Explicit Consent in Writing


#1

So I was playing through Choice of the Deathless again, and one of the things I noticed is that Ashleigh (and I assume the other ROs) explicitly asks to “kiss you, and more” during their major romance event. And I was thinking about how the act of asking made me much more blasé about choosing the options that accepted, whereas a spontaneous kiss would have definitely made me much more uncomfortable.

I know that in real life, I’m strongly uncomfortable with people initiating physical contact with me, even just hugs and things, but if they ask first, I’m usually fine with it. For me, this is because asking establishes boundaries and implies that the other person is willing to respect your boundaries, which can move an interaction from “NOPE” to “sure”.

So, how does the request for/statement of explicit consent impact your thoughts on/interpretation of a situation, specifically in fiction and IF?

I know there are instances where the MC is explicitly asked for consent (CoD, Guenevere), but are there games where the MC asks before initiating anything with an RO?


#2

After reading your thoughts on it, I think it’s all about preference. In both RL and in fiction, I really don’t mind the consent part. Spontaneous kisses are actually one of my favorite. I don’t know, just always asking me if you can kiss me or hug me sets me off - the opposite of you it seems lol. If someone always asked for my permission first then it would never happen.

I’m not saying that I don’t have boundaries or anything, if I say no then respect it. Like if someone suddenly kisses me, then I’ll just break it and give them that ‘wth’ look. But I don’t seem to care about explicit consent to much.


#3

Hm, yeah, I can understand how spontaneity could be desirable or constant questioning could become tiresome. I imagine that if I ever got tired of that, I might tell the person that they can do x without asking from now on, or have a conversation at some point to establish boundaries ahead of time, to reduce the amount of questions before each such interaction.


#4

Personally I feel like having an RO ask for consent, verbally (like Wakefield) or nonverbally (leaning in to ask for a kiss and waiting for the other to react, for example), could a lot add to whatever tone you’d like to give to the scene or the character. I played the other two romances in Deathless and I don’t totally remember how they went but I don’t think they had a line of dialogue like Wakefield’s. Also, the first time I played Deathless, I romanced Wakefield but had a lower relationship percent (I think below 60%?) so instead of them asking that, it was my MC who had the choice to ask and I think it was that way for the rest of the romances in the game too

I’m also like you where irl I don’t like physical contact without being asked first unless maybe I’m really comfortable with the person


#5

The second Deathless has some good relationship talks as well, at least in the Verity romance path. I know there’s an optional sex scene early on, and it’s been a while since I played it so I can’t remember exactly how it begins, but since Verity’s romance starts with a “casual” sex affair there’s a somewhat long discussion before beginning it wherein she clearly states what she’s comfortable with and lets the MC determine whether they consent to that or not.

In Evertree Inn, there is a romance path where the MC can directly ask a character whether they can kiss. There might also be the option just to kiss them, I can’t quite remember, but you can directly ask. Also, Psy High has a character who confesses their feelings to the MC, and while it isn’t phrased as a question they do end it with “I’d like to kiss you now”, similar to Wakefield.

I feel like most games (at least the ones I’ve played) usually include some flirting/close contact/blushing and smiling and whatnot/whatever the author uses to communicate the mutual feelings between the MC and the RO they’re pursuing, so there’s a sort of implied consent when whatever happens happens? I’m trying to remember how all the romances I’ve played start.


#6

Oh, yeah, I’d forgotten about City’s Thirst.

Psy High I never played more than once since it’s not really aroace-friendly (when it asks you who you like and you pick the option that seems to be an aroace option, the game’s like, nope, just kidding, you have to choose to like at least one of them), so I don’t remember that scene.

And that’s a good point; in IF, there’s a certain level of implied consent, since you usually know when you’re progressing down a romance route, since the game often asks you how you think of the other character, but at the same time, that runs into the problem of assuming escalation of touch, where because one kind of thing is okay, everything else is too–so a romantic ace might be okay with kissing, but not with sex, for example, but the game will see acceptance of kissing as acceptance of sex as well. (This is in response to the idea that “whatever happens happens”)


#7

Oh of course, I should’ve clarified–I absolutely do not think that just because the MC has a crush on another character it means they should automatically be okay with any kind of touching, just that within the sort of language of the storytelling in these games, that’s usually how the formula goes. Ideally, even if it isn’t within dialogue with the character you’re romancing, every game (or at least every game that has implied sex scenes, since some don’t really progress past kissing within the text, or keep it really vague how much actually happens and it’s pretty much up to the player) would let the player make it clear what their MC’s boundaries are.

That’s sort of another issue, or maybe a branch off this one, where “pushing away” usually means “uninterested”–sometimes a character just needs a little more physical space at that moment, and it doesn’t necessarily mean the character doesn’t want the relationship to progress more, emotionally or physically. To some extent that might just be a limitation of the medium, though, since writers can’t really account for literally every possible response in every situation.

But that’s a shame about Psy High not including that–it’s just a little ways in, with Andrew/Alison (the lifelong childhood friend) confessing to you. Cute scene I thought, but yeah, never gonna say people should play a game if it mishandles something important like that.


#8

I don’t have a problem with a npc not asking my consent for kissing me or whatever. But I am a very physical person in my contact with others in RL (not necessarily in romantic or sexual context, I am talking about day to day life and with friends), as long as I get the choice to decide what to do next.

I guess that from a CoG perspective, the author should be given the freedom to write the scene however he wants. Does the npc’s personality makes him more adept of asking before kissing, or just going for it? That kind of questions should be answered by the author. We should be given the choice of how to react to the situation.

But then again, that is just my opinion on the matter.


#9

As a person who is not a very physical person in real life, I prefer being asked and/or hinted at before any touching. I just really, really don’t like having my personal space invaded. And I don’t like people who does so. I avoid them like the plague.

In games it varies a bit more. Depending on both the character I am playing, the other character involved, the way it is written and the situation. (If the MC is in a fantastical situation I forgive a lot more.) But I definitely think the writer should find a way to ask the first time it happens. (I also prefer that kisses doesn’t lead to sex, but that is a battle I know I am losing.)


#10

I find consent in fiction very important, and very sexy. I always try to work in a “default path” where the romance is respectful and well-discussed, or for less articulate characters, a way for the MC to insist on slowing things down and talking them out. But because different people have different ways of communicating, I try to work in a few different options.

E.g., one might be, “let’s talk about this while maintaining the passion of the moment”, so I can show how asking for a kiss can still be sexy. Another approach might be a subtler testing of whether their understanding of unspoken consent is correct, so I can show how consent can be negotiated without words. The third option is usually something more tailored to their specific dynamic, which can be determined more exactly if you have asked the player about themselves and their approach to relationships.

It’s easier to include consent if you’re writing non-interactive fiction. In that case it’s a simple formula between characters; desire, connection, questioning: “Are you sure? What do you want to do?” and proceed. That’s also pretty much the format for reality. The trouble comes in choice-based games when people want an analogue for seduction - like sarcasm, it involves a sort of mind-reading to tell from just words whether that has been accomplished. If you presume the wrong way, the scene is ruined.


#11

Hey, I’ve been reading a little bit of this thread and I would like to ask your opinions about something I wrote in a story some time ago.

Imagine this scenario, a girl is tied up and a boy comes to rescue her. When he arrives, she ask him to untie her but before doing that, he kisses her. This catches her off guard, and then she points out that it’s not ok to kiss her while she is tied up. The boy starts feeling a little bit embarrassed so he apologizes and unties her. Then she kisses him and says “Now, that’s a lot better”.

Both characters expressed their mutual feelings for each other in a previous scene, but this is the first time they kiss. The boy is usually shy and socially awkward, so he was trying to act more confident and romantic kissing her, so it’s supposed to be a little bit comedic when she points out that it’s not ok.

But above all, I wanted to make the scene feel romantic, and I’m afraid it could turn out too uncomfortable. So what do you think? Is it ok or should I replace it for something more… consensual?


#12

That scene seems really uncomfortable to me, @MockTurtle. It doesn’t seem romantic at all. He’s taking advantage of her vulnerable, tied up state, kissing her when she can do nothing about it, particularly since it’s their first kiss.

As he moves in for a kiss she should be yelling “what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Why isn’t his first priority to untie her?

I think there’s far better ways to make their first kiss more comedic.


#13

Well that’s more or less the way she reacts. And it’s not that it isn’t his priority to untie her, the thing is that while she is more rational and thinks before acting, he’s more impulsive and doesn’t think things through before acting.


#14

Yeah, but then she rewards him with a kiss. I think, if you removed the second kiss, so that she doesn’t reward him for violating her boundaries while tied up it’d be less of an issue. Give them a chance to get out of there, and then… but only once she’s told him it’s totally not ok.

But then that’s just my thoughts.


#15

Yeah, probably that would work better. The scene was supposed to be a little awkward, but I didn’t want to make it look like I was condoning his behaviour.


#16

To me, that one looks more comedic than romantic.
But since you said you want to make it more romantic, I think @FairyGodfeather’s comment got a point.


#17

Well, not really.
The second kiss was the romantic part, the first was meant to be more comedic. And maybe romantic wasn’t the right word, what I wanted to say was more like not-creepy.


#18

You could do something about the same, but instead of the issue being that she’s tied up, the issue is that they’re still in whatever place he had to rescue her from?

He unties her, he kisses her, “why aren’t we escaping right now,” they get out, she kisses him?

Then you can keep the same idea of the boy getting swept up in feelings and the girl poking fun at him but lose the consent issue


#19

Yes that could work too.

I also thought that he could only attempt to kiss her, but before he does it she would stop him saying “What are you doing?”.


#20

My issue is that regardless of how it’s handled later on, that would really sour the character for me. I get what you say when you’re saying he’s awkward and shy and just trying to use a burst of confidence, but he’s still taking advantage of (and somewhat disregarding the safety of) a girl he purports to have feelings for, and even if they have acknowledged mutual feelings, as far as I know she hasn’t consented yet to kissing him (or they would have done it already, I assume?) and starting a romantic relationship with such a breach of bodily autonomy just feels wrong. If he only gets the confidence to kiss her (without asking if she wants it) when she’s completely physically unable to stop him, it says some bad things about the character

But, if he unties her first, it’s more clear that her freedom was the important thing, and could feel more like “he’s very relieved that she’s okay and safe” and some of the comedy can come from “she isn’t safe yet you haven’t gotten that far”