That’s NOT what consent means
November 2017 – I lie on the bed with Matt, stroking his chest and admiring his tall, lean frame. We met online a week ago, had been out on a date, and spent a lot of time messaging. This is our first time touching each other’s skin.
Matt (not his real name) is a decade younger than me and has a raw sexual energy that draws attention the moment he walks into a room. His text messages make me blush, and when he growls in my ear my knees go weak.
Why in the world is he attracted to me?
I was going through a particularly low dip in my confidence when I met him, pretty sure that I should give up on the idea that I’d be desirable to ANYONE, let alone this man who could likely have any woman (or man!) he wanted.
But his interest in me was immediate and persistent.
My insecurities were having a field day, but I decided to use this as a lab experiment. There was no question that this would be a short-term dalliance, so I had nothing to lose by being totally up front. If he responded well: great! If he didn’t: I lost out on a couple weeks of fun, but wasn’t endangering a serious prospect.
I texted him: “Like many women, I have a history of trauma. It’s part of what makes this pushing of sexual boundaries so challenging and also so exciting for me. My sense is that you would be an extremely giving and compassionate partner in helping a woman explore sensuality and sexuality. I wonder if you would be interested in engaging with me in that way?”
He replied: “I would love to help you explore those things, and I totally understand the background.”
The generosity and empathy in his response left me speechless.
“Sometimes it’s better to act than to speak,” he responded.
“What happens now? I’m still totally freaked out. I don’t know how to take the next step. What I really mean is – will you please lead us for a little bit?”
“Of course! What happens next is really up to us and the pace you’d like to take,” he texted. “I will admit I’m already thinking about the possibilities. We can sit and talk about it more, we can get together and just see what transpires.”
“There’s so much I want to try and so much I want to experience. And I’m also scared. Is that something you feel okay about handling?”
“It is,” he said. “We can take it as easy or fast as you are comfortable with.”
“Okay,” I texted. “Slow at first.”
So here I am, lying partially naked on a bed with a man who has agreed to help me learn my body.
The first thing he did was ask me what I like, how I want him to touch me.
It’s a question that terrifies me, because the truth is I HAVE NO IDEA what I like. Like a Good Girl, I spent all my time focused on bringing pleasure to my partners, and almost no time learning what I enjoy.
But this man has made it clear that his sole purpose in this room is to help me focus on my body and my pleasure.
So I got really brave and finally said the thing I’d been aching to say for as long as I can remember.
“I want you to touch me all over without expectation of reciprocation so that I can concentrate on learning how to FEEL.”
I thought maybe it was an unreasonable request because no one had ever done it before, but his response was quick.
“Of course. Just lay back and relax.”
He quickly discovered the key to unlocking my sexual pleasure: light, feathery touch on my back and upper chest. He watched my moans and wiggles with a look of near-bliss on his face.
Blinding new thought – I thought that people (men in particular) only took pleasure from being touched. But this man seems to be taking intense pleasure from watching me have pleasure (it’s a topic – compersion – that I would learn much more about in the months to come.)
After a while, I was ready to switch places.
“Will you lay back and let me touch you the same way?” I asked.
And now here I am – learning the planes of his body with my fingertips. Watching him sink fully into the experience of sensual touch that doesn’t include his genitals.
WAIT A MINUTE! Men can have pleasure when I’m touching something other than their genitals?!?!?! Another mind-blowing moment of awareness.
After about 15 minutes of this, I’m ready to take a breather. I’m not used to feeling this much – physically OR emotionally.
He takes me in his arms and we chat gently about what has happened so far.
I tell him that I’m still not ready to interact with his genitals. He is fine with this.
“Would you be okay if I touched myself while looking at you?” he asks.
I consider for a moment and decide that this seems fair – he has given me so much and he’s not asking me to DO anything other than be an object of desire.
And it turns out that I really enjoy watching him stroke himself. It’s something I’ve never slowed down enough to pay attention to before.
But suddenly something shifts inside me and I’m overwhelmed. I can’t look at him and I can’t figure out how to hide myself from him.
“Do you want me to stop touching myself?”
“I don’t think that’s fair.”
“Of course it’s fair. If you’re not feeling comfortable, we stop.”
“And you’re okay with that?”
He looks me straight in the eye and says the four words that melt my brain and explode my world.
“That’s what consent means.”
Oh my god!
How is it that in my 43 years of living I missed that lesson entirely?
I was with my first boyfriend for two years and I cried EVERY TIME we had sex – FOR TWO YEARS. Never once did he stop to find out what was going on with me. Sometimes he noticed and commented on how it wasn’t as fun for him if I was crying. Other times he remained completely oblivious.
I’ve always gone at the other person’s pace because I thought that was what was expected. And the times I let the stress wear on me, I was chastised for being the one in the wrong, for being a cock tease, for being “broken.”
Much to my surprise, apparently that’s NOT what consent means.
This was my first window into the world of consent and I will have much more to say on the topic in future blog posts. In the meantime, if you’d like to talk more about what consent means and how it looks in your life, send me an email at Leah@GoodGirlsTalkAboutSex.com.