People in BDSM communities spend a lot of time talking about consent, and with good reason: It’s the linchpin of kinky sex. The ability for two people to negotiate limits, as well signals that will bring the whole thing to a crashing halt if something starts to go wrong, is the thing that draws the line between a sexy, invigorating flogging and a brutal assault.
We also spend so much time talking about consent because mainstream society talks about it so little. It’s a struggle to get schools to teach any sex education at all beyond the basics of reproduction and how to protect yourself from disease during penis-in-vagina sex. Talking about sex as pleasure, never mind learning to tell someone “You can put your finger in my ass, but not your cock,” isn’t even on the curriculum.
For advanced kinksters, safewords might seem so basic as to be tedious, but in our culture at large, the idea that you can withdraw consent after starting sex is a radical one.
Model and activist Amber Rose scored a solid hit for that idea last week on the talk show It’s Not You, It’s Men, hosted by Tyrese Gibbons and Rev Run (formerly of Run-DMC) on the Oprah Winfrey Network. The conversation’s frame is pretty vanilla: It sounds like everyone concerned is assuming cisgendered, heterosexual couples. But Rose’s blunt and eloquent response to Tyrese and Rev Run is so basic that it applies to any gender combo, any orientation, any act.
Tyrese and Rev Run start out the clip by making a very old and familiar case: That women who dress a “certain way” should expect to get sexual advances from men.
At the beginning, Tyrese is telling Amber Rose, “If you see a basketball player, and he’s known as a basketball player, when you see him, you’re going to be like ‘Yo, let’s go play ball.” I’m just saying, the comfortability that some people find with wanting to touch or grope you or feel like, “Yo, just let me–” It’s just like an energy that’s being sent out there that creates that kind of response.”
Rose’s response cuts to the heart of the matter:
No it doesn’t, and I’m gonna tell you why: If I’m laying down with a man, butt-naked, and his condom is on, and I say “You know what? No. I don’t wanna do this. I changed my mind,” that means NO. That means _____ No. That’s it. It doesn’t matter how far I take it or what I have on.
Watch the whole thing. It’s a shame that we still need basic discussions about consent and slut-shaming, but since we do, Amber Rose does it beautifully.