OK, so I tell people he’s a man of integrity (true), and he’s smart as hell (true), and he’s calm and strong (true), and he’s tall and good lookin’ (true). But really, it’s because he’s the person (not even just the *man*) in my life who takes consent the most seriously. And that really eases my anxiety.
J is SERIOUS about consent. Serious. And it’s ingrained in his make-up. Not only with sex, but with other, seemingly more minor boundaries other people in my life will cross without hesitation.
For instance, I don’t like taking phone calls, especially when I’m home alone and our son is at school. Every time the phone rings, I have a little mini-panic attack and Anxiety <insert ominous piano music here> forces my brain to *worst case scenario.* That phone call, in my head, is always The Boy has broken his arm at recess; barfed all over the classroom; is running a 112 degree fever and needs to be picked up immediately. The school bus I put him on in the morning has gone missing and there’s radio silence from the substitute bus driver. Some older, bigger, way meaner kid has run him up the flag pole by his shoe laces. But, in reality, it’s almost always my mother, who also knows the ringing phone triggers crippling anxiety that it takes me the remainder of the day, until The Boy is safe at home with me, to get over. She’s never had an anxiety attack, and she thinks I’m making a big deal out of nothing, so she dismisses my repeated, ‘Mom, please just text me and don’t call here during the school day.’ J always texts. And if he has a lot to say (rare), he texts, ‘Going to call you,’ then calls.
And I’m *really* socially anxious. I have to work up to social events, and I don’t really like spur of the moment plans. I especially don’t appreciate coercion to attend them.
Me: I don’t want to go to <some event later the same day/right now, because I’m not prepared for it>.
Random Friend: Oh, come ON. You wanna GO…
No…I really don’t. J never pushes me, or even *makes* spur of the moment plans.
Or, I’ll state something I’m feeling, and someone else in my life will decide I don’t really feel that way, and cross my line in the sand anyway.
Me: I’m full. No more dessert.
Mom: You have room for one more brownie. <Places another brownie on my dessert plate.>
I relayed a story to a friend recently about J helping out a stranger with a dead car battery in a parking lot.
Me: …and he asks, ‘Do you need some help?’…
Friend, interrupting me: ‘You mean he *asked for consent to help them!?*
Me: Um…yeah, I guess. Not everybody wants help or trusts help, so he asked.
I’d never thought about it that way, but that IS what he did. J is looked to for answers and leadership often in a lot of areas of his life. He helps as many people as he can, and always steps in when he’s *asked* for help, but when he sees the need and isn’t asked, he’ll always get consent before stepping in.
J taking consent so seriously is really important to me. I have a long history of touch sensitivity, and (unfortunately, like many women) I’ve been groped and kissed without permission, and those instances made me pretty wary of affectionate touch. I went on every first date in adulthood with my guard all the way up, ready to block unwanted advances. J waited for overt, clear consent before touching me at all. As much as he is a man of integrity, and smart as hell, and calm and strong, and tall and good lookin’…I know other men with those qualities (although admittedly…at least the ‘smart’ part…to a lesser degree). His careful consideration of consent and self-sovereignty, even with limits on phone calls and social events and dessert amounts and needing help, is really what sets him apart from other people. And I fall for that guy again every day.
(Sweet, amazing artwork by Puuung.)