Communication

Recent posts

What If We Thought About Consent In Terms Of Food?

In my attempts to theorize consent, I sometimes think of it in terms of metaphors and stories (see my joking “tangerine consent” post for an example of this). Along those same lines, I began wondering: what if we thought of sexual consent in the same terms that we think of food? Ponder these scenarios:

A woman is really tipsy, and someone who’s talking to her reaches toward her mouth with a piece of food in hand, as though about to begin feeding her. The conversation has not been on food, and she’s not given any indication that she’s hungry. A man is napping, and someone comes up to him and begins to work open his mouth with their fingers so a morsel of food can be inserted. Continue Reading →

Rethinking “Consent Is Sexy”

Condom Monologues recently published an interview with sex educator Ashley Manta on consent, sex positivity, and other hot topics in the world of sex education. In it, she urges us to rethink the phrase “consent is sexy,” claiming that it’s an oversimplification:

Consent is not always sexy—sometimes it’s downright awkward. Having a conversation about boundaries, STI testing, and other pre-sex talking points can be incredibly difficult. That does not make it any less necessary. I think it’s important to let people know that these conversations can be challenging and that good sexual communication takes practice. Continue Reading →

Why Can’t We Just Talk About Sex?

I’m annoyed at our sex-phobic culture a lot of the time, for a lot of reasons, but today it’s specifically because we consider it taboo to talk about sex outside of a few limited contexts. When is it okay to talk about sex? Presumably with one’s partner(s) – though in the mainstream culture it’s assumed that in order to talk about sex you’re heterosexually married and pursuing sexual activities as a way to procreate. And in theory you should be able to discuss sex with your medical professionals, especially if you’re experiencing a disorder that’s sexual in nature (genital pain, trying to conceive, etc.). Otherwise, there aren’t many socially acceptable venues in which to openly and honestly discuss sex. Continue Reading →

I’m Just Not That Into You: Reasons For Turning Down A Second Date

Is there a bad reason to not go out on a second date? Blogger Anna Davies at Refinery 29 made me wonder if there are ridiculous reasons out there. In her piece, ten different readers listed a reason why they had decided that one date was enough (or in some cases, more than enough). I know from personal experience that sometimes you’re just not meant to be with a person – maybe on that first date you just don’t click romantically or after one date you are rather irritated and just can’t imagine spending one more cup of coffee with that person (sorry, Ron). One person in the article simply says, “he said he hated yoga.” Continue Reading →

When It Comes To Sex Or Religion, Intent Doesn’t Excuse Bad Behavior

In a recent conversation, a friend mentioned that she was upset about about a pattern she noticed. She described how when Christians tried to convert her, her attempts to describe how hurtful it was were met with their disbelief – after all, everyone involved had good intentions! This set off bells in my head. Because when it comes to discussions of aspects of rape culture like street harassment or those supposedly-innocuous-but-possibly-threatening flirtation attempts that get labeled as “creepy,” intention is often invoked as a cure-all. “But he didn’t mean to be creepy!” Continue Reading →

Dealing With Sexual Harassment As A Professor

GracieABD blogs about an experience being sexually harassed in her college classroom, when a student wrote on a mid-semester evaluation that her teaching would be improved if she taught naked. Her reaction – to use it as a teaching moment to educate her class about what sexual harassment is – was brave and inspired. I received one comment like that while I was assisting with a class; one student responded to the end-of-semester evaluation question “What did you like least about the class?” with something along the lines of “That I wasn’t dating the instructor.” GracieABD’s remarks about feeling humiliated and objectified resonated with me. Continue Reading →

Consent On The Playa

I’ve discussed sexual assault at Burning Man in the past, and so I was pleased to find that when my husband came home from the playa this year, he came home with this pamphlet:
The BED is a grassroots effort to promote consent-based interactions both on-playa and off-playa. Check out their publications for some of their tips on consent and intimacy. Anything that foregrounds consent gets a thumbs-up from me, so I’m glad this souvenir found its way home to me (even if it was trailing playa dust). Continue Reading →

Informed Consent: The Zimbardo Experiment

Also called the Stanford prison experiment, this psychological experiment is known along with Milgrim’s experiment as one of the most compelling pieces of evidence for the human tendency to react dramatically to power imbalances. A group of young people were randomly divided into prisoner roles or guard roles, and the arbitrary amounts of cruelty and control exhibited by the guards exceeded anyone’s expectations. This video clip shows some of the original footage as well as present-day commentary (and some hilarious 1970s hairstyles). The subjects knew that they were in an experiment, but they had no way of knowing how drastic the humiliation and psychological suffering would be. So again, we return to the idea of informed consent – that it’s important for people to understand what kind of situation they’ll be getting into in advance. Continue Reading →

Informed Consent: Risk Assessment vs. Stigma

As part of my informed consent post series, I’d like to talk about the issue of risk assessment regarding STIs when deciding whether to have sex with someone, and how to grapple with the problem of stigma. I wrote about stigma in my post on the adjacency effect, but the brief recap is that stigma is a sense of judgment or pollution attached to people who deviate from the norm. They’re seen to be dirty, unworthy, and so on. People who have been diagnosed with STIs certainly fall into this category; many face judgments such as slut-shaming, intolerance, and even human rights violations. In the context of informed consent, it is incredibly important for people to disclose their STI status to potential sexual partners. Continue Reading →