Content note: Explicit discussion of sexual assault, 'vanilla' culture, and rape. Also some incredibly heteronormative pronoun use in some paragraphs (because cultural critique).
I'm bent over a table amidst a group of strangers, with my skirt somewhere up around my shoulders and no underwear on, being spanked by someone I just met about half an hour ago, surrounded by people of all sorts of genders, colours and inclinations, who are having various sorts of sex in all sorts of combinations and different ways, and I suddenly realise... I feel totally comfortable, sexy and safe.
Why do I feel so good there? Because I've just spent the afternoon talking with most of the people in this room about consent culture, and I feel comfortable in the knowledge that, in this room at least, only 'yes' means 'yes'... and there are a whole bunch of people there to make sure it stays that way. The super-hot person I'm playing with established a few relevant boundaries verbally with me before we started. We talked about what I liked and didn't like, and a little about what they were into as well, we talked about what we were going to do and what we definitely weren't going to, and that's freed me up to enjoy the sensations of what we're doing right now without feeling like I'm 'obliged' to do anything else... although before we're done I ask for a few other things too, because I'm having such a great time.
On a date with an established partner I can push things even further. When I later relate some of my experiences to a 'vanilla' (or non-kinky) friend, he is horrified. "How can anyone consent to that?" he asks, but the important thing to me is that I absolutely did, consciously, knowingly and up-front.
Later, over tea and crumpets, my vanilla friend relates a few stories about his own dating experiences that have me choking on my refreshments.
"She said WHAT?" I gasp, horrified by what I just heard. "Was there a safe-word?"
"She told me not to ask her what she wanted," he repeated, "she said it was 'more romantic' just to take whatever I wanted." and worse... she had told him that, secretly, this was what ALL women wanted... to be 'forced', 'taken' or 'ravished' without any regard for their consent or desires of their own. Worse still, this was not the first date to have told my friend that same thing.
People, this is not okay.
I'm sitting there literally open-mouthed in horror as my friend tells me this. I don't know much about Louis CK's other comedy, but he pretty much nails this one right here in this clip: "Are you out of your fucking MIND?! You think I'm just gonna RAPE you, on the off-chance that you're into that shit?"
Sing it, uh... brother!
Vanilla ladies, if you're reading this (and I hope at least some of you are), I want you to know that what you're asking for is known to the kinky community as 'consensual non-consent' or 'rape play' and it's considered to be 'extreme' even by people who literally put needles in each other for fun.
Rape play is something I might possibly, if I was feeling brave, consider doing with an established partner, someone I'd played with for months if not years, and whose references I'd checked out thoroughly, and if I was asking someone to ignore me saying 'no' or 'stop', either verbally or non-verbally, there is absolutely no way I am doing that without explicit boundaries and limits that we'd talked about in advance and an established 'safeword'. Why? Because there are just SO MANY ways that can go wrong.
Don't get me wrong, I have friends on the kink scene who do go and meet guys and do rape play scenes without safewords with folks they just met online. I don't judge them. They are totally entitled to choose their own safety boundaries. The difference between those friends and the average vanilla lady though, is that they know that without safewords the 'no' that they have already agreed doesn't mean 'no' won't stop things happening. They know they're doing something that's edgy, dangerous and which comes with the risk of them getting assaulted in ways they weren't looking for, raped for real or even killed.
Folks like me - freaky-deaky folks who like to negotiate our scary sex up front look on at these people in awe and say 'Woah, that's hardcore'... and yet somehow this is a norm in vanilla dating? For people who date in the mainstream it is apparently relatively normal to go back to some guy's house after you've just met him or had maybe a couple of dates and say 'do whatever you want to me, just don't ask first.'*
Woah... Yeah... that's hardcore.
Even if you're expecting your 'no' to mean No. Even if you're expecting a guy to just 'read you' and 'do his own thing' right up to the point where you say 'no', we're already running into problems: if you've told someone not to ask for your consent, if you've told them not to communicate about what they want to do with you, then by the time they've done something you don't like THE BOUNDARY IS ALREADY CROSSED. The assault has already happened. Maybe what you secretly wanted was for this guy to ravish you ruthlessly but gently like a hero in some romantic novel and instead he's taken you literally about doing 'anything he wants' has thrown you over the edge of the kitchen sink and is roughly wedging his cock into your unconsenting little backside using dish soap as lube whilst throwing a bucket of beans over your head and planning which limb he's going to cut off next... but by the time you realise it's a no and tell him so, he's ALREADY HURTING YOU. If you've told him to ignore your 'no'... what then?
At best, what you're asking for is 'Schrodinger Sex'. Just like we don't know whether Schrodinger's hypothetical cat is alive or dead until we open the box and look, with Schrodinger Sex we don't know whether what we're getting is a nice time or a jail sentence until after the date is over. Consent is either applied retrospectively... or it isn't. The poor guy you're dating doesn't know if you're going to say 'thank you' after your date, or whether you're going to call the police on him because he unwittingly did something you didn't like. As someone who occasionally takes that 'guy' role in kinky dating I can tell you - that sucks.
...As a BDSM 'top' I can't even do it. I cannot even bring myself to touch someone who tells me to just 'do whatever I want' without establishing limits or a safeword because I am too concerned it is going to end with my accidentally hitting some button that it just hadn't occurred to them to mention that they couldn't stand, maybe because they hadn't even imagined it was a thing, and ending up with someone I liked enough to go to bed with having a terrible time. Right there, as a top, that's where I use my own safeword and get the hell out of that scene, conscious that the worst case scenario is not just an upset partner but an assault charge. After all, there really aren't that many folks who are into wasabi nasal fisting!
The other trouble with Schrodinger Sex is that, even if it goes well, it is almost without exception bad sex. Assuming that nobody's boundaries get crossed, the sex you'll be getting will be incredibly dull and unimaginative - because there really is no way to get off the beaten track and do anything more interesting than basic run of the mill rom-com sex without ever talking about what actually turns you on.
Sure, you might only be interested in relatively 'normal' sex. You might not ever want to have the sort of sex that horrifies my friends, but maybe you'd really enjoy playing with a vibrator or two, or having syrup drizzled on some random body part and licked off, or maybe there is some special trick that someone can do with your body that - you never figured out why - just really works for you and you alone. That's never going to happen if neither of you can talk to your partner about it. That sort of awesome, super-orgasmic sex doesn't happen in real life without two-way communication. It requires not just 'not saying no' but actively communicating and actively saying 'yes' and 'please' to things.
Worst of all, if you've ever made the claim that 'being forced is something ALL women secretly want': This is how you train guys to rape women like me. Women who have never played 'hard to get' in their lives, and for whom 'no' really does mean No. Please, for the love of whatever makes you happy, PLEASE stop telling people that. It might be true for you, but it is NOT true for every woman and it is not true for me.
In the mean time, I think I'm going to stick with my nice, safe orgies.
*NB. The bit I am questioning here is the 'don't ask'. I am absolutely not victim-blaming or judging any woman who ever visited a guy in his home because she felt safe and expected him to respect her boundaries, only questioning how it's possible to respect boundaries if you can't ask about them.
NB2. (For the kinksters) I'm not saying that abuse doesn't happen in kink or fetish communities either. It most definitely does, but the idea of dating folks who not only aren't practiced in active negotiation around sexual practices but who explicitly don't believe in it... that's a hard limit for me!