It’s the stuff of relationship folklore (f**klore?). You’re naked, you’re getting it on, it’s going well, and then you feel a poke <there*>*clue: not your vagina.
First thought: hmm, isn’t he a bit further south than usual?
So you do a little shuffle in order to redirect up the metaphorical missile that seems to be veering off course. And then it comes again – like the sound of a determined wasp you thought you’d brushed away. And this time you’re pretty sure it’s after the goods.
At which point you might think any one of these thoughts: Run, become a nun, has he wanted to do this for the entire three weeks/months/years/decades we’ve been together, WTF this isn’t cool? Or, perhaps ooh, that feels like fun.
Earlier this month, cult US TV comedy, The Mindy Project, aired an episode in which Mindy’s boyfriend Danny attempts this ‘slip’. While most fans laughed along with Mindy’s sense of surprise, some viewers saw it as an act of violation, with one saying they felt “very disappointed with the way it addressed consent”.
And this is what bummed me out.
The reason why has absolutely nothing to do with whether someone wants to have anal sex every night, only on birthdays or never at all. In fact, let’s forget the whole rear aspect and stick with the context, which is that Mindy and Danny are in a committed, grown-up, safe relationship. They were friends for two seasons before they actually became a couple. Point being, there’s a lot of mutual respect between them.
But like any other couple on the planet, when it comes to working out what their partner likes in bed – and, indeed, what they themselves like in bed – they’re winging it.
From our very first kiss, sexual activity is a marathon of trials and errors and slips: Tongue in or out when making out? What exact region should be included in the parameters of a hand-job? Should balls ever be tugged – or is that an urban myth that gets men screaming domestic abuse? Do I even like receiving oral sex?
Sex would be a hell of a lot easier if it came with a manual like the washing machine, so you know for sure that fabric softener always goes in the middle hole and silks are never, ever, ever allowed.
But the blessing of having no manual is the wonderful, inventive (and, yes, occasionally awkward) resource that is creativity. Danny isn’t attempting to initiate anal sex as an act of violation or power – he stops the instant he realises Mindy isn’t keen – he’s simply nudging the boundaries of a 100% trustworthy relationship to find something they both might potentially like.
Should he have slipped in the ‘Do you fancy it?’ question before he tried his ‘slip’? Absolutely. Talking about sex, like all relationship communication – from ‘Do you want children?’ to ‘How do you feel about stinky cheese?’ – is essential.
BUT – and it’s this but, not the other butt, that’s important here – we’re not talking.
We announce that we get engaged by changing our Facebook status, break-ups are made public by cropping someone out of an Instagram picture, we cancel arrangements with a last-minute WhatsApp and we end nights out by doing a vanishing act. And if we’re shying away from talking face-to-face about non-naked stuff, we’re unlikely to bring up the possibility of performing anal sex over dinner.
So, if initiating a sex talk is harder than initiating sex, I don’t think we can blame a partner for the odd slip, or if we choose to perform a slip ourselves – whether that’s tiptoeing towards a different location, position or technique. Because the only thing a slip actually forces you to do is to talk. And talking, confidently and honestly, about what you like/might like/no way in hell would ever like in bed is the best thing that can ever happen to your love life.