The word “consent” can have a pretty heavy vibe to it, right? While consent is super important, it doesn’t have to be a daunting or complicated thing. Take it from Erin Tillman, an inclusive dating empowerment coach and author of The Consent Guidebook.
Erin joined me on Girl Boner Radio to explore the ins and outs of consent, including good versus bad examples in movies and TV, common myths and ways to integrate consent practices into your life in fun and practical ways that benefit everyone. We also discussed violent sex fantasies for a listener, with the help of New York City sex and relationship therapist, Dr. Megan Fleming. We may also have sung a little!
August: Consent is a huge conversation right now and I think it can be really intimidating for a lot of people. I love that your book has fun cartoons and it’s really digestible. What inspired you to write this book now?
Erin: It was very intentional to make the book easily digestible because it is a heavy topic and I think we all have a little fatigue around consent, #meetoo, all the things — fatigue meaning, it’s still important. I’m not quitting. I’m just beginning to talk about this stuff and educate people around it. But it’s a lot. We need self-care, to take time to process and digest these things, but also have time for fun, too.
So I wanted this book to be a mixture of these things. I wanted it to be informative, but also fun. I started writing this book probably around two years ago. I’ve been a dating coach for 10 years in Los Angeles. Things would come up in clients, especially cisgender male clients: “I don’t know…I can’t tell if she’s really interested. Do I kiss her goodnight or not?”And let’s go ahead and say, with pussy-grabbing and all of that, it catapulted this conversation into the mainstream.
August: If we have to have a bright side from all of the T-rump-ness, I’m really grateful for that. I’m not going to give our current administration credit, but it has been a catalyst.
August: It’s easy to think of consent as “yes” or “no,” and specifically within sex or intercourse, but it’s so much broader than that. How do you define consent?
Erin: There are so many different definitions of consent—I have a couple in the book—but to me, in layman’s terms, consent is an agreed upon decision between two parties on what interaction they’re going to have. It’s as basic as that… On another show recently, I was talking about, why do we make the assumption that if someone starts kissing that immediately means they’re going to want to have intercourse?
August: Grey’s Anatomy. Just kidding! But if you look at culture, so many shows shows do that. I understand it to a degree, because if you actually took the time to put a full sex scene in a TV show, it could be the whole TV show… It’s kiss, kiss, bang bang, smooch, smooch, breakfast.
Erin: Yes. Or kick them to the curb, what have you, depending on the TV show you’re watching.
August: I love Grey’s Anatomy, by the way—that wasn’t a cut. I just find it interesting that if there’s a kiss, there’s going to be sex.
Erin: Exactly. I have a real life example of this. I went on a date with a super cute guy… We’re having drinks. I like to tell people straight up, “You should know I’m a dating coach and I’m writing a book about #metoo and consent.” If those are deal-breakers, it’s a good weeding out process.
August: Are some guys bothered by it?
Erin: I’ve never had anyone immediately get up and leave, but sometimes there won’t be a followup date. There’s always respect: “It’s amazing you’re doing that,” that kind of reaction. Long story short, though, over drinks with this guy, I told him I’m writing a book about consent and—I appreciate his honesty—he says, “I’ve got to be honest, though. I don’t understand why a woman would invite a man to her place and not have sex with him.”
So I let that marinate then said, “Okay, so you’re saying that if a woman invites you to their place, there has to be some sort of sex. You can’t just go upstairs and make out or cuddle a little bit?”
August: Or have a sandwich…?
Erin: A sandwich, coffee, exactly. He said, “It’s what my grandmother taught me.” There’s a generational thing in my estimation. There are a lot of “rules” that we follow that are sort of old school and not current.
What are those rules? Find out more in the episode. And if you read and appreciate Erin’s book, The Consent Guidebook, don’t forget to leave a review!