The other day I got caught up in this discussion with a man about rape and responsibility and it was very much like this and this so I won’t go into the specifics of our tedious conversation but I will say something about where we left off, which was around the time when he asked me what was my great feminist solution to the apparent greyness of some rapes. The rape that happens after hours and hours of flirting and innuendo; the rape that happens after foreplay; the rape that happens between committed sexual partners; the rape that happens half-way through sex; the rape that happens when the guy supposedly thought she was into it. You know, I replied, you can ask for consent first. But asking for consent, he said, is just such a mood-killer.
Apart from the fact that doing anything without consent is both illegal and immoral and this man surely doesn’t want to be doing either – and how can you argue against a tiny bit of clarification when it has the potential to stop a world of pain – consent is actually the sexy part. Without consent it isn’t even sex; it is a flat-out violation. This man assures me that he isn’t trying to rape anyone, what he is saying is that he just wants to be having hot sex and he wants to be a hot partner so he doesn’t want to kill the excitement by stopping and asking her to sign a consent form.
I don’t know why the idea has persisted that asking for consent is necessarily a clinical business – what is stilted about – more? do you want to? do you like? Because “mood-killer”? Are you kidding me? That moment when they close the space between you both and ask you to put your cards on the table – is this on or not, can I do this with you – is one of the most heart-flippingly exciting moments in all of existence. Eat those moments up because they are the episodes of your life that you will daydream about when you’re ninety years old. That anticipation – that moment when your asking is simultaneously both aggressive and submissive – it is what fuels a billion films and books. Granted it is not pleasant when you’re turned down, and for the record, it isn’t easy turning someone down either. Something is usually lost; the end of a good conversation at the very least, and sometimes even a friendship. But it is a gamble you take because you can’t bear another moment of not knowing; it is the gamble you take because when someone says ‘yes’ to you it is about the hottest feeling you’ll ever know.