Unless you’ve been living in a cave somewhere then you are familiar with consent. In the past few years we’ve seen a real shift in how we interact with one another. We’ve all seen the signs that tell us “No Means No” and “Consent Matters.” We’ve been taught that before reaching out to give a hug, touch a shoulder, or go in for a kiss, we must make sure the recipient is a-okay with our gesture. If someone isn’t down with being touched, hugged, or kissed then we are to be respectful of those boundaries.
I like consent. I like knowing I have a say in what happens to me. It’s encouraging to know we are taking the time to check in with each other about our comfort level in any given situation. I also like knowing there is a lean in towards respecting one another. Gone are the days of assumption and giving in. We’re taught today if something makes us uncomfortable we have the right to say so. This shift is a good one. It reminds us to make sure we are conscious of the other person (or persons) comfort and to not take any situation for granted.
If someone says no, then respect the answer. If someone says, maybe, we are told this isn’t a yes…it’s still a no. If someone has had one too many drinks, we shouldn’t take advantage of the other person’s compromised position. Like I said, consent is an important topic and one we should pay attention to.
While I’m all for making sure I’m requesting consent from someone I’m interested in, we can’t ignore the flip side of the consent coin. The person receiving the consent request. I can ask for consent all day long, but if the person receiving the request has difficulty in expressing their boundaries or expects all the responsibility of consent to fall on the other person, then we can have a breakdown in what it is we are trying to achieve.
Years ago, John and I were in France visiting a swingers club. The club was small, as were the playrooms. During our visit, the two of us decided to check out the playrooms. Well, we hadn’t been on the bed but a few moments before arms started reaching in and touching my legs. Ugh! What a buzz kill. I hadn’t expected the random touching. Now, my mood was all funky. We got up and returned to the main area.
As I sat there reflecting over what had happened I realized a few things. 1) I hadn’t been prepared for the trespassing of my space, so it threw me for a loop 2) I was letting the actions of another affect me and 3) did I really want some random guy ruin a wonderful night out with my husband?! Absolutely not! Had this other person done this to try and ruin my evening? Had he done so to scare or hurt me in some way? I just couldn’t believe any of these would be his motivation. He’d simply done something that for me was a big no. No, he hadn’t asked for consent, but his breach didn’t have to make the night a dud.
Thank goodness, I was able to take a deep breath, relax, and understand he might have done something, but at the end of the day I was still in control of myself. The rest of the night was one for the books and one I will never forget.
I tell this story to highlight the power we all have in directing our life. We can take incoming information and blow a gasket, or we can take the knowledge and apply it constructively. There were all kinds of ways I could have handled that night in France. I could have gone to the club manager and informed him of the infraction (which btw, us club owners like to know) I could have left the club, I could have yelled at the guy, or I could have become distraught by the actions of another. I could have spoken to the man and told him he’d fare better if he asked permission first, or handed my issue over for John to handle.
For me and that night I came away feeling really confident and proud of myself. I’d handled the situation on my own and felt good about the outcome. The night ended up being a powerful confidence builder and a reminder to me how important it is to take responsibility for those times that might not be all that fun to handle. These are learning opportunities for us, and like I always say, “learning is power.”
At the end of the day, it’s vital both parties are capable of being honest, of speaking up, and capable of taking responsibility in the decisions made. We can’t only be asking those who ask for consent to carry the weight of the exchange, those of us being asked also play a role in the interaction. If I don’t want to agree, then it’s 100% my responsibility to say no. I don’t have to be upset or angry in my no, either. I should be able to convey my decline in grace and with a calm manner. Even our no’s to someone can be a teachable moment. Besides, our no, could be another’s yes, so don’t worry about not agreeing to something you’re not comfortable doing.
Let’s all take comfort in knowing our consent, another’s consent, and our ability to communicate those moments of consent are finally taking center stage. Consent is for all of us!
John and Jackie Melfi are in a consensually non monogamous marriage. They have been featured in ABC News Nightline Special Report “Getting Naughty In N’awlins”, Inside a New Orleans Swingers Convention, and CNN “This Is Life” with Lisa Ling. The Melfis are the force behind the industry famous colette swingers clubs in New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, and Austin. With over 20 years of combined experience, this powerhouse couple coaches thousands of singles and couples through their award winning blog Openlove101.com.