Consent as curating a sexual experience

Home » Consent as curating a sexual experience

One of my awesome interview participants for my PhD project Queering Consent set off a light bulb moment for me. They said they see sexual consent as the ‘curation’ of a sexual experience. I thought that this was such a beautiful and useful way to describe sexual consent. Here is why…

We commonly see sexual consent spoken about as the act of asking for or giving permission for certain sexual acts. This is a very contractual way of looking at sex, and only really has two possible answers – yes or no. We are also seeing calls for more ‘enthusiastic consent’ practices where it should be an enthusiastic ‘hell yes!’ to sex for it to continue. However, sex is fluid and dynamic and often the answer ‘hell yes!’ or ‘no thank you’ is not sufficient to actually describe what someone may or may not want. The answer may be ‘yes but do it this particular way’ or ‘no but I would like this instead’ or the answer may be ‘yes but let’s go slowly and see whether I like it’. As I have been finding out in my interviews people do not always know exactly what they want and whether they will enjoy a particular sexual act. They are not always sure whether it is a ‘hell yes’ but sometimes it is a ‘let’s give it a go and see’. My participants have generally expressed that their most consensual experiences were not those that they were totally enthusiastic and ‘hell yes!’ about, but those where they felt a genuine sense of care and respect from their partner(s) where they could try things at their own pace.

This is where I really like the term ‘curation’. According to Wikipedia, to curate something is the ‘process of gathering information relevant to a particular topic area of interest, usually with the intention of adding value, organising and looking after’. Wow! Imagine if that was the way we looked at sexual consent – gathering and processing information about our sexual partner(s) with the intention of adding value to that person and looking after them. A curator is a subject specialist – it requires research and communication, and of course a genuine interest in the topic. What if we saw sexual consent as becoming the subject specialist in your sexual partner(s) desires. To curate a sexual experience and become a topic specialist would require independent research and expertise on sex (education about sex and sexuality and how to do things safely) and great communication to gather information (finding out what your partners like or may want to try and whether you want that too). Being a sex curator means designing a sexual experience through research, expertise, care and forming trusting relationships.

What I really like about using ‘sex curation’ when thinking about sexual consent is it emphasises care for the person(s) and experiences, but it also emphasises that it is work that requires research and expertise. We often hear that people think explicit sexual consent will make things awkward, and sex should just happen naturally. However, this way of thinking can get people into a lot of trouble. Sex is something that is learnt and requires skill. I think this idea that it should ‘just happen naturally’ is one of the most damaging misconceptions about sex, because ‘naturally’ probably means little communication. What if instead we encouraged people to become sex curators: experts in sex and experts in their own and their partners sexual wants and desires. This of course requires work and genuine care – but with immense and pleasurable payoffs!

Share on Facebook
Share on LinkedIn
Share on Reddit
Share on WhatsApp
Email a Friend
Scroll to Top