Having a 6-year-old kid in the house leaves you with little time, energy, and brain to do something else. Plus the long-distance partner who demands my unequivocal attention when he is in town. This afternoon, we made the kid sleep early so that we get some intimate time for cuddling and lovemaking. And just when we were getting into it, the absolute silence kicked my mind. I’m running behind my sexuality education coursework and felt this is the perfect time to bring out my books from shelves.
As I toyed with the idea, the partner realized that I’m not interested anymore in the intimate activity. I told him the reason and he did not take my ‘no’ too well. He left home for a walk in the garden and I’m mulling on why he did not understand that. Looks like there is a huge need for sexuality education at my home as well.
The underlying problem here was of consent, where we agree to do something not wholeheartedly but to keep our loved ones happy. I consented to it, in the beginning,* as it would keep him happy but pulled back in between as I could no longer deal with it. And I think I have all the right to withdraw consent even if I have given it in the beginning. It is my consent. I should not have to ask for it.
Consent is an alien word for most of us in relationships. Primarily because being in a relationship one assumes that consent is implicit. On top of it the way sex gets portrayed in media, films, and porn starts impromptu. Never have we seen the person interested in sexual intimacy asking a clear, forthright question
Can I have sex with you? or Would you be interested in having sex with me?
Most of us still follow a flawed model of sexual behavior in our intimate relationships. This model posits sex as a game, a goal, a score, a means to achieve an end. It sets up the idea that sex is a game and then there are opposing teams. On one side there is an aggressor who’s trying to make the goal and on the other side is a girl whose role is to defend her turf. It’s competitive and imposes gender roles in this model that sees boys as players and girls as the field on which the game is played. The same can lead to unhealthy outcomes, displeasing experiences. Yet for most of us, this is the only model we have grown up learning about.
So what would it take for us to stop seeing sexual activity as a challenge or a conquest?
A new model?
Let’s talk about pizza. Did you smile when you read that? Did your mind conjure up a memory of eating really good pizza? That’s the first good thing about the pizza model (developed by Al Vernachhio). Pizza is something that is widely and easily understood and is associated with a positive experience. Let’s understand taking and receiving consent in the context of a pizza-eating experience.
First things first. You eat pizza because you are in the mood of it because you want it. It starts with an internal sense, an internal desire, or a need. Unlike sex as a game where you have to play the game not because you want to, but because the game is on a schedule. The timing is not really up to you. The expectation is when you are called to play, you must. Also, there is no scope of discussing rules in the game, the rules are pre-set. You simply have to take your position and start playing. This sexist model is a reason why a lot of people feel pressured into having sex because it seems to be the next “logical step”.
With pizza it is different. The decision to act on the impulse to eat rests with you. You won’t have pizza after you have had lunch right! Because you are not feeling hungry. Maybe you will have a small slice but your tummy will send out a clear indication that it is full.
I can recognize that I’m hungry but know that it’s not a great time to eat. That ability to make a deliberate decision about our desire is a huge factor in developing a healthy sexuality.
You know that when you are going with someone for having pizza, you are looking at a shared, mutually enjoyable experience. It is not someone is feeding you pizza or stuffing a piece in your mouth. You can pick it, choose as many slices as you want 3-4. Further, you decide the menu together, you talk about it, negotiate. What kind of topping, vegetarian or chicken, single cheese layer or double cheese, etc. Pizza puts you and your sweetheart on equal footing.
Asking for consent is just like sharing a pizza 🙂