Consensual Sex

Late last fall, I attended a talk by Jaclyn Friedman given at the University of Oregon. I’m very glad I went, heard her speak, and briefly met her. I also felt like there was something important missing in her presentation.

What-You-Really-Really-Want-Book-CoverA lively, engaging speaker who clearly loves her topic, Friedman is passionate about changing some of our views on female sexuality. Specifically, she is trying to help change our common, and often, harmful practices around consensual sex. Her talk mirrored her book, What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free guide to Sex and Safety.

Using a digital slide show, she presented facts about our cultural views on female sexuality countered with her feminist perspectives in a compelling and often, humorous way. Friedman captivated the audience (some from the community-at-large and most, it appeared, affiliated with the talk’s sponsor, the university’s Women’s Center). We all listened intently to her case, laughed at the absurdities she brought up, and became noticeably somber with the harsh realities of female sexuality in America. We all, I believe, came away from the presentation hopeful that, individually and collectively, we might be able to keep making a difference in our common sexual politics.

Friedman’s talk centered on what she terms “collaborative creative [sexual] consent.” What she means by this is that each person or persons who desire to have sex with each other or begins to have sex with one another needs to declare and hear from all involved an “enthusiastic yes,” i.e. the collaborative creative sexual consent. This consent however, also involves a continued assent.

For Friedman’s model, the “enthusiastic yes” needs to be stated in the flirtatious or confident beginnings and the seductive or steamy build-up as well as the passionate conflagration of intercourse. At any point, if one person says no, that puts the brakes on the sexual encounter going any further.

Obviously, this idea is based on each person giving and receiving respect, intentional communication, and enough previous self-reflection to know one’s own sexual needs, desires, and boundaries. She also explained that this consent means nothing if one or all partners are only partially conscious due to drinking, drugs, or (I suppose) a late -night sugar-high. I love it.  What’s not to love?

For Friedman, this collaborative, creative, [continual, and conscious sexual] consent is intended to make it crystal clear for all of us :

  • when you are absolutely interested in getting it on with someone else (“enthusiastic yes!”) ,
  • how and how far everyone wants to be sexual (“enthusiastic yes!” coupled with honest communication),
  • and when someone wants to stop for any reason (“No!” with respected boundaries).

It’s a sane, sound solution that is also relatively simple. May it start to be embraced and practiced! I’m thrilled that she’s preaching this message and why we need it.

Sacred PleasureHere’s what I would have loved to hear from her though. Friedman needs to give a big shout-out and public acknowledgement to the feminists that have been talking about this very issue and this exact solution before her. Specifically, it would be great to have her acknowledge the great work of Riane Eisler on this topic: Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body—New Paths to Power and Love. Eisler gives extensive background and examples of our current twisted attitudes toward female sexuality and she also shows a way forward which is concurrent with Friedman’s proposal.

If Jaclyn Friedman comes to your town to speak, please gather up friends and neighbors to attend. If not, at the very least, look her up, read her books. And, do yourself a genuine favor by reading anything by Riane Eisler, but especially, regarding this topic, Sacred Pleasure. Support these women, because by doing so you support yourself.