Given today's climate of rampant sexual abuse, which I'm sure has always been there, the topic of consent is piping hot. Not only is it piping hot, it's also one that often carries inherently negative connotations due to the nature of the context that usually surrounds it.
From Hollywood moguls who rape and bribe young women, to politicians who brag about their misogynistic escapades, clearly, we have a problem.
But there's another side of consent that we don't often hear or perhaps even think about. It's the act of asking another for permission to engage with them in a particular way which can indeed be extremely sexy.
There can be many emotions at play in a scenario like this that can be highly arousing for both, but particularly for the one being asked. The feeling of control, empowerment, choice, desire and longing are all words that can really make the giving of consent very sexy indeed.
I recently visited a bar with a client of mine in central London. At some stage during one of our random conversations about life, shoes, sexuality and music, I asked her for permission to touch her hand.
She was gracious enough to grant my request and proceeded to place her hand on my lap in anticipation. I then asked her if she would close her eyes, breathe slowly and tune in to my touch as I explored her hand. Again, she indulged me and did so as requested.
After approximately 5 minutes of me gently stroking and rubbing her hand I placed her hands on her lap and asked her to slowly open her eyes. Her words to me at that precise moment were "I really don't want you to stop, can you do the other hand". Clearly, she had enjoyed the experience and wanted more.
Being the wicked tease that I am, I chose to ignore her request and instead presented her with another proposition of my own. I asked her if she would allow me to inhale her fragrance around her neck. Again, she was gracious enough to grant my request by turning her back to me, tilting her head and moving her long hair to the side - but not before giving me 'the look'.
I moved in close as if I were about to give her a warm hug but instead, true to my word I hovered around her neck like a vampire and inhaled her scent. Again I asked her to close her eyes and breathe deeply which she did. She could feel my warm breath travel from her neck all the way down her spine which gave her goosebumps. She could also hear the muted growl of my mellifluous tones reminiscent of a Lion's mating call. At this stage, the other guest sitting opposite us were all but a distant memory as she let out a soft groan of pleasure.
After 7 or 8 minutes I stopped what I was doing, thanked her for indulging me and leaned back on the couch. I sensed that she wanted me to continue on the other side of her neck but probably wondered what other requests I may have countered with. She decided not to push the matter further, probably to the relief of the slightly bemused (or amused) onlookers.
This encounter is interesting as there's so much to dissect here but I'll address a few of the dynamics at play.
During our entire time, my client felt as if she was in full control of the situation even when she didn't know exactly what was going to happen. I had given her the opportunity to grant or refuse consent throughout the experience and after I had finished, I stopped. I didn't attempt to escalate or do anything else other than what we had agreed. Because we had established trust, she was happy to give me both verbal and non-verbal consent through her actions and body language.
After the initial touching of the hand, I was the one refusing to consent to her request of touching the other hand, not only that but I pushed her a little further by seeking permission to take things to another level. And with her considered consent, that's exactly what we did.
Giving someone time to consider your intentions and how they might feel can be sexy and arousing all on its own. She weighed up my request in that particular setting in front of other guest and decided to embrace it. If I had not sought consent before proceeding, she may have responded differently out of fear, embarrassment or shock.
Emotional intelligence plays an important part when assessing the dynamics of this type of encounter. Consent can be very sexy and it can also be given in more ways than one as I have demonstrated. More than anything, it was the element of trust that had been nurtured between us that set the tone for much of our time together.
The power to choose and the right to say NO to the advances of others should be an inalienable right defended by law. I'm not saying that one should necessarily feel the need to seek verbal consent in every situation because that could be a serious mood killer, and most of us manage to read the signals perfectly fine.
But to distil the essence of my thoughts on the matter, consent can definitely be sexy and empowering but it's also evident that some people need to have things spelt out for them in no uncertain terms. Being able to discuss the nuances of consent in a mature and respectful manner is important if we hope to educate those who are ignorant of the issues surrounding it.
Peace and love to all those who exercise their right to choose, and respect to all those who are evolved enough to accept it.