When I was in New York last month, I sat down for a chat with a friend of a friend who’s a professor of Human Sexuality. Hunter Kincaid is an visiting lecturer at Hunter College and an adjunct professor at Pratt University, and we met up to muse over about how anal sex is like homeschooling, the ethics of asking consent before you cry on a first date, and how the future of heterosexual marriage is all about gay marriage.
Ariel: Can we talk about consent? A lot of us are hyper aware of consent around physical acts, like, “Oh I’m doing this. Is that okay? Do you like this? Do you like that? Are you okay with me doing this? Is that too hard?” Last night on a first date, I got into an interesting discussion about crying during sex and whether that’s something you should seek consent for.
…As in, “I’m about to lay a major emotional expression on you, are you down with this?” You’re not gonna get arrested for sexual assault if you non-consensually cry on someone during a hook-up, but in terms of being really aware of what you’re asking of someone, do you think consent around crying is something that matters? When it gets outside of physical into emotional power intimacy levels, is there such a thing as seeking too much consent?
Hunter: With a scenario like that, especially for some people, they have emotional reactions come about before they can even give a warning — so no one ever needs consent for an emotional reaction. You can just witness the person’s emotional reaction. However, there are people who have a pattern of knowing when they might start crying during sex, and I guess it’s helpful to give someone a heads up of, “Hey, just to let you know. This isn’t just you. I do this sometimes. It’s about to happen.”
Do you think that you only feel that way because of how we’re socialized as men, that a man would need that kind of heads up? Because I’m wondering about two women in bed — they probably wouldn’t even think about the need to warn someone about that happening.
Ariel: Good point. “Girls, it’s fine! Bring the tears, bring the tears!”
Hunter: Also, I’m wondering if straight men might almost expect crying from a partner — way more than gay men would. As a gay man, I’m trying to think like what would happen if a man just started crying in bed with me. I want people to tear up when the sex is so good, but I know a lot of gay guys that would probably freak out.
I feel like you would never need to ask for consent to make yourself vulnerable. I feel like crying is something that makes you vulnerable, not someone else. Becoming vulnerable is just part of exchanging intimacy. You become vulnerable in the hopes that someone else becomes vulnerable too, and then the intimacy’s gonna go forward.
Now, if it was part of your sexual fetish to make someone else cry, I feel like then you’d have to ask for permission. But I guess I view it as, if you’re the one that’s crying, you don’t really need seek permission to be vulnerable in front of someone.
Ariel: Good point. My assumption that the other person feels somehow responsible is probably my own issue — because they’re not necessarily beholden to do anything.
Hunter: They’re not responsible. They’re just human. Humans respond to emotions through their amygdala in the same way as if you’re having sex. It’s all an intimate act — and that’s all part of exchanging intimacy.
Join us for Part 3 of this series tomorrow, where Hunter and I explore look at what the future of het marriage might look like (spoiler: it’s TOTALLY GAY)