You Don't Want Just Enthusiastic Consent. You Also Want Mexican Dinner Consent.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 10.854% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Here’s a fun fact that will teach you something valuable about consent: I only want to eat Mexican food once a year or so. I’m not opposed to Mexican – but if you ask me what I want to eat, I’ll suggest  burgers, or Thai food, or Chinese, or sushi, or one of a hundred other foods before I get around to burritos.
Yet my wife loves herself some Mexican food, and so periodically she asks me if we could get Chipotle tonight.
And here’s the consent issue:
When I agree, my “yes” could by no means be construed as “enthusiastic consent.” I pause. I ponder. And when I eventually comply with her flautinian wishes, it’s often more of a resigned shrug than anything else.
Yet I do agree, for any number of reasons:

  • It’ll make her happy;
  • It’s not like I’m actively against it, it just wasn’t my first choice of Things To Do This Evening;
  • I’ll probably be more enthusiastic about this once we start.

Now, the big trick is realizing that some nights, this is also how we have sex. Both of us. Often, one of us is more raring to go than the other, and the not-quite-in-sexytimes-mode partner gives a Mexican Dinner Consent of “…all right.”
If the Rules Of Consent were to be invoked, this would be a travesty. All consent should be enthusiastic! You should not just agree, but be vibrating with untrammeled ardor, pumping your fist as you cry YES to the world!
Yet the secret is, a relationship sustained entirely on enthusiastic consent is often a small and selfish one.
Good long-term relationships have their share of Mexican Dinner Consent.
Don’t get me wrong – enthusiastic consent is, and should be, the default behavior when dealing with new partners and/or new situations. If I ask my wife, “Hey, could you eat a doughnut off my dick?” and she’s like “….uh, I guess,” then I’m gonna stop and wait until she’s raring to go vis-a-vis the whole donut-on-a-dong situation.
Because the goal of “enthusiastic consent” is a marvelous one that basically says, “If you’re not sure about this person, don’t risk pushing them into new places they might not like.” Peer pressure from comparatively new people can pressure folks into doing things they don’t enjoy – and while yes, you can letter-of-the-law yourself into justifying the experience with “THEY SAID YES KEEPER KEEPSIES NO TAKEBACKS,” the truth is that someone just did something they didn’t enjoy with you. Which, if your goal is to provide pleasurable experiences for your partner, should be a drawback.
(Hint: If your goal is not to provide pleasurable experiences for your partner, people should not fucking date you.)
But that “enthusiastic consent” model often forgets that mature relationships often involve doing things you’re not all “WHEE YAY” about. Mature relationships involve boring tasks with well-known consequences like cleaning the bathtub and paying the bills and doing your taxes, and if you wait until you’re all like, “I cannot WAIT to clean out that cat box!”, then you’re going to have some pretty malodorous apartments.
Sometimes, you don’t do stuff because it’s going to fill you brimming with joy. You do it because you know it’ll make your partner happier than the effort the act will cost you.
At which point people go, “…are you comparing cleaning the bathtub to having wild, crazy, over-the-top sex?!? WHAT SORT OF SHITTY SEX LIFE DO YOU HAVE, ANYWAY?” And the answer is that yeah, my wife and I have wild, crazy, over-the-top sex too, and those nights are fucking awesome and they’re filled with fire and floggers and all the craaaazy stuff anyone would want in a good sexy relationship. Those are the nights where we’re both equally driven, and they’re frequent, and they’re awesome.
But we also have nights where one of us is a little tired, or we were planning to get some work done, and the other asks, “…so you wanna?”
And the other agrees, for any number of reasons including:

  • It’ll make my partner happy;
  • It’s not like I’m actively against it, it just wasn’t my first choice of Things To Do This Evening;
  • I’ll probably be more enthusiastic about this once we start.

And the truth is, what often happens with Mexican Dinner Consent is a moment where we have more intimacy than if we waited exclusively for “FUCK YEAH LET’S DOOOOOO THIS,” and we’ve opened up an experience to make our partner happy, and that lukewarm consent has made both of our lives better because we don’t have to wait for both of our Sexytime Gauges to reach MAXIMUM INTENSITY before one person’s needs can be satisfied.
Sometimes, my wife asks if I want to go to the museum, and I wasn’t really planning on seeing sculptures this afternoon, but I give her Mexican Dinner consent. Sometimes I ask if she wants to see a movie with me, and it’s not a movie she’d see on her own, but… Mexican Dinner consent. And sometimes she wants to get Mexican, and I wasn’t really up for it but I realize how much happier Mexican dinner will make her, and so… it’s Mexican Dinner night.
And sometimes we want sex. Sometimes that’s Mexican Dinner Consent. But not on a night when we’ve actually had Mexican Dinner, because goddamn, people, how does anyone move when you’re stuffed full of refried beans and tortillas?
(AN EDIT FOR CLARITY: It’s good to remember the difference between “a request” and “a demand.” In my personal terminology, a request can be freely turned down; a demand has consequences for rejection.
(All the above examples are requests – if my wife was going to get angry at me because I didn’t feel like having Mexican tonight, well, I probably wouldn’t advise going along with her just to keep the peace. There is a VERY LARGE distinction between “Do it or they’ll get mad” and “Do it because it’ll make their life better, and it’s not something you’re drastically opposed to.”)


    Oct 5, 2016

    Desire and response are not interdependent.

  2. Leslie
    Oct 6, 2016

    Gorgeous. Divorced after 17 years of marriage and feeling a relationship of 1 1/2 years cooling down on the BDSM front, I’ve been struggling with how to approach our Mexican nights. An unsure what’s relationship/loving and being comfortable with each other/unmet needs. Thank you, sincerely <3.


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