(TW, some of the links reference sexual assault and rape culture)
The Performance Model of sex and enthusiastic consent are both sexual models I have followed with my most recent sexual partners. It’s a model they didn’t teach me in school, one I had to learn on my own. Which sucks. Because the essence of these two models is respecting boundaries, something no one ever bothered to tell me was a requirement for a healthy sexual relationship.
In the commodity model of sex, sex acts as a reward or payment for a service. Because sex is a reward, whoever did the favor (usually the man, in the cultural stereotype) is allowed to feel entitled to sex, and sometimes push for it.
The performance model of sex is about two partners working together to have a mutually enjoyable experience, while the enthusiastic consent model of sex is all about only doing something if both parties are into it (it’s the difference between, “Sure,” and “Yes! Yes! Oh God! Yes!“). In these models, there is no room for pushing or testing boundaries.
When I was in high school, I wasn’t aware of these terms. But I did sense a difference between the men who viewed sex as a commodity and those who viewed it as a mutual action. I found that the former group were pushy and aggressively tested my boundaries. The latter only did things we both wanted to do. The result? Contrary to those who hate enthusiastic consent, the men who pushed my boundaries never failed to kill the mood. This is because I would grow nervous. I verbally set boundaries very clearly, and I was uncomfortable when I was ignored. This led me to setting really strict boundaries, such as no making out. But I did it because I expected boys to resist my boundaries. If I let them make out with me, what would they push for next? That makes for an unhealthy dynamic.
As an adult, I only make time for men who follow some form of enthusiastic consent. You know why? Because it allows me to be more sexually adventurous. Yeah, that’s something I bet a lot of people don’t think about. With a non-enthusiasm based sex model, my pleasure didn’t count. It didn’t matter if I enjoyed it or not, as long as the man got what he wanted (what he was “owed” for buying my movie ticket, or dinner, etc). In contrast, an enthusiasm based model is one based on mutual pleasure. Both parties can’t be pleasured if one feels violated. That means boundaries are always respected.
Now that I have a better understanding of sexuality and my own sexual preferences, I only select partners who respect my boundaries. This allows me to set clear limits that I wont have to worry about defending. This frees up my mind from a lot of anxiety and allows me to focus on… you know, having fun.
And, because enthusiastic consent is a non-heteronormative model, it’s applicable to both genders and same sex pairings. Which means that it’s not just my job to act as sexual gatekeeper, the men can set their own boundaries too Men also have the right to feel violated or betrayed if a woman or man ignores their boundaries, something the commodity model of sex ignores because it presumes all men want sex as the end goal.
When people talk about consent, they rightfully focus on getting consent. But enthusiastic consent isn’t just about ensuring your partner wants sex, it’s about making sex even better for both parties.