I’m guessing that some of you read the title of this post and immediately though, “Well duh, Livvy”, but I’m not just talking about giving or removing the idea of enthusiastic consent here, although that’s obviously important as well, even in relationships where there is also implied consent. There is something more to be said for letting your partner say no within a sexual situation (or any situation really.)
Having agency within one’s life, sexual or otherwise is incredibly important and, I feel, incredibly freeing. You’re not obligated to go along with the crowd and it lets you do what you need or want to do both in and out of bed. This is something that I think many people think about too much because going with the flow has always been encouraged, especially, it seems for girls and women. We’re expected to say yes to all kinds of things, even when we want to say no. But back to saying no in a sexual context without specifically removing consent.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Let’s say that my partner wants to try bringing food into the bedroom to play with, but on their own they decide that I wouldn’t like it and therefore they don’t bring the idea up at all because they have essentially already made the choice for me (i.e. assumed I’d say no.) BUT, if my partner comes to me outside of a sexual context and says hey, maybe we should get some edible chocolate and some whipped cream to play with in bed. Suddenly I have agency again and I can decide if it is something I want to do or not. For the record, it would be a no; I’ve heard that the edible chocolate stuff is really gross and I don’t want to be sticky from whipped cream. By not making a choice for me, my partner has given me a choice to say yes or no to that particular act. Notice that I’m not saying no to sex as a whole or to other things, but just to the idea of food in bed. It can be your yum, but it certainly isn’t mine.
The example above is pretty clear and concrete and defines what I mean relatively precisely. And it can be about anything between you and your partner, whether its related to your sex life or not. It’s simply another good way to share your lives together and to communicate in ways that give you both the power to say yes or no to any given thing at any given time. There’s no pressure or expectation that something has to be done, especially when we focus back on sex, and instead it creates an open dialog that might given you more or different or better ideas of things to suggest to your partner.
So, yes it is a form of consent to let your partner say no to something just like any other type of consent that is out there, but in this case it can give them the freedom or permission that they need to say no in other parts of their lives as well because they may feel empowered knowing that they can say no to you, so they can say no to others. Never assume that you’re idea is too kinky or weird or vanilla or whatever and that your partner won’t like it. Just ask them!