Note from the Editor: Seventeen year old Anene Booysen was brutally tortured, raped and murdered in February, and her death lead South Africans to do some serious introspection about the levels of sexual violence in the country. But considering 75 percent of rape survivors know their attacker and 50 percent of rapes happen in the home, what can we do to break a culture that condones and permits rape? One solution is “enthusiastic consent.”

Enthusiastic Consent: Only Yes Means Yes

by Michelle Solomon

There are few things hotter than a woman who wants you, and says so. A throaty whisper in your ear, “I want you” to the over the top yet cock-hardening “Take me now, [insert name here]!” Even the instructive, “please put that here” has been known to get many men and women hot in the nethers. What you have here, gentlemen, is enthusiastic consent. A paradigm shift from the idea that your sexual partner should tell you what she doesn’t want – that she should ‘opt-out’ by saying “no” – to one where your partner enthusiastically and explicitly tells you that she wants you with a deep, wet ache, and how she wants you to satisfy that ache. Enthusiastic consent builds anticipation. Think back to the last time you and a partner spent some time having phone sex or sexting, explaining in graphic details what you intended to do one another. Think of the hot ache you felt in your gut as she told you over the phone where she wanted you to touch her as you avoided your eavesdropping creeper roommate; or when she told in a text you how she wanted you to kiss her and you tried not to blush when you read it in your conference meeting.

Enthusiastic consent is phone sex and sexting, IRL. Enthusiastic consent is less of “Can I give you a golden shower?” and more of “What would you like me to do to you?” It’s the perfect opportunity to whip out those sex fantasies you’ve kept tucked away for a rainy day. Finally, you can tell a woman about your affinity for some light spanking, and also hear about her kinky “James Bond” role play fantasy. Enthusiastic consent is respect for your sexual partner’s bodily autonomy, as well as your own. If you wouldn’t want someone surprising you with a strap-on after a night at the pub, don’t assume you can do the same to your sexual partner with “surprise sex.” (We’ll call it “rape” for short.)

If a woman smiles at you sweetly, bats her eyelashes at you, lets you buy her a drink, or even goes home with you, she is not giving you the okay to engage with her sexually. That is not a green-light. At best, it’s a compliment to your ability to carry a conversation. “No” means “no,” but the absence of a “no” does not mean “yes.” A “maybe” is not a challenge to keep trying until your sexual partner gives in to your persistence – it’s an indication that your partner isn’t a-okay with whatever you are asking. It’s an indication that she doesn’t really consent. Comments like “I don’t know” and “if you want me too” are also signs that your partner isn’t really that into it. And who wants a partner who isn’t ready to jump your bones at your very suggestion? Meh.

By asking a sexual partner what she agrees to and how, you are not only respecting her boundaries, but your own. It also avoids awkward rapey situations like “Why you are sticking a spoon up my arse?” (Apparently some people aren’t really into that.) Essentially, enthusiastic consent helps you to avoid becoming a rapist. Of course, that’s assuming you don’t want to be one. A study done by Middlesex University found that participants in a group study struggled to spot the difference between statements made by convicted sex offenders and leading men’s magazines. The results revealed that overall, more men agreed with the rapists, and only changed their minds when the source of the quote was revealed to them.

Here are some of the statements pulled from the study. Men’s magazine, or rapist? “There’s a certain way you can tell that a girl wants to have sex… The way they dress, they flaunt themselves.” “What burns me up sometimes about girls is dick-teasers. They lead a man on and then shut him off right there.” “You’ll find most girls will be reluctant about going to bed with somebody or crawling in the back seat of a car. But you can usually seduce them, and they’ll do it willingly.” Again, men’s magazine or rapist? If you’re not sure, you can always ask the three owners of these comments. Visiting hours are from 3:00 to 5:00 pm. If you wouldn’t want someone assuming you’re all good with a piece of cutlery in your arse, why would you assume to engage in sexual activities with a partner who hasn’t given you the absolute all-clear? Believe me when I tell you, gentlemen: consent is hot. Assault, on the other hand, is not.

Michelle Solomon is a journalist and the media liaison for the Silent Protest, South Africa’s largest and longest-running protest against sexual violence. Follow her on Twitter @mishsolomon.

 Read more on this vital issue for free in Playboy South Africa March 2013

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