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Davis, California

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Column: Consent is sexy

Sex Ed

It’s Winter Quarter once again. A season for head colds, fog and the search for the best way to keep warm. Those of you who recognize me from last winter’s Aggie have already guessed the cold-weather (or really any weather) activity that will be the focus of this column.

For those of you who do not, I’ll give you a hint:  it involves one or more bodies, pleasurable activities and sexy thoughts. That’s right, Davis, your sex ed columnist rides again (complete with terrible double entendres).

Before going any further, I’d like to mention two important points to keep in mind when reading this column. The first is that I am sex-positive. That means that as long as it is consensual and safe, I believe that people should have whatever kind of sex that makes them happy. The range of human sexual activities is vast, and the sooner you accept that your “yuck” is someone else’s “yum” and vice versa, the better off we’ll all be.

The second point is that I am currently employed as a Sexual Health Student Assistant with Health Education and Promotion here on campus. So, when relevant, you will definitely see me mention HEP’s services. However, I want to make one thing very clear. The opinions expressed in this column, particularly if they involve lots of profanity, are mine and mine alone. So if you take umbrage with something I say, complain to me, not to HEP.

Now, in sex-positive circles, you often hear the slogan “consent is sexy” spoken as gospel. However, as soon as you step out of that circle, the same idea is met with anything from mild disbelief to outright derision. The main reason for this is that there is a cultural notion that sex just magically happens. One minute you’re having coffee with that cute physics student, and the next you’re having mind-blowing sexy times. There is seldom any discussion or representation of what occurs in between those moments. This leads most people to assume that whatever does happen must be singularly unsexy.

The problem is that the conversations taking place in that gap, the ones about protection, about boundaries, about consent, are critical to having good sex. Because without them sex can be unsafe, unfun and — if it’s consent that is missing — an assault.

That’s not to say that I don’t understand why some people snigger at the idea of “consent is sexy.” What they are imagining in their heads is a scenario in which person A goes, “Is this okay? This? How about this? Are you sure this is alright? How about now?”  And person B goes, “Yes. Yes. I said yes. OH MY SWEET MERCIFUL JEEBUS HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO SAY IT?” And then B is totally fed up with A, no one has sex and everyone is frustrated.
But that image is based on a very narrow definition of what asking for and receiving consent sounds like. Imagine instead the people of your choice ready to engage in some sexy time (the exact activities can vary depending on your own definitions of what sex is). They have, for the purposes of this example, already discussed protection. A asks B, “Are you ready for me to __?” A replies, “Uh-huh.  Come here you.”  A little later B growls, “Do you want __?” A says, “Oh god yes.” After a small break, A asks, “Can we __?” and B responds “I’m really not feeling that today.” A accepts this answer and then inquires if there is anything B would rather do instead, and so on and so forth.
I hope that script is a clear demonstration of how consent and communication can be sexy. And remember, if your partner asks you to stop or doesn’t want to do a certain thing, you must respect their requests. It does not matter if you have been together one night or five years, and it does not matter if they’ve happily consented to it before. Stop when asked.

And if you’re on the opposite side of that dynamic, tell your partner when you’re uncomfortable. I know that can be hard, but it’s better to have an awkward moment than to do something that makes you unhappy. Remember, if your partner is someone worth sleeping with, they’ll understand that these conversations are necessary to have fun, awesome sex that you both enjoy.

SAM WALL thinks you should check out the HEP’s How to Be Sexcessful booklet or email sewall@ucdavis.edu for more sexual communication advice.


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