Child: Can I please please pleeeeaaasseeee have a cookie?

Parent: Yes, or no, or “wait until after dinner” WHY? because I said so.

That’s not how consent works.

It would be awesome if we all just asked for everything we wanted outright. But especially when it comes to intimacy, being direct can be really hard.

SOAR, you’ve done a great job raising questions and forcing the Haverford community to start talking about consent. I think a lot of the student body is starting to see how important it is to receive enthusiastic consent before pursuing any sort of sexual act, regardless of the gender of the actor or the recipient. But it’s different to say “yeah, I agree that consent is important” that to say “yeah, and I’m going to make a commitment to ask for consent every time.” For a lot of people here, asking for consent might be new. And new things are challenging. I think that we, as a community, even if we agree that consent is important, don’t know how to logistically ask for it.

And it might seem silly. But actually, I don’t think asking for consent is such an easy thing to do.

It’s not “hey, can I take off your clothes now while we kiss passionately?”
or “hey, can I put my sexual organ into some part of your body?” or “hey, can I take off my/your pants?” or “if you come back to my room, we can put on my hook up playlist and give each other oral sex. How does that sound to you?”

Sure, any of those would constitute consent. But none of them seem natural. For someone accustomed to talking about sex and consent, they might be easier to pull of, but for people just trying it out, I think they’re a tough sell.

Sure, you could make the argument that if you think asking for consent is too awkward, you probably shouldn’t be having sex in the first place. But we aren’t going to pursue that because people have non-consensual sex all the time. The real challenge is making consent not awkward but a normal part of our collective social lives.

How can we, as a community, approach realistically asking for consent in a way that feels natural, sexy and most importantly, safe and open to the potential for both parties to say no?

In my experience, it looks like, “hey, are you okay with this?” “Are you okay?” “are you comfortable?” “do you want to take a break?” and “are you sure?” go a long way. There are a lot of different ways to ask for consent, but asking if your partner is okay in a given situation is a solid way to start.

But you don’t stop there! Consent is the kind of thing that you need to ask for more than once. More than twice! My rule of thumb is to ask every time I approach a new level of intimacy. That goes from dancing in Lunt basement to sliding off my last layer of clothes and every step in between. Because if it’s as easy as asking “are you okay with this?” then why not? Consent doesn’t need to be scary. But it is if we don’t talk about it. And it definitely is if you think that asking for consent means that you stop hooking up to ask if/where you should put your genitalia.

Consent in a nutshell- like a kid asking his or her parent for a cookie – and then another cookie and another cookie.  Having a cookie without asking first would be stealing.  Having too many cookies would be just plain unfair to the person the cookies belonged to. Asking if you could grab the cookie, chew the cookie and let it dissolve with acid in your stomach is just gross (but true).  No, definitely, the best way to go about this is to ask the cookie owner if he or she minds if you eat one.  And remember, there will always be another chance to eat cookies- it’s not a reflection of your value as a cookie eater if the person would rather save some cookies for later.

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