Romance, passion and consent

It’s a popular scene in romantic tales… One person is passionately in love with the other and acts on this. In a sudden, overpowering move (likely to involve kissing) the one who is in love emotionally overpowers the object of their desire and afterwards nothing is the same. The object of desire is persuaded to fall in love, too. They may change sides in the conflict central to the story. They may betray their family and friends, or give up everything they have known. I am seldom persuaded by this bit, but that’s a story to take apart on another day.

We’re all creatures of reason and emotion. However, our considered choices about who we are and how we want to be can be – especially in the short term – totally derailed by our emotional and physical responses. Is that love? Or is it just a short term chemical response to stimulus? I’m pretty sure it isn’t consent. We’re shown persuasion of this kind in films and novels, where it’s usually presented as a good thing. It goes with the story that women say ‘no’ when they mean ‘persuade me’, that women find it hard to say yes to sex and passion and need to have their boundaries overcome, and that overcoming those boundaries by force of desire is romantic, and not rapey. If a man seduces a woman it is most usually depicted as a good and romantic thing. When it’s the other way round, the woman is more often depicted as evil. I do not like these stories.

In a seduction scene, we aren’t often shown the focus of desire being given chance to properly express their consent. For me, consent is both romantic and sexy, and verbalising desire is exciting. I find willingness to wait rather than overpower is much more romantic than seduction and that emotionally overpowering someone who has expressed an interest in that happening is much more engaging than using sexual power to strip away someone’s defences.

Power of course is a big part of it. There is power in being able to make it difficult for someone to say no to you. There is power in being able to persuade, to get someone else to submit to your desire or be so overwhelmed by what’s happening that they can’t figure out how to say no to you. To have the looks or the skill set to compromise someone else’s decision making ability seems a lot less attractive when framed in those terms. What we often see presented as romance has a lot more to do with power and persuasion than I feel comfortable with.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

16 responses to “Romance, passion and consent

  • Pytho Black

    I have been considering the implications of the flaw in our sexual biology that all females of any species must be, necessarily, inherently and necessarily potentially rapeable, with a few exceptions like black widows and such. Well, it’s just an idea I’ve been contemplating. Observe nature and witness females getting raped all the time.

    • Nimue Brown

      Mind you, male bodies are also inherently rapeable and often when we look at nature, we can only infer gender from activity… apart from mallard ducks, whose gender can be seen at a glance and are definitely rapists.

      • Pytho Black

        Yes, obviously! At least you are thinking about it. Black widow females are clearly dominant. But through cultural and biological lenses consent can also be inferred from evolutionary developments in behaviors and structures (not just cloacas and vaginas). Funny, I have seen birds getting raped, and walruses on TV. Never cats or dogs. But usually there are courtship “rituals” (rituals!) involved in vertebrate mating. You well know that males don’t get raped except in humans. There is a lot more to it. For example, what soul would ever want to get born a female if there was nothing to look forward to but rape and childbearing?

      • Nimue Brown

        I’ve seen herds of young bullocks on many occasions… male creatures most certainly do get unwanted sexual attention from other male creatures.

  • peashootersite

    Reblogged this on PeaShooter's Posts and commented:
    And the confident personality of a person who willfully understands if the partner refuses and doesn’t push about it is even more desirable.

  • Jessica Triepel

    While I respect your feelings on the subject, I feel rather different about all this, but then it may have something to do with my personality. When I meet someone, I make up my mind instantaneously whether or not that person could be a potential match, and once I’ve rules someone out, nothing they say or do can persuade me. Despite numerous attempts to seduce me, no one has ever succeeded unless I truly wanted to be seduced. I never needed to speel it out beforehand what I want. In fact, if I have to express verbally my desire to be seduced, then it kills the moment for me. Honestly, my perspective is that since humans are biological beings, we are still ruled by animal instincts, though we also possess the ability to reason and use logic. All that being said, it seems reasonable to me that as biological beings, it is hardwired into our species for the male to “flaunt” in order to attract a mate, and for females to be on the lookout for that particular male who has the right chemical affect on her. Where logic comes in is in ruling out an unsuitable mate based on reasons that have nothing to do with chemical and emotional effects. So, of a man’s attentions are unwanted, then say so firmly that you are not, under any circumstances interested. And if a woman has any sense, she won’t act solely on the impulse, but will have already made up her mind.
    As pertains to stories, I do like the way Jane Austen approached romance in the context of a woman who needs persuading. For example, a woman may not be initially attracted to a man, but sometimes, with time, she might come to know a good man by his character, and thus, “fall in love”. Really not so unrealistic, as that is exactly how I ended up with my boyfriend. We’d met before, but never really took notice of each other or talked, but in my automatic way, I just wrote him off. Then I got to know him after fate threw us together when I left my husband. We ended up roommates, and that is how we got to know each other. It was truly his character that made me finally notice him.
    Anyway, sorry for the long comment. It’s just I feel like this anti-male needs a counter voice. I grew up in the South surrounded by country boys, and it doesn’t get much more macho than that. But most of those men were respectful of women, even if they were often blatantly flirtatious, and oftentimes not politically correct. And to be honest, I prefer that kind of man over feminized men, both their methods and their sex appeal.
    But to be fair, it’s not just that women need to be strong and learn to stand up for themselves, but also, men should try to read a woman’s desires, especially given that many women are incapable of voicing their wishes, and other make it even more confusing by wanting to be chased and playing hard to get. It’s a game, where the woman wants to be hunted, so it would spoil the game for that sort of woman to have to say “chase me, I want to be seduced.” Trust me. I know. I am that sort of woman. And it’s not like people come with a user manual. Sometimes people just make mistakes without meaning to.

    • Nimue Brown

      For me it’s not a game and I absolutely do not want to be hunted. that’s why I think it’s important to be able to talka bout things like this and why i would only ever be interested in someone who was willing to talk to me. I’m also conscious that this whole approach leaves little room for queer relationships – and that queer ways of connecting with people are much more interesting to me. My final thought is that if you’ve not had your body used against you, it’s hard to imagine what that does.

  • Jessica Triepel

    Observe animals and watch how females react to a male they don’t want. Female cats show it when they want it. Yikes! But if a female isn’t interested, they can be viscous. I see it all the time when our rooster tries to mount the hens. Guess what? He’s not the boss. I’ve seen it with cows and bulls, with dogs, and with wildlife. If you really watch animals, you’ll see they have their own mating rituals, and you can’t rape the willing.

    • Nimue Brown

      Most mammals have done a better job around evolving decent teeth and claws, it occurs to me…

      • Jessica Triepel

        Maybe human females need to work on developing a little fight in them! I recommend contact sports, like martial arts and kick boxing. I did Japanese swords for a little while. Not long enough to get good at it. I regret that I dropped the class, since the only reason I stopped going was because of a particular older man who made me feel uncomfortable. Here’s the thing though. It’s not that men are all bad or women are all victims. It’s that in my situation, I failed to stand strong and face that loser down. Instead I gave up something I really enjoyed because I was too much of a coward to tell him to phuck off. I was the only female in that class, and I let one idiot drive me away.

      • Nimue Brown

        it’s a difficult situation to be in, and why did no one else speak up for you? why was no one else paying attention? The complicity of the silent is something we need to talk about more – it shouldn’t all be on the victim in a situation to deal with things.

      • Jessica Triepel

        He was subtle. He played like that guy who wants to help, like he’s taking me under his wing and showing me the ropes. But I knew it wasn’t so simple. He singled me out every class. I should have just said something to the teacher or his assistant. They didn’t know what was going on. I know I need to learn to take on challenges head on. Not just things like with that guy, but in life in general. I tend to avoid confrontation. Acknowledging this and overcoming it is what I need to do. It feels good when I overcome my insecurities and speak up for myself. That’s why I like fighting sports. It builds my confidence. The swords class was almost 10 years ago, but if i could do it over again, I’d face the problem and shut that shot down.

      • Jessica Triepel

        Shit, not shot.

      • Nimue Brown

        we get so much encouragement to avoid confrontation and let’s face it, sometimes it seems like the safer option. Meh, here’s to better ways forward.

      • Jessica Triepel

        Right! So, let’s all sharpen our claws and live life to the fullest! 🐈

  • godtisx

    This was interesting to think about…

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