Mapping the grey area of sexual experience: consent, compulsory sexuality, and sex normativity

This post has been cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.  It was originally posted on Tumblr.

Content warnings: Discussion of dubious consent and coercion, compulsory sexuality, sex normativity, mentions of sexual violence; if you think this needs other warnings, feel free to tell me and I’ll be happy to add them.

A few months ago resourcesforacesurvivors got an ask:

I consented to sex multiple times with my partner. I knew I didn’t like sex, but I consented. It ruined our relationship because I didn’t have the information or the courage to say that I didn’t like it, so I grew afraid of seeing them in case we ended up having sex. I don’t know what to call this situation; it’s not abuse because I consented and they didn’t know (although they did question my responsiveness and body language) but it wasn’t enthusiastic consent. Please can you help?

Being the embarrassing nerd I am, I, of course, decided to tackle this problem by trying to find a model of consent that could help the asker.  A lot of you are probably familiar with Emily Nagoski’s model of consent, which breaks consent in enthusiastic, willing, unwilling, and coerced consent.  Elizabeth has added “cautious consent” as a potential fifth category, adventures-in-asexuality offered “reasoned consent” as an option, and slightlymetaphysical offered his own model.  More recently, ace-muslim suggested “informed consent” as a useful model for sexual consent.  As I very quickly realized, however, none of these models can really deal with the above ask.

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