I was just chatting with Andrew Gurza on his podcast Disability After Dark. We were rolling around in marginalized bodies and sex, the ways we perform and try to be “normal” and not other.
One of the things he said to me is that consent looks really different for him.
As a disabled person, sex may only be an option for him every 6-7 months (maybe once a year), and so if you ask him to have certain kinds of sex, he may say yes even if he’s unsure simply because he may not have another opportunity at sexual connection for another year.
We live in a rape culture, a culture that doesn’t even understand the most basic rules around consent. A lot of this is due to patriarchy and misogyny, people feeling like they have access to certain bodies simply because they deserve sex.
So, it makes sense that when talking about consent is radical in and of itself that we would frame the conversation in the most basic language – anything other than an enthusiastic yes is a no.
But this black-and-white conversation leaves a LOT of people and circumstances out of the conversation. Sex workers, for instance. Marginalized bodies. Various cultures and religions. Folks who are asexual. Poor folks. The list goes on.
When Andrew shared this, it drove home just how bad we are at really talking about the nuances of consent based on a variety of bodies and circumstances.
I know growing up I was never taught about consent. I was taught not to hit people. I was taught that rape is bad. That grown-ups shouldn’t touch little kids in certain places. But that was really it.
I wasn’t taught that pushing friends to do something isn’t consent.
I wasn’t taught that boys coercing me, twisting my words, cajoling me wasn’t consent.
I wasn’t taught so many of the most basic things about bodily autonomy and choices.
Consent is soooo much more than that, though.
It’s about nurturing, it’s about respect, it’s about nuance, it’s about SEEING someone and engaging with them, dancing with them, to co-create something that feels good for everyone involved while also understanding the social pressures and dynamics and power systems at play.
What has consent looked like in your life? Have you grappled with it? Have you had consent violated? Have you violated consent (we all have, if we’re honest – I have many times in a variety of ways)?
What would it mean to grow up, from the earliest of ages, learning about bodily autonomy and respecting other people’s boundaries and needs, knowing how to ask for what you want and also how to receive someone else’s requests without taking them on as your own?
It’s juicy and filled with landmines. So let’s tread carefully and stay curious.