Yes, you read that right: “Consent is fun!” I know that most of you will scream, “Yeah right!” after your eyes stop rolling. I get it. “Consent” was a quick discussion for years and a topic of debate that usually got glossed over pretty quickly. Then, with the explosion of the #MeToo movement, came an increased demand and requirement for this to be addressed. The easy-out has been for men to just back away, choose to not even deal with it and become celibate. As with anything, it is so much less confronting to just write this off as ridiculous or decide “we just can’t win,” than to actually look deeper. The truth is, it’s not even that much of a stretch to look at what is needed.
In a recent “Man School” course that I taught, the topic of consent turned into a brainstorming session by the participants on what a “consent app” would look like. They excitedly discussed how someone might use it “as the evening progressed” to continue to obtain and update their partner’s consent. While this was quite amusing, the reality is that it is a big concern, especially for men trying to navigate it. The confusion does not come from the simplicity of “no means no.” It comes from the array of mixed signals we interpret from women. While many say that “consent is sexy,” others say that “a man constantly asking for permission is a big turn-off.” Herein lies the problem and what men have been asking me to help them interpret: How do we obtain consent without turning her off by constantly asking, “Is this ok? How about this? And now? Can I do this to you?” etc.
Nothing is 100% true for everyone and not every “technique” is perfect for every situation. The real opportunity to connect and get the feel for what works for her is to have the conversations before you even get to this point. Many women tell me that they get bored when men talk about themselves incessantly on dates. Showing interest in her makes a big difference and shows that you are curious and interested in her—not just her body. You can say, “I am really curious how you like to handle consent. What are the kinds of things that you like to hear?” or “How do you like to have the consent conversations?” She may be so floored by this question that she won’t even know how to answer, and that’s a good thing because she will recognize that she is not sitting across the table from a man who is “just like all the rest.”
It is important to note that there is a difference between asking for permission and obtaining consent. Perhaps it is subtle, but it makes a huge difference in the bedroom. In my experience, the women who are turned off by the asking for permission, are desiring to be led, desiring to be “taken” and really wanting to not be in their heads the whole time so that they can be receptive in their bodies. Permission establishes a hierarchy by putting one person in power over the other. “Negotiation,” which is part of permission, activates the logical parts of her brain, which will generally close her down sexually. So, the continual asking kills the romance.
Consent, on the other hand, comes from a place of a partnership wherein two equal partners of any gender make choices together. From this place, both have the opportunity to flow and establish a connection. It becomes less of a “stop or go” experience and more of a “what are we creating together” type of thing. This requires, in a good way, much more presence and consideration. It allows for the possibility of much more pleasure with much less of that feeling of rejection if she says “no.”
The question then becomes: “How do we do it?”
Imagine you are a leading man in a soap opera in a sexy love scene with a desirable co-star: Everything is flowing, you know all the right things to say and their responses are incredibly receptive and sexy as well. What might you say to them from this place? How might you say it? Your voice would probably be lower, softer and more-sincere as you might say (in no particular order):
“How about if we move to the bedroom.” “I so want to kiss you right now.” “You feel incredible.” “Do you like this?” “Is this ok with you?” “I really want you.” “Are you ready for me?”
Include one of these or any number of prompts that are more congruent with who you are and how you might express yourself. Keep in mind that while some of these are not “yes or no” questions, it gives her the opportunity to respond, affirmatively or not. Most important, is that you have to be willing to stop and be ok with her saying “no.” If she is not interested, if it doesn’t feel good for her and if she wants to stop for any reason, in your same, confident-soap-star way, you get to say, “That’s okay.” From an understanding place, you also get to not push her any further.
Consent can be fun when it becomes an exploration and discovery, versus “something you have to obtain to move forward.” After all, are you looking for an amazing energetic being with whom you can explore the greater depths of your soul, or just for the gate on a toll road to be lifted?
The Masters of Self
This post originally appeared on TheGoodMenProject.com