Hello readers/lovers. I hope this finds you well. As my last article was addressing a very literal and physical form of consent, with this piece I wanted to move into something a little more interpretive. Since the publishing of the last piece, the word “consent” has been ever-present in my mind. I find myself weighing each and every situation I’ve been in recently against the notion of “Do I or don’t I?” I also coined the phrase “consent as philosophy,” which has stayed with me as well…haunting me. I find myself devoting time each day to dissecting the subtle and nuanced ways in which a “philosophy of consent” can affect my life. It is not really until one steps back from the entirety of oneself and bounces each and every thing off this concept that one can see how little of their own existence they’ve truly said “yes” to. This butterfly effect is not confined to my present, either. These small but magical shockwaves are reverberating through my memories, rearranging how I feel about things I’ve felt powerless towards my whole life. This month has enlightened me to a very old idea indeed: that consent can equal catharsis. If one empowers oneself enough to grant, it or revoke it.
I knew I wanted to be a seductress as far back as I can remember. Even when I was very young, in pre-school, and saw myself as a son rather than a daughter, I wanted to play the role of siren. Because it’s just that: a role. Even though I felt like Peter Pan, that did not mean I couldn’t learn how to walk, talk and flirt like Jessica Rabbit. Like so many flesh and blood sex goddesses, she was a creation. And still to this day, whether or not I identify as female is of no consequence. I can still follow in the footsteps of self-made vixens.
But until recently, this path has always held conflict for me. There are so many things I’ve internalized over the years that impede my success and happiness. I’ve passively consented to these conflicts of interest because I haven’t taken the time to consider whether I even believe in their legitimacy or ought to have engaged in them in the first place. For example, one of my earliest memories of being humiliated for being myself (and parsing what “myself” was) was on the playground at age 6. I basically conducted my own form of Drag School using Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman as my template. A friend and I would perform walking, talking and hunting for each other, all with over the top, Mae West-esque affectations. We had fun doing it for a while, until one day she threw down our homemade bullwhip and said, “You are sick! You are obsessed with sex!”…and I went and hid behind a tree and cried. I was not like the other kids, and because I had trouble making friends, I thought she must be right. Even at that young age, I’d been Catholic long enough to feel physical shame at the mere mention of the word “sex.” Even though that was not involved in the game, sensuality was just as evil a deed.
As female-bodied beings, we are taught in society that if other women don’t cotton to you, you are doing something wrong. And if you have an easier time making friends with boys, you are most likely a slut. Well, I’ve never had an easy time making female friends, and I’ve bent over backwards debasing myself at different points in my life to maintain friendships with women just because I wanted to prove to myself that I was good.
Evaluating this memory against my current meditation brings me to this conclusion: my life revolves around sex, yes. Sexuality in its many media has been my artistic topic of choice since I could draw and play dress-up. I grant consent to that as the truth. And I revoke my consent to internalizing all the shame that surrounds it. I have the power to do this. With that simple choice, I have the objective clarity to see that all the things I ever thought mental/spiritual flaws about myself are really all the things that are right about me. By actually seeking my own consent, I set myself free.
I was recently with a lover who drove this home for me like a railroad spike. I placed them naked in a chair with a blindfold on. They easily consented to these things. But every time I went to touch them, they jumped with a start. “I think I do that because I’m trying to keep you at arm’s length, and myself from feeling good,” they confessed to me. I wondered to myself if they will ever consent to their own pleasure in themselves, because until they do, I will always be far away. I hope they do, because they deserve pleasure.
I wonder how actively seeking one’s own consent as a life philosophy may improve the lives of the people I love. Rather than spending years debating the impact of events and feelings, one might improve one’s quality of life by placing themselves in a position of power and saying, “Yes, this happened, I can’t change that, but I don’t consent to suffering as a result of it anymore.” Or, “Yes, I feel self-conscious but I consent to these good feelings because I don’t want to waste this opportunity.” Because as an argument of consent, all things irrational quickly become logical. Though one may not feel powerful or worthy of power, if one is not actively consenting or non-consenting throughout their lives, then they are asleep. And who really wants to say “yes” to sleepwalking through life?XO
Photo: JM Darling