Whatever you might like to get up to in your own personal sex life, you know (or at least you should) that one of the most important aspects is being sure that everyone involved gives informed consent to everything that happens. And always remember that people have the right to change their minds; that just because they said Yes a few minutes ago doesn’t mean they can’t turn it into NO for any reason.
After all, most people’s preferences, when it comes to sex, are for partners who are not just willing but thoroughly enthusiastic, even if what’s going on includes the sort of roleplay where shrieks of ‘No, mercy, you monster, I hate you!’ are part of the fun (and of course, if that’s how you like to play, you have a pre-arranged safe word to use if it stops being fun.)
Consent in fiction and in fantasies can be a little more complicated, though. Everyone knows (or thinks they do) about the old het romance trope of the girl who says No when she wants to say Yes – and who always enjoys it when the ‘hero’ does all those naughty things to her anyway. It might well have been the case that some women found this hot because of pervasive slut-shaming in real life making them feel that they couldn’t give enthusiastic consent before marriage, but fantasies about having sexual things done to them meant it wasn’t their ‘fault’ – and it might be the case that, now women are less constrained by ideals about ladylike behaviour, those fantasies are beginning to lose their power. Or it might not. (Yes, that paragraph is full of gendered language, but that set of tropes are associated very strongly with cishet romance and traditional gender roles.)
These days erotica publishers and editors usually ask for clear, explicit consent in sexy stories. For what it’s worth, I do myself. However, there is a whole genre, usually known as dubcon (dubious consent) for people who like to write and read stories where sexual activity might take place for reasons other than frankly-expressed mutual desire. This may not be to everyone’s taste, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if it’s a trope that floats your boat. Fiction is where you get to explore and sometimes enjoy some of your more questionable urges, interests and thoughts. As long as a story isn’t marketed in a misleading way, and the themes are properly indicated so no one gets a nasty surprise, it’s fine to read, write, buy or sell dubcon – and not fine to pester or condemn those who do.
This blog post was inspired by the International Day of Consent and #IdoConsent – check out the link for more info.