Consent is Not Just for Sex

[Alt. Text  Description: A man with a beard sits at a patio across from a woman wearing a hijab. They are enjoying cups of coffee. It is bright and sunny and there is greenery around them in the blurred background.]

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At this point, we don’t have to tell you how important consent is for any kind of sexual activity. 

We don’t have to tell you that consent is enthusiastic and ongoing, and that it can be revoked at any time and for any reason. But maybe you haven’t thought a ton about how far the scope of consent can extend, and the benefits of gaining consent for all aspects of dating from setting up the parameters of a first date, to figuring out a shared topic for those deep conversations. 

One of my favourite descriptions of consent comes from #consentiseverything’s video which uses tea as a metaphor for sex. They use the metaphor of tea to show the absurdity of violating consent– just like you wouldn’t pour tea down the throat of someone who wasn’t drinking the tea you made for them, or wouldn’t pour tea down the throat of an unconscious person, you shouldn’t have sex with someone who isn’t an active participant or who is unconscious. 

This metaphor and the absurdity of pouring tea down someone’s throats I think teaches us a second important lesson though, which is that consent is not just for sex.

After all, if we can use tea as a metaphor for sex, we see that tea too is a matter of consent. Guess what the most desired first date spot is? According to data from dating app Clover, it was Starbucks. Aside from that, meeting for coffee or tea is the first date most preferred by women. 

One of the first ways we can practice enthusiastic consent in our dating practices is to make sure the other person is totally comfortable and on-board with the set-up for a first date. For safety’s sake that often means meeting in a neutral location, and everyone taking their own transportation. This doesn’t have to be the case, but it should be the default unless both parties express an interest otherwise. It also means taking into consideration what your date likes to do– if they aren’t into drinking, don’t try to force a date at a bar. If they’re nervous about physical activity don’t push them into a hike. A little consideration and communication goes a long way. 

[Alt. Text Description: Two Black men walk and talk outside. One is holding the other’s arm. They are both holding coffee cups and smiling.]

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When we get to a date, that consent can continue in a few ways. 

First, unless it’s agreed upon beforehand, no one should be ordering on behalf of someone else. The food and drink we put into our bodies is super personal and you never know if someone has an allergy, religious or spiritual restriction, or other reason for the choice they make. Don’t pressure someone into eating or drinking something they don’t want to.

Second, dating is emotionally fraught. We can try to keep it friendly and light on the first date, but sometimes we want to delve into the deeper stuff too. Whatever the topic of conversation, when two new people are interacting we can accidentally stumble upon sore spots– maybe you ask about kids and you don’t know the person across from you has struggled with infertility, or you’re talking about your relationship with you parents and their parents are dead, or any other number of things. It should always be acceptable for one or both people on a date to say “hey, can we talk about something else now?” with no questions asked. On the flip side, if you’re sharing something traumatic or discussing a potentially heavy issue, it can be good to ask consent before you even start. Something as simple as a “are you okay if I talk about this?” after describing the subject can suffice. 

Remember, if your date partner seems hesitant, that’s a no from a consent perspective! We are looking for enthusiastic participation!

Finally, consent is also for sex, and everything leading up to it. If you want to give your date a hug or a kiss at the end of the date, there is nothing sexier than asking for their permission first. Even asking to hold their hand can be super hot and indicate that you are attentive to communication around their needs and desires. 

This is just the start.

Although we’ve given a few dating-specific examples in this post, once you start being attentive to it, there is no end to the ways in which we can implement principles of consent. Consent doesn’t mean there can’t be any surprises ever, but the scope of surprises or decisions made on behalf of another person need to be clearly negotiated and discussed ahead of time. Ultimately, consent is about respecting other people and making sure they have the space and safety to be themselves and to move through the world with comfort and security. When both you and your date feel that comfort and security, that’s a great start.

Here at Mate Machine, we are committed to helping you find your perfect mate.

MateMachine is a Vancouver-based Technology start-up that has invented a unique secret crush search engine that can be used for connecting with the ones that we already know and have hidden feelings for. This happens through a unique and innovative search engine and is usable by anyone.

This work was supported by Mitacs through the Mitacs Business Strategy Internship.

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