Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Good to Go?

23 Responses

  • Emma Hart,

    If you have examples of stuff like this you want to share anonymously, you can email them to me, and I'll post them in my ID.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Or indeed, for the peace of mind of most of you, at all.

    Whew!

    Not that I'm afraid ... well yes actually I am :)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I think that so much of our issue with sex stems from the fact that we've separated it from normal human behaviour.

    You're having a party. You have people who are welcome; you may have decided that it's only by written invite. But that's only the beginning. There is behaviour which is acceptable with different people in different contexts. Bringing over a pig to roast might make you very popular in some circles, and be quite upsetting to a group of vegetarians. You're probably best to ask, and don't be offended if someone says no.

    The problem is that there is a high level of assumed intimacy in sexual relations, and we're usually not very good at bringing up these matters without threatening that implied intimacy. Asking someone to bring the volume down a bit - it's 1am and the neighbours won't be impressed - reasonably easy. Asking someone to turn the volume down a bit... well, perhaps they never consented to quietness....

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to George Darroch,

    I think that so much of our issue with sex stems from the fact that we’ve separated it from normal human behaviour.

    Yeah, I have a real bug-bear about this. You want to go to the movies with someone? You ask them. And then the two of you have a conversation about which movie, and when, and where, and maybe generally what kinds of movies you like. But having exactly the same conversation about sex? Way too scary. It is fear, and it's fear out of all proportion to "what's the worst that could happen?"

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason,

    Expectations colour much of our sexual behaviour.

    People wish to be desirable and that can be an important turn on. By striving to be desirable they are not implying consent, but their desirability may provoke unrealistic expectations among those experiencing the desire.

    Similarly, IMO, marriage does not necessarily imply consent, although many people, particularly men, would disagree - expectations again.

    Unrealised expectations of frequency of sex, type of sex, and responses to sex can undermine relationships.

    Media portrayals of sex tend to foster expectations, often unrealistic ones.

    Fewer expectations = a healthier relationship, in my view.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    The thing about the good2go app is that it seems to negate the concept that consent can be withdrawn at any time. And, as you say, what you're consenting to is not specified.

    I'm not legalistic in my approach to kink - those multipage agreements as what is on or off the menu make me roll my eyes, internally. But if you're not proceeding with the knowledge that "please don't do that" will be instantly heeded, then it's better to have that kind of thing than nothing at all. (Also, I get it that some people like the "security" of a spelled-out agreement, or get off on the formality.)

    But I don't get what's so hard about the concept of "stop now", which I have seen much whining about in various forums. I'm sorry, a sexual disappointment doesn't trumpet harming someone, emotionally or otherwise.

    Part of my kink is stretching someone'a boundaries. But that MUST be done in the context of mutual trust and negotiation. If you don't have absolute assurance it's there, then don't do it. Stick to the simple clear agreements and active ongoing consent, verbal or otherwise.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Emma Hart,

    But having exactly the same conversation about sex? Way too scary. It is fear, and it’s fear out of all proportion to “what’s the worst that could happen?"

    Exactly – and as I think you’ve said before consent is sexy. Being treated like you might as well be a blow up doll with vibrating orifices isn’t.

    Expectations colour much of our sexual behaviour.

    So do assumptions. I find it endlessly bemusing how many people assume I must love anal because that’s what gay men are into, right? Yes and no, but I'm in the latter. And that’s why clear unapologetic communication of your needs, expectations and boundaries really matter. It’s not the assumptions that do the damage, but what we do with them.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Helga, in reply to Euan Mason,

    Euan, marriage definitely does not imply consent, though it used to - rape is rape, also within marriage. This has been the case legally for some years.

    New Zealand • Since May 2012 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to TracyMac,

    Part of my kink is stretching someone’s boundaries. But that MUST be done in the context of mutual trust and negotiation. If you don’t have absolute assurance it’s there, then don’t do it.

    And the thing is, if I do have that absolute assurance, I will let them push me further. If I feel like STOP might not immediately mean stop, I'll pull the pin a whole lot faster.

    Or, Trust gets you better sex.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I think that so much of our issue with sex stems from the fact that we’ve separated it from normal human behaviour.

    Yeah, I have a real bug-bear about this. You want to go to the movies with someone? You ask them.

    I'd never go on one of those AirNZ mystery escapes for exactly this reason. Yeah I get some folks like the spontaneity and surprise but I like knowing and anticipation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to TracyMac,

    The thing about the good2go app is that it seems to negate the concept that consent can be withdrawn at any time

    Yeah, the missing feature is the ability for either partner to log in and remove their consent. Sure, the app can then say "gave consent at XXpm, retroactively removed it at YYam", but I suspect that's not quite what the designers have in mind. That's even without the lovely dichotomy of sex/not-sex that the app constructs. We've had the tortuous legal arguments about what constitutes sex, thank you very much.

    Although, an app that plays 20 questions with the sort of sex you have in mind could be kind of fun. I'm sure there's a TV game show in there somewhere, maybe as the next stage in The Bachelor? "he thought they were going to ..." and "she thought..."

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Helga,

    Euan, marriage definitely does not imply consent, though it used to - rape is rape, also within marriage. This has been the case legally for some years.

    I suspect his point was that the law and people's expectations often differ. We see this all the time in a whole range of legal areas, and much of legal practice consists exactly of getting a judge to decide what's reasonable given inconsistent expectations of two parties bound by simple written agreement. When it's two parties operating without a written a greement in a situation of deliberate ambiguity the complexity rises significantly.

    There's also a huge gulf between "not a huge fan but I'll do it for reasons" and "fuck no!", and everyone I've met has "reasons" that are acceptable and ones that are not. So adding a third party doesn't necessarily simplify the situation, especially if that third party is explicitly there to judge the reasons...

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Moz,

    Euan, marriage definitely does not imply consent, though it used to – rape is rape, also within marriage. This has been the case legally for some years.

    I suspect his point was that the law and people’s expectations often differ.

    Wow, I really hope NOBODY out there thinks that agreeing to marry someone is the same as agreeing in advance to doing anything they want, at any time. That sounds more like SLAVERY.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Moz,

    everyone I've met has "reasons" that are acceptable and ones that are not

    Er, I don't know if I'm missing your point, but we're talking about consenting to sex rather than breaking some random contract. It doesn't matter what reason someone has for not consenting. "I don't want to" is sufficient.

    I suppose the potential danger is that some moron might think that the app somehow creates a legally enforceable contract. Whereas, as far as I know, making contracts for sexual acts is specifically prohibited.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to TracyMac,

    we're talking about consenting to sex rather than breaking some random contract. It doesn't matter what reason someone has for not consenting. "I don't want to" is sufficient.

    I was specifically talking about peoples reason for consenting, and how those can be judged invalid by others. At the extreme is the Mary Daly "no woman can consent to sex with a man" or the Dworkin/Mckinnon "cold light of day with lawyers" version. And at the other I suppose is the "I got drunk so I could throw myself at this guy I liked, but he said no so I screwed some random dude who happened to be nearby".

    I find it somewhat tiresome that we're apparently already retracing past threads here. But, what the heck: marriage is regarded by many people as involving sex, and therefore consenting to marriage is a statement that you do intend to have sex at some point. It's not consent to a specific act at a specific time and place, but many people would consider ongoing refusal to be a betrayal unless discussed before marriage. The law, of course, does not even require spouses to reside in the same country, let alone communicate with each other or share anything.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to TracyMac,

    I suppose the potential danger is that some moron might think that the app somehow creates a legally enforceable contract. Whereas, as far as I know, making contracts for sexual acts is specifically prohibited.

    True, but hell... an app is not a contract, and it's kind of depressing anyone should need to be told that but there you and here we are in the world as it is, not the one we'd like to see. That is going to take some work. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Moz,

    many people would consider ongoing refusal to be a betrayal unless discussed before marriage.

    ongoing refusal?

    Sex is not showjumping, is it? Surely it’s something people negotiate and enjoy together.
    And really so much more than can be covered by a simple yes/no.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Lilith __,

    Not to mention the fact that the legal remedy for "intractable" disputes in a marriage - which, these days, does not contractually require it be "consummated" - is simply to get a divorce.

    Enjoying together - yes, that's exactly what sex should be about. :-)

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I don't think it's unusual for couples to have periods where one partner isn't able to, or doesn't want to, have sex for a while. In healthy relationships this isn't seen as on-going refusal because the other partner knows not to pester. It might be reasonable to assume that certain types of relationships are sexual ones, and it's fair to be disappointed if they turn out not to be but it doesn't mean anyone should have to have sex they are not fully enthused about because they "owe" it to you.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Moz,

    the Mary Daly “no woman can consent to sex with a man”

    Perhaps you mean Adrienne Rich? Her famous 1980 essay is titled “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”, argued that where heterosexuality is compulsory, “consent” has limited meaning for lesbians.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Rtmiss, in reply to Lilith __,

    OK, I am _pretty sure_ that what Moz is referring to is the unfortunate number of people out there for whom marriage = consent. At least on some level. Sadly the legal system can tell you that there are plenty of these people out there, or at least people who are prepared to pretend they feel this way if it might get them out of trouble. For these people saying no is breaking the rules and continuing to say no is a betrayal. Albeit a betrayal of unreasonable assumptions that they have made. It's about individual perspective, and wrong or right (WRONG!!) there are people out there who believe it to be true.

    I entirely agree that it should not be this way, but Moz is not saying it should be either, he's merely admitting that the position exists. The difference between what is legally true and what people expect to be true is often a hideous chasm.

    People sometimes expect consent for terrible reasons, they also sometimes give consent for terrible reasons. Hell I know I've said yes when I didn't really mean yes, in the past. Because it was easier than dealing with saying no. I've said yes out of some broken sense of obligation. Learning to say no has not been a simple class.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Rtmiss,

    I entirely agree that it should not be this way, but Moz is not saying it should be either, he's merely admitting that the position exists. The difference between what is legally true and what people expect to be true is often a hideous chasm.

    Thank you. I was beginning to wonder whether what I'd posted was so hideously miswritten that it was gibberish.

    I was actually one step nicer than even your expectations, to be honest, and thinking about people who expect that at some stage during their marriage they might have sex with their spouse. Many people, possibly even most, wouldn't feel it necessary to discuss that explicitly before the wedding. And might therefore bring it up some time after the wedding when it turns out that that unspoken assumption was apparently wrong. Not in the "you must sex me now" sense, but in the "oh my love, I begin to think I was wrong to expect sex after marriage. Was I, in fact, mistaken?" sort of way. This being a "moving beyond no" sort of discussion.

    In the context of a "yes means yes" article it's interesting that no-one else is ready to even concede that that might be a possible way to approach consent.

    (and Lilith, yes, Adrienne Rich)

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    Also, on a slight tangent, Emily Nagoski has an interesting article on "fuck yes" consent up today.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

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