If Consent Isn’t Enough, Maybe We Should Talk About Enthusiasm.

  • American culture is — for whatever reason — deeply invested in propping up intercourse as the apex of sexual pleasure. (I’ve written about this before.) Admitting that intromission can be anything less than mind-blowing is directly counter to this propaganda.
  • If your partner is unenthusiastic, you can typically still have an orgasm; it’s just the stuff surrounding it that feels lackluster. But American culture is deeply invested in the idea that orgasm is the only part of sex that matters. Therefore, a lack of enthusiasm can be brushed off as non-essential.
  • For religious reasons, American culture is deeply invested in pretending the sex drive does not exist. Sex is only for procreation, and it may feel good but you should still feel bad for having it. Admitting that people can be enthusiastic about sex is directly counter to this propaganda.
  • The idea of wanting to have sex is something that requires scaffolding. (I think I touched upon this in my previous article.) Without the context of hormones, not to mention sexual pleasure, the idea of a man sticking his dirty bits in a woman’s dirty bits is disgusting, or at the very least unsanitary. “Why are there so many accidental babies? Why would anyone do this on accident?” Well, because sex feels good. But who tells kids that? Who is supposed to explain hormones and/or sexual pleasure? We don’t want our kids’ teachers to do it; and, for the most part, we don’t want to do it ourselves either. So enthusiasm gets abandoned because we don’t want to teach our kids that sex is something they can want to have — much less that, under certain circumstances, it’s something they should want to have.
  • And of course there’s good old rape culture. If No means Yes, unscrupulous men can get a lot more poon.
  1. Unenthusiastic No: the person says no, and means it. It is a little strange to be describing an emphatic and intentional No as being ‘unenthusiastic,’ but in this context I am describing enthusiasm as pertaining solely towards being interested in sex with a particular person. If someone propositions you and you didn’t return their sentiments, you would enthusiastically give an unenthusiastic no.
  2. Enthusiastic No: this is the scenario from the Christmas carol. It’s possible to say No in a way that is coy and flirting and makes it clear that you don’t really mean it. It’s possible to say No in a way that makes it clear that you do want to, you’re just not going to. It’s possible to say No in a way that indicates that the answer may change later.
  3. Unenthusiastic Yes: I encountered this one head-on. The words “All right, let’s get this over with” were uttered. Anyone with a brain would understand what this meant… but I wasn’t exactly thinking with my big head at that moment. It was my #metoo story… the one where I was Aziz Ansari. I have yet to live down the shame of this moment. I’m not sure I ever will.
  4. Enthusiastic Yes: Okay! This is what we’re looking for: someone who says yes and means it. The resulting sex will probably be pretty good, which is definitely a start.

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Perspectives in C

Perspectives in C

We don’t have the right to live in a world that satisfies our moral sensibilities. We DO, however, get to CREATE one. Here’s how we do it.