Getting consent through non-verbal and even verbal communication: Even teenagers do it every day. So can you.
I’ve been traveling, but in our new age of fancy mobile devices, I have been able to somewhat keep up with the reaction to the feminist reaction to the force-a-kiss Audi ad. It is, of course, entirely predictable. If I may paraphrase every dudely tantrum: “But consent is HAAAAAAARRRRRRD. Your insistence that men have basic good manners/read women’s body language/ask if you’re not sure to make sure sexual attention is wanted is scary and weird and too HAAAAAARRRRRD. Knowing the basic rules of social conduct is pretty much IMMMMMPOOOOOSSSSIBLE, and thus cannot be a basic minimum in order to flirt/kiss/we’re-not-saying-it-but-it’s-implicated-so-okay-penetrate a woman. Cuz HAAAAAAARRRRRD. Wah.”
Let’s be clear. Despite the claims of misogynists, feminists are not actually asking for a triplicate form to be filled out to have a conversation or kiss or even do the nasty. I’ll quote myself in response to the Audi ad:
All they needed to do was have him come in, have her look at him, have their eyes meet and suddenly she’s melting and he walks up, consent obtained, and they make out.
So, non-verbal consent is fine. Feminists, unlike anti-feminists, believe men are as smart as women and can handle the many communications that are conducted throughout the day with non-verbal communication. But we also understand that sometimes non-verbal communication is a bit unclear. But we don’t demand triplicate copies even so! There’s this thing on your face called a “mouth” and you can push sound vibrations through it to do something we call “ask”. Madeline Davis has examples that even the whiniest of dudes can handle:
Try approaching her as you’re on your way out the door, apologize for interrupting her (really, most people don’t mind being bothered if you politely acknowledge the possibility that you might be bothering them) and make your case with kindness and confidence. If she says yes, great! Months from now, you might be arguing over seating arrangements for your indie wedding or mounting a sex swing in your newly shared home. If she says no, nicely respond with an “Okay, cool. Just thought I’d ask,” and then get out of her way.
No triplicates anywhere to be found! So really, not so hard. Indeed, by using these common sense “treat people you want to flirt/kiss/get sticky with as people” methods, I have managed to go what is apparently now decades* having sexualized interactions only with men who were doing it back at me. For this, I was called repeatedly unattractive, which demonstrates the ability of sexism to completely invert reality—after all, it seems, objectively speaking, that “having had lots of affection from people who wanted to give it” is a better measure of attractiveness than my critics’ self-reported self-assessment of “unable to get attention from women without forcing them to give it”. Patriarchy: A place where, if a man says the sky is green and a woman says it’s blue, we’re all supposed to say it’s green and anyone who says otherwise is just bitter because gross men that you wouldn’t want to be in the same room with won’t want to fuck you. (The downside has yet to be spelled out when it comes to this, because sky-is-green dudes ain’t too bright.)
I appreciate Madeline’s latest in a long, long line of feminist blog posts patiently explaining to the “consent is HAAAAAARRRRD” assholes how, using the simple tricks that you use to get through all other human interactions, you can interact with those mysterious gatekeepers to the pussy you believe you’re entitled to. I really do. But, having seen these posts—in the comments of hers, for instance—immediately rejected by the “consent is HAAAAAARRRRRRD” morons, I’ve come to conclude that they already know how to act and simply don’t want to, because they get a kick out of treating women like garbage.
How do I know this? Because if they really, truly struggled with consent, everyday life would be impossible for them to manage. The long, long list of ways they’d fuck up is truly staggering.
Since they can manage to get through the day without picking their noses, masturbating in public, and being mauled by animals and/or the cops because of their stated inability to read social cues or understand when and where sexual behavior is appropriate, I am forced to conclude they’re lying when they claim they can’t interact decently when it comes to women. I propose, instead, that they force themselves on women (or at least fantasize about it) because they’re angry with women and want to punish them for daring to think we have a say in who we want to flirt/kiss/have sex with.
Speaking of elevators, I was thinking back to my adolesence and those early days of trying to navigating heterosexual relations, because I do—contrary to the complaints of the fedora-wearing population—take criticism seriously, even on occasions—such as claiming consent is HAAAAARRRD—when I think it’s offered in bad faith. I mined those early, brain-embedded flirtings and fondlings to make sure I’m not crazy when I say that the rules are just an outgrowth of the rules we use to navigate when we decide if the checkout lady is able to take our order or when it’s okay to call someone after 10. Sure enough, my recollection is that not only was I not one to transgress boundaries, but that my male teenage companions handled it pretty well, too. In fact, I recalled one time I was making out at a dance with a boy, and he got it in his head that he wanted to make out in….wait for it….an elevator. Did he concoct a scheme to get me into an elevator and, while I was not paying attention, pounce on me and scare me half to death? No. He….and this is bananas, I know….asked. And it was fun and playful and sexy, not pulling out a form in triplicate. Looking back, I suspect that since it was a big ask and a bit unusual, it must have been hard to ask. I doubt very much he was steeped in some kind of women’s studies training in consent so much as he just applied basic common sense to the situation, and treated me like he would any other person he was doing fun stuff with.
You don’t just toss a football in your friends face if you want to play a pick-up game. That kind of basic common sense good manners are not only not hard to apply to women, creating an entire seperate set of behaviors that you have been told scare and irritate women is a lot more work than simply acting like women are people. Or you might even say, it’s hard.
If 16-year-olds can handle it, so can grown ass men who can hold a fucking job. So stop pretending you can’t.
*I realized this when the 20th anniversary of the Breeders’ Last Splash came out.