Discussing consent, the right way

Discussing consent, the right way

Legien Schenk is influencer and activist and fights for putting an end to sexual harassment and violence. Next to that, she stands by people who’ve experienced an unpleasant sexual experience. As someone who knows from own experience how bad the legal process after such a trauma can be, she wanted to take matters into her own hands and use what she has learned to assist those who have experienced similar events. Legien spoke to us about her job, her perspectives, and the best ways to communicate about (mutual) consent.

You’re an expert in the field of (mutual) consent. What is the best way to discuss consent in the bedroom, or know for sure you have mutual approval?

A basic context of relaxation and protection is required when a woman is approached by a man (I only use this example because we live in a heteronormative society). So, when someone is stressed, it's not the best time to ask for permission because you can't be sure if their answer is genuine. In the first place, the person who approaches the other must be aware that the premise here is that pleasure must be mutual. So, in this case, he's not just thinking to himself: I'm going to have fun with her. He must also be thinking: we're going to have fun together. And that mentality, that the person who initiates action, even if a woman does that, it is of course important that you can signal your own wishes and boundaries, as well as those of the other. It’s important not to think for yourself: I’m going to have fun with him/her, but to think: we’re going to have fun together. And with that mentality, it’s important to signal your own wishes and boundaries, as well as those of the other. That means I can't simply ask you, "Hey Lotte, would you like to sleep with me?" Since we're in a professional environment and have a co-dependent partnership, it's possible that you'll respond stressily and answer yes, even though you don't feel that way. The argument that asking for consent would ruin the tension, is invalid in my opinion. For example, it can be super sexy when someone asks: “do you like it when I caress you here?”

That's a fair idea. But, what if you don't want to wait before someone asks how you're doing and instead want to make it clear that you're enjoying it and, for example, would like to sleep with each other? What is the best way to communicate this to the other person?

I believe it’s important for all parties to really feel what they want. So, for example, when you're out on a date, consider everything and how you'd feel about it. Would I like to touch his or her hand? Do I want to kiss or not? Do I want to give a French kiss or not? It might seem odd to consider that ahead of time, but I believe there must be some kind of consciousness one forehand. When something stressful happens in the heat of the moment and you've already weighed it, it's usually easier to say no – if you feel that way. Furthermore, I believe it is important to learn how to cope with rejection. It's a chance that isn't inherently a negative thing. It's important not to be offended when anyone tells you no; this helps them to be transparent and frank with you.

Yes, exactly. So, we shouldn’t neccessarily expect a yes when asking for consent. 

No! Well, if it’s the case it would be nice, but we can’t assume a yes.

Exactly. I wanted to briefly link to Sexual Healing. What is your idea of how the Brush can help women who have had a bad sexual experience?

 After a rape, many victims feel very dirty. And I tend to call people who have had an unwanted sexual encounter "victims" rather than "people who experienced an unwanted sexual encounter." As a result, many people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which keeps you on high alert all of the time. Your skin is always sensitive to touch in this state of alertness, but it also causes acute stress. As a consequence, touch can be very complicated. When someone falls, you would possibly give them a hug after such an incident, but after sexual transgressing behavior, such a hug can work counterproductive and, in some cases, even be a trigger. Touch can therefore have a completely different meaning, and the best way to rebuild that touch is from within yourself. And how nice if you also have tools that go a step further! The Brush is an excellent tool for this. And because the brush has such long hair, I think he is just very nice to also touch or stimulate yourself in places where you cannot reach yourself, for example your back. I think it's fantastic… I think it's ingenious.

This article is part of a series in which we asked Legien Schenk about her experiences as a Metoo-coach and influencer. We believe talking about this can empower women in speaking more about this subject, share stories and help eachother. Have you’ve ever had a bad sexual experience or need someone to talk to, please feel free to seek help by one of the organizations below.

 Globally: Sexual Violence Helpline – Call Freephone 0808 801 0770

Netherlands: Call 0800-0188 to talk anonymous and for free with Centrum Seksueel Geweld

photo by Martine Kamara