Consent is Sexy Meme

This actually started with Beth Bernobich, and has been picked up by other writers such as N.K. Jemisin and Martha Wells.

The idea is that writers should show a scene where their characters clearly consent before they become involved in sex. (ETA: The whole idea being that including an actual act of CONSENT doesn’t break the mood…it can still be sexy.)

Now, since I’m closer to the Romance side of the spectrum, this is an important issue for me. I don’t think writers should show sex happening without that, because I feel it sets a bad example, particularly when it promulgates the idea that “No really means yes”…something we often see in ‘rapey’ romance fiction. ((Those authors might argue that the reader knows the difference between fantasy and reality, but I figure if just one susceptible person considers a “no means yes” scene ‘real’, then they’re likely to treat others that way. Personally…just ick.))

So joining in: Here’s a scene from “Transformation”, the Russian novella I’ve been tinkering with. Irina is a wealthy widow who’s become enamored of a mysterious man who works in the aviary at her family’s dacha.

Irina tucked her wrapper closer about her and peered across the garden toward the aviary. Under the light of the full moon, the path was easy to see. She only hoped that her father wasn’t awake and peering out his window. Or Varvara, who would be scandalized.

Her mind was made up, though, so she dashed down to the pathway and sped along the paths, painfully aware of how loud the gravel sounded under her feet. She used the key to open the aviary door and stepped inside. The moonlight filtered through the panes of the dome, changing the space to a forest almost as magical as the dream she’d inhabited the night before. The birds must have all flown, for none cried out at her trespassing in their place. When she reached the door that led to Evgeny’s small apartment, she stood outside, frozen in indecision. What if he laughed at her? What if he didn’t want her?

She closed her eyes and turned the latch anyway. The door opened silently inward, allowing the moonlight in to bathe the inhabitant of the narrow bed with a soft light. Evgeny lay with a rumpled woolen blanket pushed down to his hips. He was naked, as he’d been the first time she’d seen him, but now she could see his left side clearly, the arm cut away just below the shoulder.

It wasn’t bandaged, as she’d first assumed. It was covered with feathers.

White feathers crept almost up to his neck on that side in a neat vee and softened the edges of the stump of his arm. It was impossible. Her breath stilled, Irina leaned down and brushed the feathers lightly, just to be certain.

Evgeny’s eyes opened wide, and he jerked away. His right hand reached up to cover that shoulder, as if he could hide it from her view. “What are you doing here?”

Irina didn’t know how to answer that. Or rather, she did, but it would be unladylike to admit she’d come here to convince him to be her lover. Very unladylike.

His eyes lowered and he shifted into a sitting position, drawing the blanket over his lap while she stared at him. His right hand lifted to hide his shoulder again, but he dropped it to his lap instead. “Does it repulse you?”

That question made her tension ease. She sat down at his left side and touched his feathered shoulder lightly. “No, it doesn’t. Is this why your father had your arm cut off? Because you had…feathers? Is that what your curse was?”

“It’s a long story.” He stayed silent a moment, his eyes downcast, and then he asked, “If…”

His attention had drifted to the buttons at the neck of her wrapper, and Irina recalled that she hadn’t come out here to discuss his curse. “If?”

His eyes rose to meet hers. “If I were able to convince the priest, would you consider marrying me?”

Irina felt her heart go still in her chest, as if it was too startled to beat. When her voice escaped from her throat, it came out a bare whisper. “Yes, I would.”

He shifted to face her directly. “Even though I have no name and no money? Even though I am a farmworker? Even though I carry this curse?”

“None of those matter to me.” She touched his cheek and let her fingers drift to his lips. “I want you as you are.”

He smiled. “Even with the feathers?”

To that she merely rose and shut the door, leaving the two of them in near darkness. “Oh, it’s dark in here,” she said, as if that were a surprise.

His hand found hers unerringly anyway, and he tugged her back toward the bed which squeaked when she sat again. “Are you sure of this?” he asked.

“Yes.” When his fingers touched the neck of her wrapper and began unbuttoning it, she was startled by his dexterity. “You’re good at that.”

He laughed in the darkness. “Unbuttoning them is easy. But it would take me hours to refasten them, and they’d probably end up mismatched.”

It was her turn to laugh. She unfastened the hooks at the waist and once he’d unbuttoned enough buttons she pulled away to push her wrapper over her hips and let it fall to the floor.

There. He gets a clear ‘yes’ from her (on both matters). This story also has at least one clear instance of her telling another man ‘no’, and his backing down–because he’s not a jerk. While this is a fairy tale story, (and as we all know, fairy tales are full of rape) I don’t have to follow that trend.

(This isn’t even a first draft yet, and clearly needs a lot of work.)

2 thoughts on “Consent is Sexy Meme

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