I’ve been thinking a lot about sex positivity lately and I feel that from that perspective there’s still some conceptual work to be done as far as refining our idea of consent. I’ve learned a lot from the idea of “enthusiastic consent” (which emphasizes the importance of ongoing check-ins over the course of sex acts) put forward recently by Jaclyn Friedman et al but I wonder if this account could not benefit from being made even more processual and mutualist. Toward that end I offer the following notion that I would like to call “Ecstatic Consent”:
Ecstatic Consent is an ongoing process of sexual expression in which all parties potentially engaged in shared sex acts endeavor to a mutual understanding, sooner rather than later, regarding the nature, duration, and intensity of those acts and the precautions to be used over the course of those acts (in guarding against, e.g., infection, pregnancy, physical injury, emotional trauma, etc.). Ecstatic consent starts before clothes come off and continues after all parties have (or have not) gotten off and keeps going still after clothes come back on. Ecstatic Consent works by the encouragement of constant feedback—both verbal and non-verbal, explicit and implicit—at all stages of the sexual encounter, with the acknowledgement that certain forms of feedback may be more useful than others for particular persons and at particular moments within a given sexual encounter, but also with the overriding agreement among all concerned parties that feedback in any form is in all cases and at all times to be privileged over its absence. Ecstatic consent thrives according to the abilities of its practitioners to cultivate two basic virtues useful for the well-being of oneself and one’s partner(s): (1) respect for the desires and boundaries of others however unusual, unconventional, specific, narrow, limited, rigid, and/or deviant those desires and boundaries may at first sound and (2) the successive refinement and reevaluation of your own desires and boundaries in light of past experience. Ecstatic consent has one basic ground rule: when in doubt, clarify! Clarification is a means rather than an end; the role of clarification is to develop a framework of mutuality for experiencing the infinite unpredictable singularities of body, persona, and sensation that occur within and between parties in any given encounter no matter how defined the parameters. Ecstatic Consent is clarification which strives to establish bonds of comfort and trust that pave the way for feeling the ineffable; it is the defining of terms so that definitions can get out of the way. The goal of ecstatic consent is the achievement of states of blissful ecstasy beyond the wildest expectations and prior comprehension of all parties concerned as part and parcel of their processes of communication.