Consent: Beyond Words

Using speech to ask for consent is the entry point and the bare minimum. Absolutely, we much teach each other to ask and teach each other to listen for the answers. No means no. Confirm that the yes is enthusiastic. Words are what we have chosen as a species to transcend the skin and skulls that keep us separate, words and their offspring are as close as we can currently get to telepathy.

Yet this world did not teach me to say, “no,” and the greatest betrayals I have faced happened when men not only did not hear my timid refusals in my voice, but they also did not hear the timid refusals in my shoulders, in my breath, in my eyes. These nonverbal cues scream to me when I see them in other women because I, too, have raised tiny shields and tiny trumpets and gone to war in silence. I ask, “How can you not see this?”

Still, I empathize. When I was first coming out of the closet, first to myself and then to others, I felt many things but one that I sensed intensely was, as I called it, my lack of agency. I saw the way some men took of women and seemed to get what they wanted, and I did not know how to enter this dance of lust and love and get what I wanted. I was frustrated. I was angry. I felt robbed.

I think all men enter this private battle that I entered. Do we trust the story we are seeing play out in front of our eyes and teach ourselves to take what we desire? For me, such a thing was patently unacceptable. I learned my own other way and I learned to ask and the love I receive is abundant. I realized that feeling robbed was my first mistake — I am not entitled to sex or touch or love. You get those things when you are good, when you are sweet, when you are open, and honestly just when you are lucky. I realized I was angry with myself the most; for being too cowardly to even ask, let alone touch. My frustration was my own fault, and on top of that, it made me unattractive.

Yet it is not so easy to come to these realizations. It is far easier to believe that asking for consent is just not sexy, or that practicing consent is simply doing nothing at all for fear of harming anyone. It is easy to believe a false dichotomy; either I’m an asshole and I get laid, or I’m nice and I get nothing.

My first steps towards shattering these myths were to realize 1) There are a wealth of messages sent nonverbally between human beings and I can hear them, see them, feel them if I try and 2) It is better to realize quickly a woman is not interested in me and move on than to postpone the discomfort of understanding rejection. The truth is, it hurts far more to pine secretly after someone than to let go when, in the end, it turns out they don’t want you.

Consent beyond words is learning to actively listen with all of your senses. The first wall you will face is the overwhelming tsunami of “No” and disinterest that you had been willfully ignoring to protect your own pride.  There are other walls, too, that I can’t even begin to describe in one blog post.

Beyond this initial sting, you will find a peaceful clarity. You will be able to forge honest friendships, untainted with motive. You will be able to present your truer, more vulnerable, less needy self. This self is, if we’re going to be practical, a more attractive self. And beyond your new calm, you will begin to recognize warm rays of “yes” beaming onto you. One might, unsmiling, avoid your eyes with hers when you ask her flirtful questions (no) while another will soak up your interest and laugh and speak back to you (yes?). The latter may, of course, be only seeking friendship, but she will be kind to you when you ask for her kiss and she’s not interested, because she does care for you. Bolstered by this kindness, you will be less timid to ask another your heart’s next desire.

Listen and see, listen and see. Cast aside your motivations and expectations. Offer your desires as gifts of insight, not as trials of sadness v. pleasure. That is the only way I can happily live, and happily live I do.

P.S. I am going on vacation, so next time will be posting early, on Saturday.

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How to be a Lesbian in San Diego

We’ve got Hillcrest. We’ve got Gossip Grill. (Ok we lost Bourbon St.) It’s not too difficult to be a lady lovin’ lady in San Diego. Yet the girls are shyer, here. They are more difficult to spot amidst so many straights sportin’ hot-weather-ready short hair and music-scene-festive side-cuts & undercuts. Maybe it’s because I’m decidedly femme, but the issue I most struggle with is invisibility. I’m fighting the pervasive assumption from the old rich yuppies that run this city & its media (thx Fox news) that I don’t even exist, and then I have to go ahead and love long hair and girly clothes and ridiculous shoes.

1. The Easy Way

The simplest way to be gay here is to cut off your hair and wear plaid.

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2. SD Lesbian Uniform

Of course, plenty of us don’t want to do that. That is why we have an alternative uniform, the Basic SD Femme. Carefully select clothes that you could wear to the gym (but probably don’t because they’re your going out clothes), wring your hair into a messy but tight bun (do not use those tutorials you saw back when you used to read Seventeen mags; this bun needs to look like something a man would try to make), and then add all the makeup you want.

Oh, and flip flops. San Diegans always wear flip flops to the bar. Which I hate. Please stop. Bar floors have puke residue, and cigarette ash, and spilled drinks. Protect your toes. Wear a cute and ever-so-butchy pair of slip-on deck shoes instead.

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Thing is, I don’t want to wear this uniform. I don’t go to the gym (so why fake it), I don’t want to wear flip flops if I’m not at the beach, and I don’t want to restrain my glorious mane. Yes I have donned this uniform and yes it probably got me girls’ numbers, but that is beside the point.

3. Lipstick

To survive being a (femme) lesbian in SD, I had to get proactive. I had to learn x-ray vision. I brushed up on all the signs I learned from Effing Dykes; the asymmetry, the chin nod, smirking, gettin’ vibes. I don’t remember if this was an Effing-D thing, but one of my favorite “rainbow” flags is lipstick.

gay-femme-lesbian-lipstick-drawing

  1. Even straight women don’t really wear lipstick for men. They wear it because it’s hot. Lipstick is armor. Lipstick is alpha performance of femininity. Lipstick is “I know the secret and precious world of Barbies.” Lipstick is “I could be famous.” Lipstick is “so what if my boyfriend doesn’t like it because it means he can’t kiss me? I’m sexy af.”
  2. Queer women take that attitude one step further and pick a color that is just a little off-putting. Garish, even. Orange-red that ever-so-slightly clashes with her skin tone. Bluish pop-pink. Neon fuchsia.

If a woman is wearing lipstick, especially if it’s nothing but lipstick (no foundation, little-to-no eye makeup) and it could be described as “bold,” your gaydar should go *ping.*

4. Gay Eye Contact

Gaydar isn’t just sitting on your figurative instrument deck, passively scanning all that surrounds you and emitting a soothing bell noise whenever it finds a match. Gaydar is something you do. The best way to use it is to try some prolonged eye contact. Just look her in the eyes, and try to send her the telepathic message, “I know you’re gay.” She’ll then know you know she is gay and will telepathically respond, “I am super gay.” Here’s me, initiating eye contact with you:

note the upturned chin and smirk

note the upturned chin and smirk

A straight woman’s reaction will look something like this:

gay-eye-contact-comic-straight-1

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She doesn’t understand why you’re kinda staring at her awkwardly, so she looks away almost immediately.

A queer woman, however, keeps on looking back:

gay-eye-contact-comic-1

gay-eye-contact-comic-2

gay-eye-contact-comic-3

 

Or, for the extreme version: