It wasn’t that he was asking for verbal consent more often than my other partners. It was that he pretty much begged me to never do anything sexual with him that I didn’t fully want to be doing.
We started talking about consent one day (not for the first time) when I told him a story about a sexual experience that I had had the night before. It was with a friend who I sometimes was sexual with, but that night, I didn’t really feel like being sexual with him. I was feeling a little disconnected from him — like, I wasn’t feeling the “It’s so great to see and chat with you!” feeling that I normally felt when we hung out. But I was afraid that if I didn’t hook up with him, he might ask why (since he seemed to be assuming that we were going to be sexual), and I didn’t want to tell him that I was feeling less connected than usual (because I figured it might just ebb and flow throughout our friendship, and maybe it would resolve itself). So to avoid having a conversation about my feelings when I wasn’t in the mood to discuss them, I decided that it would be easier to just hook up with him.
After (and, now that I think of it, while) we hooked up, I didn’t feel great about it, and just wanted to leave.
When I told my partner about this, he was a little upset. First of all, he hated the idea of me doing something sexual with someone when I didn’t want to. Also, he thought it sounded like my friend was being presumptuous by expecting that we would be sexual.
On top of that, he became extremely worried that I might be sexual with him when I didn’t want to. He asked me to promise that I would never do that, and would always be upfront about it if I ever felt hesitant.
Seeing how concerned my partner was made me feel like I would be doing a disservice to him if I ever was sexual with him when I didn’t fully want to.
I had never felt that way about my consent before.
I had always felt like my consent was something that people were supposed to be careful about for my sake. It had never felt like something that sexual partners required for their own comfort and pleasure in the sexual interaction.
I also felt like, in most of my previous sexual experiences, my thoughts were centered on trying to do what I imagined my partners wanted during sex, as opposed to listening to what I might want and following that.
After assuring my partner that I would only be sexual with him when I really wanted to, I suggested that we try experimenting with a different way to have sex with each other. I wanted to have sex where I wouldn’t even think about what he wanted, but instead think only about what I wanted.
I encouraged him to please speak up if he didn’t like how things were going, so I wouldn’t accidentally violate his consent while I focused on myself and my consent.
And then we tried it.
It was an amazing experience for me!
I generally hesitate to tell quick-fix stories, because that’s often not how things work. But in this case, this conversation (and the sex that followed it) was a turning point for me (in a several-years-long effort to reclaim ownership over my sexuality). I have felt much more comfortable and empowered in sexual interactions ever since that night.
Of course, I still pay attention to what my partners want and need. But I no longer prioritize their desires and pleasure above my own.
I continually remind myself that sex doesn’t have to follow a script (i.e. norms from porn, etc.). My sexual expression is one way of expressing myself. If I am feeling playful, emotional, romantic, kinky, lazy, ferocious, etc. — that’s what my sex should look like in that moment (while also being sensitive to my partner’s mood and meeting them where they’re at).
Requiring myself to have enthusiastic consent from myself (as well as my partners) has made me enjoy sex so, so much more. It has also made me want to have sex more often (not that frequent sex is inherently a good or bad thing, but I am enjoying it for now).
I encourage you to try holding yourself to high standards of consent — your own consent and your partners’!