I promise this will be the last post about consent for a while and that the inclusion of pleasure will lead us to a new friskier topic but in the meantime, bear with.
Pleasure, largely female pleasure, is key to consent in hetero sex. And the fact that we have an odd twisted relationship with female pleasure means that when women either don't know or are unable to express what they DO like/want, it silences them when they are needing to express what they DON'T like/want.
Cliffs Notes on various aspects of this that I'll return to in the future are:-
The idea that female pleasure is mysterious and elusive, that there are 'magic buttons' and special techniques to learn., as opposed to male pleasure which is 'obvious'.
That although that myth prevails, there isn't much apparent effort to crack these codes of magic buttons and special techniques bar the deployment of electronic devices.
That the orgasm gap shows us that maybe female pleasure isn't so mysterious after all, as good lesbians have always known.
The idea expressed regularly by classes of 12 - 14 year olds investigating 'what is a slut? (in order to challenge the use of this word as the go-to put-down for any girl over the age of 11) - that a slut is amongst other things, 'a woman who enjoys sex' or 'a woman who likes sex too much' or 'a woman who has too much sex'. Woah.
That a girl who doesn't is frigid, and a girl who does is a - yup, you guessed it, a slut. If this is the message that you soak up from all around you, from a young age, where exactly do you place yourself and still make pleasure a priority? You don't. Sex becomes transactional, like a worrying naughty game of chess - you want this (crazy porn activity) but if I give you it, I'll be called a slut, so I'll give you this (less crazy porn activity) because it will shut you up. The question of what would a hetero girl like; what would she enjoy; what would feel good is never asked by her partner OR HER.
That in porn, female pleasure is pervasive and generic - female characters make semi-orgasmic noises throughout - when the pizza arrives, when the pizza delivery boy takes his top off, when she's on her knees in front of the pizza delivery boy, when the pizza delivery boy makes his 'final delivery' - she's making the same noise throughout - no one is clear what made her this excited, he's barely touched her after all. And there are definitely no clues about how to push her over the edge into an orgasm or any hint that she might quite like that.
That 99% of porn (even so-called lesbian porn) is designed to make men horny and get them off, not to inform or teach about females getting off too. And that because porn is our young men's main source of information about sex and relationships.... And because our young women learn about sexual expectations through boys by osmosis and picking up on subtle social cues.... And because sex education is completely inadequate at equipping young women for negotiating this new sexual landscape..... And because we are still very oddly prim about young women as sexual beings... Because of all these things and more.... hetero female pleasure is no one's consideration, let alone priority.
That there is a clear message that female pleasure is most easily dealt with by mechanising it with electronic devices, and therefore bizarrely disconnects women from touching their bodies even when they are finally being 'allowed' or encouraged to explore pleasure.
All of these things and many more mean that females, especially young women, are disconnected not only from touch and sensation but also from any sense of ownership of pleasure, any expectation that sex should be a fab experience, any sense that it might even be possible to have a self-centred time. They focus instead on what they are prepared to give in order to face the least amount of flack when everyone else hears about it but still keep their boy happy.
And this is all still in the realm of consensual, wanted sex.
So then what happens when you don't want to? How can you say no when you've never really said yes? If all you've ever done is 'gone along with sex' why wouldn't you 'go along with this?' Saying no is going to cause a big fuss, goodness knows what you'll be called if you're already called a slut when you're keeping a boy happy...
And so no, it doesn't look like rape, and juries won't convict it, but this is not how sex should be. Sex should happen with the echo of a loud cheery enthusiastic 'Yes' still in the room. It should be a delicious, giggly, rude, delight. We have long discussed about how we get girls to say no; any rumour or gossip about sexual encounters will include the idea that if she didn't want to, she should have said no. But I think that before we can expect our girls to say no, we have to teach them to say yes. Yes to themselves as sexual beings, yes to their bodies, yes to sensation, yes to fun, to feeling horny, or not feeling horny, to feeling cuddly or frisky. Or. Or. Or...
Only when are they free to say a loud enthusiastic 'yes' when they want to, will they be able to find louder, clearer, angrier voices to say 'NO' when they need to.