You already know that you need to get consent from that sexy human in front of you before you touch them, right? Good. Now the question is, how? Do you just go for the home run right off the bat? Start with a base hit? Blurt out every juicy thing that you have been fantasizing about while you’ve been chatting at this party for the last couple hours? Maybe it’s better to just let them make the first move. Maybe not getting anywhere is better than hearing no. You hate being rejected. Ahh, forget it. This is all too much trouble. Why don’t you just get drunk and then you’ll have an excuse to not close the deal. That’s a good idea.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Dating and courtship in the era of #MeToo feels perilous at best for lots of people, men especially. Where we were once expected to take the lead on pursuing dates and sex, we are now at risk of being labeled a “creep,” a “predator,” or maybe just “not woke” for the same behavior. Let’s be clear, not getting clear consent from those we are interested in has never been acceptable. These days the stakes are higher, and the consequences much more dire. You might get judged and lose everyone you care about, so don’t fuck this up, dude.
The art of making consent sexy comes down to making it fun and playful, without compromising the integrity of the process. It’s a dance of asking for what you want, while holding space to hear and say something other than yes. It’s about creating an opportunity for both (or all) parties to offer what they are into, and what they’re not, while not making any of it wrong. It’s easier than you might expect, and no, it doesn’t boil down to asking, “Can I do this, can I do that, can I do this?” again and again. That approach is a turn-off, and very much misses the point. In fact, you would do well to start shifting your idea of what the word “consent” means. It would be nice if we had a better word for the concept, because in its current form it implies that one party (often a woman) has all the goodies, and the other party (often a man) is trying to get them. That narrative isn’t helping our overall situation. We can do better —we just have to be creative and a little brave.
So what are we to do? Like any skill, obtaining consent from your partner-to-be takes practice. It also helps to have a beginner’s mind about it, and the will to re-learn what you think you know all over again. Being ok with not knowing how to do something well is an attractive quality all by itself. Trust me on this, hearing the words, “I don’t know, will you teach me?” coming out of a man’s mouth is way sexier than you think.
To embody the hallmarks of clear consent, remember not to fly too close to the sun…think “I-C-A-R-U-S”. “I” is informed—the party giving consent understands what is being offered. Offering someone a “wet willy” cannot be consented to if they think you’re going to kiss them. “C” is competent—they have to be capable of giving consent, as in sober and of sound mind. “A” is affirmative—they are communicating a definite yes, not being passively quiet, or not saying no. “R” is recurring—their yes is being offered in an ongoing way, from moment to moment. “U” is unpressured—they are saying yes of their own volition, not because you are hounding them to do so. Saying, “Ahhhh, pleeeaaase?” is pressure. Finally, “S” is specific—they have been given enough information to know exactly what they are saying yes to. Asking someone if they want to “fool around” is not specific enough (yet), and could be interpreted differently by different people.
Before we get to the consent talk though, let’s investigate if you even have a chance. To begin with, there are many cues you can look for to determine if your person of interest is likely interested in you. If you’ve gotten far enough into a conversation with someone that both of you are smiling at each other, holding eye contact, and their body is openly facing yours and not turned aside, chances are good you have established some rapport. This is a great start. If they have touched you casually a couple times, and/or are touching parts of their body that you find alluring (hair, waist, breasts, e.g.) then chances are decent they want to touch you and be touched by you. If they are flirting with you, complimenting you, or asking lots of questions about you, they are interested. This is NOT consent, but it is the starting place for establishing such. If none of these cues are present you don’t have rapport. Asking this person if you can touch or kiss them just isn’t going to go well. I don’t recommend it unless you want that stinging look and a sharp “NO!”
Ok, this all might sound like a lot to remember, but in the examples that follow, you’ll learn it’s not that hard. In addition to ICARUS, I also recommend that you give the delicious person you want to devour an “out,” as you’ll see below. Remember, all it takes to get good at this is practice, creativity, and a little courage.
When you feel fairly confident that you and your potential lover are both interested, the hardest part is usually asking the first consent question. Once you cross that bridge though, it gets easier. So break the ice, champ! Try leading with something like this: “Hey, I feel like we’re connecting here, and I’d love to talk with you about getting a little closer if you are into that—but if not that’s ok, I’m happy to keep our conversation going.” Here you’ve made your desires known, in general terms at least, and you’ve given them an out, which makes the listening party feel a little bit safer and unpressured. If they respond with some version of “Sure!” then you are on your way. Good work! They might respond with something less affirmative, like, “What do you mean?” Or, “Maybe,” but this is also good as now you have a consent dialog going. From this point, you want to get more specific. It also helps to suggest options and not be attached to getting something specific. If all you are hoping for is to have sex with this person, then you could miss out on an awesome make out session and the chance to get to know them better while building rapport for some future encounter. Intimacy has many forms. The objective of the consent dance is to find where your mutual intimacy interests overlap, not round all the bases and score.
Your next move might sound something like this: “I find you very attractive, and I’m having several yummy thoughts. I’m curious if you’d like to kiss or cuddle with me?” Their yes at this point might sound something like, “I’m down to cuddle and see where that goes.” You’re doing great so far! Go get cuddly and keep talking. Things that generally fall into the vicinity of cuddling will likely (but not certainly) be welcomed in this space as well. That means, running your hands up and down this person’s body outside of their clothes is probably going to be enjoyed. Shoving your hands under their clothes or groping sensitive areas like the groin, butt, or breasts is probably a step too far. You don’t necessarily have to check in for every little advance, but don’t rush it. The key here is not to assume too much, and give them an easy way to give you feedback. Try saying, “If you dislike any way that I touch you, will you please tell me?” Or, “If you like how I cuddle, please let me know!” If they respond to your touch by giving a little moan and wriggling in closer to you, they are non-verbally saying, “Yes, I like that!” What you are doing here is making it very easy for your new playmate to transmit their yes to what they want, and exercise some version of “No” or “Slow down” without them being afraid that they are going to hurt you or spoil the moment. Often times, people don’t know how far they want to go with someone until they’ve had a taste of what’s to come. Be patient, let the chemistry build, and have fun with it! Giggling and blushing as you both find your mutual yes is excellent foreplay, and will create anticipation and stimulate your imaginations. Are you feeling sexy yet?
This approach applies at the hotter and heavier stages of engagement, too. Along the way, there will likely be a mix of verbal and non-verbal cues that say, “Keep going” or “Slow down.” If the signals are unclear or confusing you in any way, make sure you check in with your lover that you are reading them correctly. It never hurts to ask, “Are you enjoying this?” one more time. If you are checking in more often than they feel is needed, they will probably let you know. You might hear something like, “You’re good. If I want you to back off I’ll say so.” If you get any cues that don’t feel like an enthusiastic yes—they move away from your touch, close their body position so you have less contact, go quiet or still, or move your hands away from sensitive areas—you need to read that as “No” or “Stop.” A shrug is not a yes. Some women, especially, are conditioned to not say no, so what a man is looking for is not a “Whatever,” but a clear “Yes.” It’s not the other party’s responsibility to explicitly say no to end the consent. It’s your responsibility to make sure consent is in place, at all times, without exception.
If they give you an inch, don’t take a mile. If you gave them an inch, and they are trying to take a mile from you, then it’s now your turn to control the pace. Do your best to speak up or give some other signal if you want something to change. Even if you initiated this dance, you don’t have to take it any further than you genuinely want to. That being said, if you are in either position and you want to go further, make your wants transparent in real time. They may not be certain that you want what you want, or what they want. Keeping your real desires hidden is decidedly unsexy. And, keep in mind all good things come to an end, so eventually something like, “I’m done, thanks” will be said by one or both parties.
A final piece of advice that might make this dance feel more accessible to you—practice not being afraid of receiving, or saying, “No” at any point in this process. Rejection is most often a story that people make up about why someone said “No.” Unless they tell you specifically that they are saying no because you suck, don’t go there. Getting a no leaves you right where you were before, not worse off, unless you make it that way. They have their reasons, which are likely not about you at all, so respect their choices even if you don’t understand them. “No” is a word of empowerment, and we would all be better off if we said and heard it with more ease and grace. Be an advocate for “No” and you will likely find that you hear “Yes” more often, and enjoy it even more—because you can’t trust someone’s yes if you can’t trust their no. Embrace other people’s responses to your offers as the gifts that they are: healthy intimate human transactions. You will make the whole dance that much sexier if you do.
Photo credit: Pexels