Can I Touch You?

The first time someone ever asked me those words in that order, it blew my fucking mind.

My face instantly twisted into my “What the fuck are you talking about” look, and I tried just as quickly to mask it so he wouldn’t see it or get offended. I still don’t know if it worked or not. Either way, I was confused.

It’s not that it was my first foray into the land of consent, but it was the first time anyone had ever asked for my consent so directly. The closest I had come before was being told, “You know, if you don’t want to do this, that’s ok too.” And at the time, that blew my mind just as much. Up until then I had existed in a world where consent was implied, and the onus was on me to make my lack of consent known, rather than for the other person to expressly obtain it.

That usually worked just fine. Until that one time when it didn’t. But anyway.

Can I touch you?

We were already making out when he asked, which is why I was so confused. I mean, of course you can. We’re here. We’re on your bed. Your tongue was just in my mouth. I clearly want you to touch me. Obvi, right?

Apparently not.

A bit later, he asked me if it was ok if he went under my shirt, and I didn’t even have the presence of mind to be polite. I laughed. Not in a mean way, not at all. I wasn’t laughing at him, I was just laughing because this was all so new and seemed funny at the time. I asked him, as nicely as I could, if he was going to stop and ask for my consent at every step along the way. Lovely and patient man that he is, he just nodded and said yes. Yes, he was.

And I fucking loved it.

I loved it for every time I’ve been hooking up with someone and uncomfortably wondered how I was going to get out of it at a certain point. For every time I’ve worried about how I was going to weasel out of actually having sex with them, or how I would explain it. For every time I fucking APOLOGIZED for not wanting to have sex with someone I was fooling around with, or fool around with someone I was hanging out with. For every time I felt bad, or guilty, or like I was some kind of walking bait-and-switch. And lastly, but most seriously, for every time I did something I didn’t want to do with someone I didn’t want to do it with because I was uncomfortable saying no.

Usually, when I’ve managed to compose myself enough to place a boundary or say no to an experience, it’s been met with either resentment or coercion. If I didn’t want to have sex with them, why was I flirting? Why did I let it get so far before putting my foot down? Why did I give a certain impression if I didn’t want to go through with it? What’s the difference between just making out and hooking up, or hooking up and actually fucking? Why not just do a little bit more? Come on, baby, we’re having such a great time, don’t ruin it.

I shouldn’t have to find a window of opportunity to make my comfort level known. I shouldn’t feel anything that even slightly resembles obligation to someone else when it comes to my naughty bits. I shouldn’t be afraid to say no. I shouldn’t be shocked and awed when someone cares enough about my feelings and experience to check in with me about them and give me ample opportunities to make them known, without fear of repercussion.

Why is this the statistical outlier of my sexual experiences? I can blame society as a whole for not being overly concerned about consent, or I can credit the sex-pos community for taking the exact opposite stance. I’ll probably do both. Either way, it felt great, and I’m not about to pretend it didn’t.

It’s up to us to demand the sexual experiences that we deserve, and the ones we need.

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