Consent is such a well debated topic and one which is key for me in so many ways. I teach about the importance of consent and am passionate about it. Seeing the devastation that is left when someone has been pushed to do things which they didn’t want to do has made me feel so strongly that I have no doubt that it is my duty to use education to change things, for both parties. I have also had my own experiences of non-consensual sexual acts and that sits slightly uncomfortably with me, I suppose, as I wonder if and how that has contributed to the person I am today. Chicken and egg.
Teaching about consent
I have written briefly about my teaching of consent in the post, Consent and D/s, and in some of the other posts about sex education that I have linked at the bottom of the page. If you follow my blog then you will know that my job can be emotionally challenging at times, but for the most part, I am able to use strategies to help me to switch off, more or less, from the stuff of the day. Not so with issues of consent. They tug at me in a way that makes them difficult to move on from. They horrify me really as I see from an adult viewpoint, the reality of the things that are being relayed through the eyes of someone much more innocent and far less experienced than me. They upset me greatly.
Often the actual incident seems to happen in a way which is not in line with the trauma which follows when the mind catches up to where the body has been. The loss of control, the overwhelming sense of horror, and the lack of feeling of safety means that everything becomes defined for a while, by this one event which seems to have changed everything. It is hard to go home from and I find, invariably, that I take some of it with me, a sort of secondary trauma as my mind goes over and over it, trying to make sense and empathise with someone who is seeing things in a new and, at times, distorted way.
And so when I broach the topic of consent there is something personal about it for me. I teach knowing that I have spoken to others who have fallen victim of the same thing. It is one thing to laugh in a classroom, surrounded by peers, at the lesson where you practice saying no, but it is another when you are drunk at a party and you want to impress, and you find yourself in a situation where you are no longer in control. I hope they feel my urgency and I hope they pick up on my concern, when I try to engage them in the resources at my disposal and punctuate it with personal pleas to take care.
I am careful, too, to make sure that all genders are aware of the risks. Being a victim of an accusation can be equally damaging for someone who is young, inexperienced and at the crossroads of their life. It is hard for either party to recover and their youthful choices are altered somehow, even if they choose not to share what has happened and to try to push it away. So on the one hand, I feel very strongly and want to champion a change in attitude and behaviour on both side of the fence. Something niggles at me, however, and that is my own experience and how I dealt with that.
Consent and Me Too
There were four incidents which shaped my adolescence and my subsequent sexual responses to people. They were all to do with consent. It was not asked for and neither did I give it or take it away. That was typical for the time, I think, and one of the things that still leaves the whole topic with as much grey as there ever can be. The emphasis is shifting to looking for a yes, rather than just the absence of a no, but still, we live in a world where people want things in either black or white.
Incident number 1 took place when I was 13. When my teacher flirted with me in front of the whole class, did I say no? When he kept me back at the end of school, did I say no? When he put me in the cupboard and touched me, did I say no? I didn’t actually. I don’t know why because I wanted to. Perhaps it was the respect that I knew I had to show the teachers? Perhaps it was the fact that others laughed and passed it off as a joke? Perhaps I liked the attention? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I said nothing, although I thought a lot about it.
I wondered, why me? I wondered what I had done. And this was compounded by incident number 2. This took place a few years after when I was actually 16. I had ended things with a boyfriend who I thought accepted that. It turned out he didn’t, and it wasn’t until he had forced me to be with him and noticed that I was crying, that he articulated the fact that he hadn’t realised that it meant that much to me. I was left feeling angry and confused. I hadn’t done much to stop things and had more or less stopped arguing with him and given up. That must have meant it was my fault.
A short while after came incident number 3 and this was back at school. This teacher was helping me out with something, but definitely crossed a lot of lines. He made it clear that he wanted more from me than a teacher pupil relationship and it made me uncomfortable. I still didn’t challenge his behaviour, although I tried to avoid him. I found him, and the things he said and did, creepy. When he tried to get me to go back to his flat with him I had the sense not to go. When I told my mum she supported me in not going, although for some reason no one called the school to report what he was doing.
Incident 4 took place when I was at work and was totally premeditated on his behalf. This was a complete stranger who must have planned what he wanted to do as he engineered a situation which meant he was alone with me long enough to push himself on me. He kissed me, putting his tongue in my mouth and then touched me, telling me to be quiet and holding his hand over my mouth while he spoke. He told me that he loved me, and that he “just had to do that” to me. This was the worst of all the incidents, as by this time I was meant to be old enough to be able to take care of myself.
I had been part of those conversations with friends where you would scream, or kick someone in the balls, or try your best to defend yourself. What happened when it happened was that I did nothing. I froze. I was scared, I suppose. Someone even came into the room part way through, must have sensed something and asked if I was ok. Without knowing how or why I mumbled that I was and let them go, allowing him the opportunity to carry on. This told me that I had an issue, that something was wrong with me. And when he wrote later to my place of work, asking if he could meet with me and have an affair, I burnt the letter in the fire at home rather than reporting him, name and address, to the police.
I did tell the people at work and changes were made to help to keep us safe, based on what had happened, but no one took any of it any further, or encouraged me to do so. I guess it wasn’t done back then and even these days seeing the effect of reporting something, I can understand why some would choose not to. And I am not proud of myself for thinking that. I am cynical I suppose. I want the world to have changed and I believe in what is right but things are still stacked in a direction which feels so wrong.
So by the time I left home at age 18, I had already decided that there was something wrong with me. I gave off the wrong signals, said the wrong things, made people think that they could do what they wanted to me. It felt that it was me who was guilty as I must somehow give these men the wrong idea. First year university we studied ‘Lolita’ and suddenly everything made sense. I had always looked young but must also give the idea that I was not completely sexually innocent, so had this sort of naughty girl effect on men. Poor them, being caught in my web!
The years after I had a plan to help me keep safe. I allowed myself to be with males who I was prepared to be with and avoided all others. Mostly I chose well and although they always called the shots, they were often kind to me too. They did not all take advantage, but looking back I see how low my self-worth was. I was never good at saying no and never really felt empowered to do so. I would blame myself and think it was my fault that I had led them on somehow, so it seemed easier just to go along with it. That being said, I never took a taxi, I was never on my own with men I didn’t know and I avoided talking to male lecturers.
People in positions of power have always been an issue and similar non-consensual acts happened with employers when I entered the work place. It has been a recurring theme really and to this day, I have only ever had one male friend where it hasn’t ‘gone wrong’. He is a colleague and has made me think that perhaps I do have the ability to speak to men without them feeling I am hitting on them and making a move. I would like to say I don’t have issues but clearly I do, and I was glad when I met HL and my girls acquired step brothers. I felt safer as a mum that they would know how to speak to boys ‘properly’ and not end up like me, unwittingly putting out the wrong signals.
Consent and D/s
Consent has never been an issue with HL. I wanted to be with him so it was never something which came up. He is also a gentleman and he did make sure that he asked. This was the case from the very beginning and the way we fitted together naturally is illustrated in Can I put my finger in your arse? Consent can be tricky in a D/s relationship though and I am not sure where it would stand if it ever came to legal scrutiny. Essentially I have given my body to him to use and abuse as he wishes. In reality, he loves me dearly and is very careful only ever to do to me the things that he thinks I want and the things that he thinks I need.
This works well, and although he is not a mind reader, he makes sure that I tell him what I want and need on a regular basis. This is the basis for our relationship and for the way that consent works within it. I have written about consent before and the posts are linked at the bottom. Suffice to say that there is pretty much a blanket consent and, unless a safeword is used, the answer is always yes, or more accurately, yes please Sir! Although he would likely respond to a no, check out the detail above for evidence that I would use the word very rarely, we have agreed that it needs to be a safeword in order to stop play. This is the case even when we are playing with consensual non-consent.
While in some ways submission can be difficult for me, and I need strong Dominance in order to really give up control, sexually I have always been submissive in the bedroom. I don’t know if this is to do with the things that happened and they way that my mind fused, or whether my interpretation of them was to do with the submissive feelings I always felt, but men who take control in the area, tend to throw me into a submissive mindset. What I didn’t know before HL was that this had only clipped the edge of the iceberg and that there was an awful lot more to come. I would follow instruction, respond in order to please, but, with him, giving myself has gone so much further.
This has led me down a path where consent is no longer required. The safety and trust that I feel is enough to require no further discussion at the time. I know that this is an issue legally as consent must be present at the time. With us, the consent is given through the discussion which takes place beforehand. I have agreed to limits on things that I don’t want to do and, where these are hard limits they are observed. Everything else is consensual and for him to have to ask each time would ruin what goes between us. Our dynamic is one based on a power exchange and for that to work, I need to be in a position where I give up all control of what happens to me and to my body.
This is not a risk for either of us because we are in a loving relationship where we both want to meet each other’s needs, whether that is fulling a fantasy for the other, or realising one for yourself. Not knowing what is going to happen next is part of the thrill. Feeling excited and like I am doing something risky or naughty turns me on. Having my body and my mind pushed in ways it has not been before is thrilling for me and is something that makes me feel alive. I thrive on this sort of play and to ask me at the time to verbalise my understanding and agreement of it in a rational way, would likely take away from the experience.
Posts about sex education:
Posts about consent in a D/s relationship: