What would be wrong with a norm of explicit, enthusiastic consent to every sex act?

“I’m going to do X now.”

“Cool do it!”

“Okay now I’m going to Y”

“Alright! I’m into it.”

“Can I do Z now?”

“Yes, please do!”

“I suggest now we do A, B, and then C.”

“I’m down!”
Suppose things evolved into a state where the above was considered the norm, deviations from it considered a breach. (Not necessarily a serious breach every time, just at least impolite, and of course at worst much worse than impolite.)

I get the feeling people think that this would be a bad situation. That there’d be something wrong with that norm.

Here I briefly argue that it’s an okay norm, and possibly even the best norm.

First of all, it would be silly to have a norm that’s psychologically impossible, and some people I think think the above is not possible. So my only evidence against that unfortunately is personal. I actually practice the above with my partner, and it works just fine. There’s nothing impossible about it. Some people find it naturally a very enjoyable way to proceed.

Of course not everyone does, and the question is, why not?

It seems to me the reason why not is, people are taught to be afraid to ask, and afraid to say no, when it comes to sex things. Were we to teach people instead to be unafraid of both of these things, then the above norm would become much more realistic for people.

Now as to whether it would be a good thing. That seems simple to me. The norm of enthusiastic consent to each activity minimizes the risk that someone is accidentally assaulted through a misunderstanding, or intentionally assaulted through coercion. Other norms fail to minimize that risk. And that risk is overridingly important of any other concerns you may care to describe.

Even if such a norm existed, of course not everyone would follow it, and many would follow it imperfectly, just as in the real world the norms we do have are not followed by all and only imperfectly by many. That’s not a unique problem for this norm, it’s just a problem about norms in general.

Some people naturally enjoy doing sex things one way, others naturally enjoy doing sex things other ways. Whatever norms exist, favor those who naturally happen to enjoy doing sex that way. There are certainly people out there who enjoy the game, the back and forth, the low key consent play, that happens in many sexual relationships. Our current norms favor that kind of game. Such people would be made sad should the above become a new sex norm. But this is no argument against the value of the norm itself–every norm makes some people sad, and others happy.

And that’s my argument.

What works for you doesn’t work for everybody. I can’t speak for many people but I’m pretty sure a lot of people engaging in consensual sex work things out without having to play 20 Questions. People should certainly set up ground rules but that doesn’t require asking about each and every move.

Also, there should not be narrow sexual norms. You wouldn’t think so either if the norms weren’t to your liking.

I did mean the proposed norm to include setting things up beforehand all at once, though I know that wasn’t clear.

Your point about some things working for some people and not for others was addressed in the OP. What are your thoughts about how I addressed it?

That we become robots?

Most people don’t have a problem with Spontaneity. It’s only narcissistic rapist types and screwed up millennials that are messing with a time proven formula. I can’t believe how screwed up people have gotten.

But you may be pleased to know that my wife does practice a form of Your idea, just 8 hours in advance: ”tonight when you get home from work I’m going to [s***] your [d**] until you [c**] all over my [***].” Does that satisfy what you advocate? If so I could maybe get on board with it.

It basically does, on some charitable assumptions about the context.

The rest of your post is counter-asserting but not engaging with the reasoning.

I gave you my one my part of my thoughts, there should not be narrow sexual norms. In addition people shouldn’t end up sad just because the consensual activities they prefer are not part of your norm, or anyone else’s. Do you need some examples of where that has happened.

So it looks like, where I argued “rather than norms X we should have norms Y,” you’re arguing that no, Y is too narrow, and the norms should be broader. And whatever the norms are, they should not be such that anyone will be made sad by the existence of those norms."

Is that accurate?

Except for leaving out the part about consensual activity, then yes.

Now can you tell me why you or anyone else should decide how my wife and I have sex?

My post is written against a background assumption that there are norms and always will be, it doesn’t take a position on the question of whether there should be any norms at all. It’s coming from a point of view of “since we’re going to have them for good or ill, let’s make the best of that.”

Having said that, I’m trying to narrowly discuss not just sexual norms in general but specifically norms around what constitutes clear consent.

To answer the OP: Because, for many (if not the vast majority of) people, saying and getting permission for every sexual move, out loud, Step-A-through-B-through-C-through-Z, like following an instruction manual, would absolutely kill the pleasure or enjoyment of sex.
This stuff reads like a parody of what sexual consent would or ought to be, like people who suggest that partners be required to fill out a sexual-consent legal form before every instance of sex. That was supposed to be satire, not a real suggestion.

But as I intimated in the OP, the current norms concerning consent also kill the pleasure or enjoyment of sex for many people. So this is not a unique problem for the proposed norm.

The question isn’t “should we kill the pleasure or enjoyment of sex for many people,” the question is “who’s pleasure or enjoyment of sex should we kill?”

How would you answer that question?

In a sense we’re getting there, and I would agree that it’s not particularly a problem.

But the thing is, all interactions of any kind involve ground rules, but the reason there’s no slippery slope is because there’s a degree of common sense most of the time. If a girl has let me kiss her neck, I feel pretty safe in assuming it’s OK to kiss her shoulder. But if I’m going to move on to something genuinely more sexual I will either ask, or, more likely, very slowly and tentatively proceed giving her ample time to say “stop” if she’s not comfortable.
Why more complicated than that?

Assuming the quotes in the OP are a dialog, it would go like this:

A: “I’m going to do X now.”
B: “Cool do it!”
A: “Okay now I’m going to Y”
B: “Alright! I’m into it.”
A: “Can I do Z now?”
B: “Yes, please do!”
A: “I suggest now we do A, B, and then C.”
B: “I’m down!”

Person A never explicitly consents to any of this. It’s certainly implicit in his (or her) words, but even your own example seems to fall short of absolute, explicit consent.

Aw, dude, I’m sitting right here.

Yes, this definitely makes sense. as Mijin said. If vocalizing “I’m going to do this, to that” or the like, may make the entire scenario a wee-bit awkward. But as mentioned above, it depends on the people cooperating in the act. What works for some, may not work for another.

I get the sense that for most, it may kill the mood a little, via removing some on the sensuality to it. To each their own though.

We have norms around a whole host of other behaviors around consent that don’t face accusations of “acting like robots”. If I’m over at somebody else’s house, it’s generally considered polite to ask first if you can use their bathroom even though you’re 99.99% sure they’re going to say yes. If you’re at a dinner party, generally you ask someone else to pass you the salt & pepper rather than reaching over and grabbing it yourself. It doesn’t seem that hard for me to imagine a world in which “is it ok for me to kiss you now” is a phrase as tossed off as “could you pass me the salt and pepper” and nobody considers it weird.

Perhaps a better example is that, ~30 years ago, it was considered fairly normal to just show up at someone’s house unannounced and then they would either be expected to accommodate you or have to turn you away at the door. Nowadays, that still happens in small pockets of the country and among certain closer friends but the norm has shifted into always asking first before coming over, it would be considered gauche and rude to just show up at someone’s door unless you knew they were the type who welcomed it.

Neither system is superior to the other, they both have pros and cons to them. But the point is, we shifted from a system of implied consent to explicit consent and society gave at collective shrug about the impact of the change. It doesn’t seem too hard to imagine youngsters 30 years from now going “Wait, so the man just has to lunge at the woman for her first kiss and she either has to awkwardly deflect him or accept a kiss she doesn’t want?” in the same way we marvel at people spontaneously showing up at people’s houses (that is, we can see the appeal of it on some level but it’s just not a thing that’s done anymore).

I think people who believe that consent is “unnatural” or “unsexy” simply don’t realize how much negotiation of consent we do in the rest of our lives that is totally unremarkable. It’s only unnatural now because it’s unfamiliar but norms around consent in society shift around all the time and people just generally go with it.

The OP is pretty much how it works currently. Its just that at the moment, its nonverbal. The proposal seems to be to move consent from nonverbal to verbal. The assumption, I believe is that verbal consent is less prone to ambiguity and misunderstandings. It would, however, completely ban sexual encounters between people who did not have a language, or much of one, in common.

But if it’s my brothers or best friends house that I’ve been to a zillion times do you really expect me ask to use the bathroom every single time I’m there? What if they are having a party with 30 people. You expect everyone to bug the host to use the can?

As of later this month my wife and I will have been married 38 years and we are still sexually active. Would the OP really have us recite that ridiculous script every time we bump naughties?

In situations like these there is a social contract known as implied consent. The consent can be retract via clear verbal communications. The OP’s idea is actually absurd and quite sad.

My argument against this is pretty simple: It’s obviously not better. It’s not better than what we already have. It confers no benefit, in my estimation, at the same time as imposing detriment to the process of lovemaking.

It’s like at the ice cream store, you suggest that rather than choosing chocolate or strawberry, we go outside and rub dog shit on our faces instead. Now I’m not going to stop you doing that if you really want to, but don’t be surprised when I decline, and I don’t feel that I even owe you a detailed explanation.

I should probably clarify - it isn’t just that I don’t want to have to be asking for consent all along the way. I don’t want to be on the receiving end of a running-commentary consent-narration stream of bullshit either.

If the goal of this idea is to promote abstinence, it might succeed.

I don’t think I’ve heard anyone who was in the house as a guest* ask to use the bathroom in my life. If the house is not familiar, they will ask where it is, if it’s a small gathering they will excuse themselves.

Similarly, in my experience it was *not *common to just show up at someone’s house without prearrangement 30 years ago. It wasn’t unusual in certain contexts - kids did, a neighbor on my street may have rung the bell to talk to me rather than calling on the phone and a friend or relative unexpectedly in the area may have rung the bell to say “Hi”. But nobody except my grandfather ever unexpectedly rang my bell and expected to be invited in for a visit. And those things haven’t really changed in my area, in my lifetime. My neighbors still ring the bell instead of calling on the phone, and kids still ring their friend’s bells without prearrangement. **

Which I think is part of the issue with trying to change norms- we’re not starting from the same place. And that’s if the norms even exist- and I’m not sure there is a norm for how one communicates consent. I don’t see how there could be - I suppose there could be many norms, but I don’t see how one norm could cover everything from two people who met an hour ago to a couple that has been married for 30 years. And even that leaves out individual preferences - Frylock thinks the script is fine, doesn’t see anything wrong with it and actually uses it , but if anyone at any time ( but especially my husband of 30 years) had actually started that script with me there wouldn’t have been any sex. Because I would have been laughing too hard.

  • I have heard people who were there as part of their job ( like say a someone delivering furniture) ask

** And even that only happened once - he had been at my uncle’s a few blocks away and after dinner they were watching a “dirty movie” - probably a PG13 movie on HBO.