless there is a clear reason for me not to. My desire is secondary to someone else’s. If you’re in my house and you ask if you can do something (eg smoke), I would have equally found it challenging to say no! You’re a guest! Of course you can do that. If you ask me instead “Would you like me to smoke in your house or would you rather I went outside?”, then my brain will actually think that through and I will admit that yes, I’d rather you went outside. The first option would have led me to just suck up the discomfort and let you smoke and deal with the nasty smell afterwards.

So since I thought about this I resolved that I would always ask someone if they wanted physical intimacy with me, not just if I can do it. And its actually quite sexy to do this. I enjoy the buildup of physical tension and vocalising this just makes it feel hotter. Plus I can be reasonably confident that the interest is mutual.

Secondly, I want to make it clear to anyone I am interested in physically, that there are no repercussions for saying no, now or in the future. Our friendship does not require my access to your body. If at any point you’re not in the mood for shenanigans, or want cuddles and kissing but no below waist interaction, or whatever, that is all fine. You will not face any physical or emotional pressure from me. Your body autonomy is important. I want whoever I am with to want me too. I have had all the shitty ways that men are socialised to respond to rejection. The sudden lack of interest in friendship. The moody responses. I’ve been yelled at and physically assaulted. I refuse to do this to anyone else, and I want them to know that their “no” has no repercussions.

Thirdly, I will not have any physically intimate interactions with someone who is in any way compromised in their ability to consent. This could be because of a power differential. But most often because they are not sober. If you have had alcohol, weed or any other drug to the point where you are more likely to have sex than when sober, than I would be taking advantage of you to go along with that. I’ve seen men circle around drunk women like moths round a flickering flame – and this is purely because they know she is more likely to agree to sex with them at this time. That’s not active consent, that’s gross. I would rather wait til you are sober and know that you have actively, mindfully, desired to become intimate with me. Having had someone get me stoned and then have sex with me (we hadn’t even kissed before) when I was too high to talk means I will always be super careful with other people around substances.

Also relevant is the context for making an advance. I will endeavour that you will always have an easy out. That you won’t feel reliant on my continuing good will for a place to sleep, or introductions into social circles etc. That I will explicitly say that my good will does not require you being interested in intimacy with me.

Fourthly, I will be honest with you about me. You will know I am non monogamous and my sexual health status, such as when I was most recently tested. In terms of the former, it is important to me that you make an informed decision to have sex with me, and don’t assume that this means we will have, ever, an exclusive monogamous relationship. We will also have a discussion about safer sex, and we will go with the highest common denominator – you want barriers for everything, fine.

***

But its one thing me doing (or aspiring) to do all this in private. I know from personal experience that many people do not have this base level of consent practice. And what I’ve developed as my personal ethical standards around this has mostly been because of fuckups – my own or other peoples. We just don’t get taught what consent really means. We don’t talk about it or share our own practices.

One thing I really appreciate in the polyamory community is that there is a lot of modelling of safer sex practices. Regular testing and communication of results and risks is normal and expected. I don’t even think twice about bringing sexual health up with other people because I’m so used to it being a regular conversation.

I want the same around consent. I especially want men to be talking to each other about it. It might feel awkward, but you all say you want to do something in response to #metoo, and that might involve some initial discomfort. But I’m betting there is a lot of lack of knowledge and awareness. Nobody wants to admit to ignorance. “of course I always get consent” – because the alternative, in our binary world, is that you are a rapist. Well this thinking helps no-one. It stops people being able to ask questions, express doubts and concerns, work through scenarios, develop nuanced ethics.

So that’s my personal response to the many men who are asking “what can we do to help?” – educate yourself, think deeply and discuss with other men what good consent really means. I’m definitely not saying that my personally developed standards are the best in the world. I’m just trying to practice what I’m preaching and open up conversations about what good consent should mean.

 

* When I was a teenager I did not do this. I barely even asked for consent. At least one person I had sexual intimacy with, whilst she didn’t say no, I later found out did not want more than kissing with me. When, years later, I found this out I was obviously super shooken up and hence have put a lot of thought into ensuring I don’t make same mistake again.

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