by A. Lynn. This article was originally posted at A Nerdy Feminist. Cross-posted with permission.
The idea of enthusiastic consent is quite simple. In a nutshell, it advocates for enthusiastic agreement to sexual activity, rather than passive agreement. Many of you may be familiar with the book Yes Means Yes!, which popularized the idea. The concept also requires that consent be given to each piece of sexual activity, meaning that a yes to one thing (such as vaginal penetration) does not mean consent to another (like anal penetration). Basically, we’re saying, “Yes! I want this!” or, “No, I don’t think I want to do that,” and we’re asking “Is this ok?” To do these things is to be respectful of not only your own bodily autonomy, but also your partner’s. It’s just common courtesy, really. To give enthusiastic consent isn’t exactly to scream that you want it at the top of your lungs; it’s more that an unsure or hesitant yes is not enthusiastic consent, and needs to be considered.
Seriously–our sex negative society delivers so many disservices to teens that it disgusts me. So many schools and sex education programs aren’t even allowed to talk about condoms let alone the fact that sex is supposed to be fun and pleasurable. I mean, the horribly sex-shaming “education” I received in middle school was so focused on making us fear sex (especially girls) that there was no possible place to properly discuss consent. And if any of us might have wanted to ask, “How do you know when you’re ready to have sex?” the question was preemptively squashed since we were told from day one that sex was only applicable between one man and one woman inside the bond of marriage.
It makes me really sad when I think about it too much. My parents are far from perfect, but thank goodness that they properly educated me in this realm.
There are so many problems with the American sex education system that I can’t even begin to compile a complete list. But unless and until enthusiastic consent is included, our rape culture will be alive and well.
About the author
A. Lynn is proudly all of the following things: nerdy, feminist, movie lover, nonprofit professional, and critic/secret lover of all things pop culture. She's originally from Indianapolis, IN and but now makes her home in Austin, TX where she blogs about her particular brand of Third Wave Feminism at www.nerdyfeminist.com.