Things I’ve Learned About Consent

If there was anyone I didn’t want to kiss as a child, it was Uncle Cowboy. His moustache was made of steel wool and so was his personality. Back then, parents made sure their kids did what other adults wanted us to do, so Cowboy got his kiss unless I could turn invisible. Then he wouldn’t notice me at all.

If he’d had darker tendencies, my family would have groomed me to be the perfect victim.

By the age of eight I’d already learned one of the biggest lessons of my adult life: Hide, because being noticed often means having your personal space breached by unwelcome advances. I tried to navigate that false dichotomy well into my adulthood.


In the Eighties, kids were seen as extensions of our parents. They knew what predators looked like, so we could trust that any physical affection required of us was perfectly safe.

Not long after my eighth birthday, my mother let me spend the day in the company of a friend and her paedophile father. This was how accurate mom’s predator-spotting skills were. I got home untouched, but I never told her what that man did to my friend when the lights went out. I had been taught to be silent, which wasn’t much different than my lesson about hiding. I was to make my voice small and quiet because it was assumed that my judgement was as sketchy as my math skills.

I grew up to be every bit the adult I’d been taught to be: one who felt guilty when she defended her physical space and who shrunk away instead of saying a resounding “no”. When I look back at the social contortions I used to do to avoid unwanted touch, I wonder how I managed to reach 20 without being assaulted.

I began to understand my right to autonomy late, and I found the lessons baffling. I once made it to the end of a book about boundaries still not knowing what a boundary was. I wasn’t even prepared to start learning, let alone guard my right to say no. BDSM was the only thing that could explain consent to me clearly.

During the years since I found this community, I’ve become louder and less diplomatic. I’ve learned that I’m entitled to anger when people throw sex in my face without permission. I call this “growth.”

The #MeToo movement is churning up increasingly diverse conversations about consent, but the kink community has been having them for decades. Researchers have begun to notice that we have a few things to teach the vanilla world about consent culture. Studies show we accept rape myths less often and display less victim blaming. I’ve untangled the toxic lessons of my childhood thanks to the many brave subs who speak up about their violations. Those conversations always look like warzones, but they have value beyond the far more important task of ousting abusers from our ranks. You’re showing people like me that we don’t have to shrink and hide. You’re helping us to find our voices.

6 thoughts on “Things I’ve Learned About Consent

  1. As a male, in this new environment, I’ve come to understand that there is no consent.

    Even if a romantic and productive and beautiful relationship blossomed, and she begged for more intimacy, I would more than likely refuse. Because even if consent is given (or liberties taken,) I can be penalized at any point. All she would have to do is say those three dreaded words “He raped me.”

    I’ve mentioned this in a couple other areas, but let me propose a hypothetical situation. I’m a healthcare worker, and I frequent many large hospitals. Lets say I see a wounded minor on the side of the road and pick them up to take them to the ER with me. Fine and dandy, right? Wrong. In one state I worked in, only one condition needs to be met to be convicted of rape.

    1. It must have no shoes.

    That’s it it, statutory rape.

    Don’t misunderstand me. I’ve always strongly believed that our bodies are sacred and to be protected. Consent should be measured in all things, not just intimate physical contact. But there is context whenever someone has more experience or authority.

    But the sincerity of consent is tainted. The trust between sexes has failed. The men who respect it, as I do, have retreated back into ourselves. We dare not risk it. A hug, a touch, could ruin our lives. It hurts my heart to say it, but it could.

    More than that, no overt action even needs to happen on my part. If I’m alone with a woman, she could, on a whim, destroy me. So I will never be alone with one, or two. Or three.

    There was a time, in my younger years, when I thought of my body as a tool. It was a shield against the damsel in distress. It was designed for her security, her comfort.

    Now though, the climate we live in has made it very clear men like me aren’t wanted anymore. I admire your sexual bravery, and cleverness. I’m saddened by your experiences. I wish I could shield you and others from them. It use to be our purpose.


    1. You could stop driving because 1 in 65 drivers have a car accident. You could stop swimming in the sea because 1 in 11 million are attacked by sharks. And you could stop having consensual sex because 3% of rape accusations are false. You could live that way, just as we all could, but then we’d have no life.


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