Non-Sexual Moments of Consent
[Content warning: We allude to or directly mention sexual assault, violence, and other situations that occur when consent is not given or gained. We do not describe any specific acts. Protect yourself as you need to. If today is not the day you can read this, take care of you first.]
Right now, across social media and everywhere else, there’s a big (and necessary) conversation going on about consent, sexual assault, sexual violence, harassment, and more. From the #MeToo movement we may now be entering a place of “yeah, actually” <=== Read this post by The Other Livvy (content warnings are included). It is absolutely excellent.
Healthy, safe, responsible practitioners of kink understand the importance of consent. It’s inherent in everything we do, and whether you believe in Safe, Sane, and Consensual or Risk-Aware Consensual Kink (RACK) or Personal Responsibility, Informed Consensual Kink (PRICK), consent is a hallmark. Without it, BDSM becomes abuse. With it, it can be one of the most amazing experiences of our lives and create powerful connections.
But consent isn’t just for sex and kink. Gaining consent in other parts of our lives helps make us better humans. And in our opinion, makes it even easier to make sure you have consent in those sticky (no pun intended) sexual moments. Getting consent can become – with enough time and practice – as natural as breathing. You might not even realize you’re doing it.
Here are a few non-sexual moments of consent but we know these aren’t all of them. Feel free to add to this “list” in the comments below.
Note: We’re not making light of the importance of sexual consent. Simply asking you to think about it in a different way. If asking for consent in these situations doesn’t bother you, neither should someone’s request that you stop touching, fucking, kissing, or being near them in a sexual way, either.
If you’re wondering why we’re not discussing consent in sex and kink, check out Episode 30 “Consent is More Than a Yes or No” where we did exactly that. As kinksters, we discuss consent all the time. This is simply a different take on a big, important topic.
Ask Before Touching
I know, I know, that sounds sexual but put your clothes back on and sit down at the kitchen table or go to work. Before you hug someone you don’t know, take someone’s arm, provide physical comfort for the first time, or do anything that involves touching a person you don’t know well enough — ask.
“May I hug you?”
“Is this okay?”
“Can I help?”
Give people the respect and agency to be able to say no if they really don’t want to be touched. Not everyone is touchy-feely and some of us have moments when it’s the last thing we want.
When my depression hits, I can’t stand to be touched, I don’t care who you are. Yes, that includes John Brownstone. And he has learned to ask if I want a hug first when my mental illnesses decide to kick my ass. So it’s not just for the near-stranger. It can absolutely be a question asked between partners.
Can I Talk to You?
Asking for your partner or anyone’s attention before you talk to them isn’t just a good communication tactic. Although, it’s definitely that. You’re giving the other person the choice over how they respond. Many times people will say yes and give you their full attention.
It’s taken me a long time, however, to get used to John Brownstone telling me that now isn’t a good time and asking for a few minutes or hours. Just because he’s my husband and Dominant doesn’t mean I can assume he’s ready for a deep conversation the moment I’m ready. If he says he can’t talk, the quickest way to an argument and some negative consequences from my Daddy Dom is to talk anyway.
Am I Too Close?
While this may happen most often with people you don’t know well, it can happen if your partner or friend has health (mental or physical) reasons for not wanting people too close. As someone with plenty of anxiety, some days, you can get close to me. Other days, not so much. I visibly shrink back to give myself more of a personal bubble.
If the person you’re near shifts, looks panicky, or draws away, you might be in their physical space. Assuming you’re not on a train or subway during the morning or evening rush, try to give them what they need and want. When in doubt, ask. You don’t know what gives them that closed-in feeling – whether past trauma or present-day anxiety – but you can respect their need to not have you on top of them (figuratively and literally speaking).
Is This Okay?
I mentioned it above with touching, but it’s a good blanket request for consent for anything you might do to or with another human being. Checking in to make sure everyone is comfortable doesn’t make you weak or overly cautious. It means you’re a kind human being who realizes the world doesn’t end at the tip of your nose.
Choosing the restaurant – “Is this okay?”
Helping someone put on a jacket – “Is this okay?”
Anytime another person can and does have an opinion over what happens to them, ask what they want. 99 percent of the time, someone may say they’re good with whatever or tell you yes. But this is about respecting them as a human being – their wants, needs, body, mental and physical health, and who they are.
What About D/s Relationships?
Now, yes, some of you are in D/s relationships and some of you are the Dominant, put in charge of certain decision-making. Which means you should understand that you’re only in that position through the consent of your submissive. Maybe you don’t have to check in each and every time, but it’s also okay to double check yourself, too.
People don’t always want to say no for fear of causing tension, making their partner angry, or being seen as “difficult.” Make it safe for your submissive to disagree or tell you something they think you won’t like. It’s only through consistent communication, trust, and integrity that you can maintain their consent for any length of time.
It may seem strange to consider consent outside of a sexual context but it’s how I’m teaching our kids about it, although we’ve already had conversations about sexual consent, too. If you can respect someone’s need for physical space or to be left alone in a non-sexual moment, you have the capacity to respect it during sex. Clearly, violations of consent aren’t so simple and have to do with a sense of entitlement, a lack of understanding and empathy, selfishness, and much, much more.
But basic consent outside of sex is a start especially if we want to raise the next generation to be better. In episode 115 of the podcast, we talk about how important consent is in every aspect of life.