Consent

Mara is from the United States and it’s interesting to compare her ‘culture of origin’ with the Dutch, because there are so many differences. The way we deal with racism for example. But there’s another thing that I thought was interesting, and it’s something that I’ve noticed when I visited San Francisco and when I read books or articles by American kinksters: we deal with consent differently. I read a writing a while back about ‘consent violations’ at BDSM parties in the USA and how somebody touched her arm or her back without her consent. People were outraged, apparently it’s not considered acceptable behaviour in the United States to make physical contact with another person’s body without their explicit consent. That was weird to me, and I thought it was completely inappropriate to call unwanted touching ‘consent violation’. I think it has something to do with cultural differences. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t go around touching people without their consent in the Netherlands. But I think us Dutch people feel more like our bodies exist in interaction with other people’s bodies, and other people have (to some extent) the right to touch us. I also feel like Dutch people see consent as more of a complex and interactive thing, where certain levels of consent are assumed and everybody tries to be sensitive to other people’s boundaries. We don’t have the same affirmative consent hype here and I’m so glad. When meeting someone new in a non-professional setting it’s quite normal to kiss each other on the cheek (three times!) while resting a hand on their waist. I’ve had sexual stuff happen that I did not want, so I said I did not want it and that was that. I don’t consider that consent violation, I consider that an erroneous interpretation followed by effective communication – success! My colleagues feel free to touch my leg, give me a playful hug or get close to my body. If you tell a person to stop and they don’t that’s consent violation, and there’s a limit to what kind of touching can be assumed to be okay (you can’t grab a breast and then check for consent), but generally speaking, it seems to me Dutch people tolerate touching far more than (some?) Americans do.

At the same time, there’s a lot of awareness about consent and I feel like things are actually still changing for the better. Especially among kinky people consent is considered important even for light touching. But I think it would be an even bigger improvement if we stopped regarding consent as a black-white thing and instead focussed more on the well intentioned, complex and interactive issue of figuring out what everyone feels happy doing. Consent is not simple, consent is not a ‘yes’ and consent certainly isn’t an emotion or performance where you’re constantly expressing enthusiastic consent in a pre-defined way. And I think understanding, kindness, forgiveness and flexibility will get us further than consent-policing.

2 thoughts on “Consent

  1. Caprizchka

    It is my observation that the whole “Consent Culture” coming out of California is further manifested in the Yes-Means-Yes diktat intended for the vanillas. The not-so-subtle outgrowth is the notion that women have to be “encouraged” to consent because they are not operating in full agency. This infantilisation of women does no one any favors.

    As for the effects within the BDSM culture, the most obvious is the alienation of young men with the paternalistic guardians of the baby grrls policing all male conduct whereas women can pretty well get away with anything–which speaks toward their “non-agency.”

    Eventually, I’m afraid, the entire public BDSM scene will resemble a Kindergarten of fluffy and safe children. Men not interested in being policed by “Alpha” schoolmarms won’t show up; women who like manly men won’t show up; gay men won’t show up. All’s left are the baby grrls including trans and their mommies. I believe that the prevailing outfit is the pink tutu. Blech.

  2. Velvet Steele

    I agree wholeheartedly!

    As a Domina both pro and private, who is also a selective switch (meaning I am very selective who I switch with at MY discretion) I have seen this somewhat “over the top” reaction quite a bit. I love when greeting people, giving them a warm heartfelt hug and smooch on the cheek, and that includes everyone!

    I also spent the good part of ten years organizing, throwing and hosting fetish parties here in Vancouver under the banner of the Body Perve Social Club. I was witness to many of these “infractions” many brought to my attention, and was “demanded” that as the hostess, that I take immediate action!! My actions to this came in the form of the statement, “lighten up, let’s not forget where you are, and we know what is acceptable touching and not, and now your just being foolish and petty!” Not to many liked that statement but it made a clear distinction as to what was acceptable and not, and just how over the top the concern of touching could get!

    Maybe it has something to do with my Danish background, I don’t know, but before you touch my ass get to know me, and if that involves holding my shoulders and kissing me on the cheeks to do so, I think that’s a good start! And I won’t bite your head off! :-))

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