Chapter 3 - Situations Subchapter: Consenting to sex

Kiss commentary

Toby and Nicole playing Mario Kart sitting on a sofa.



  • This story is about how we can have a lot of conflicting desires and fears, especially in a situation where we’re exploring intimacy with someone for the first time.
  • We see Toby and Nicole cope with these complicated feelings by avoiding direct communication, but that leads to Toby going too far and Nicole having to shut him down.
  • In this scene it all works out fine because Nicole’s into Toby, and Toby is paying close attention to Nicole’s signals, but according to the Field Model Toby could have been more direct with Nicole, told her what he wanted, and respected her right to decide what she wanted to do.


What are the main decisions?

  • Kiss?
  • Squeeze butt?
  • Squeeze boobs?
  • Keep it above the clothes?


Running beneath these smaller decisions is the bigger decision, “Do you want to have sex?” Nicole and Toby never talk about it directly, but it’s running in the background the whole time.


The Field Model diagram for the decision 'Kiss?'; both Toby and Nicole are a Yes.


The Field Model diagram for the decision 'Squeeze your butt?'; Toby is a Yes, Nicole is an I Don't Know.


The Field Model diagram for the decision 'Squeeze your boobs?'; Toby is a Yes, Nicole is a No.


The Field Model diagram for the decision 'Keep it above the clothes?'; both Toby and Nicole are a Yes.


How do they do with Stop Ask Listen?

Nicole and Toby wrestle, then Toby kisses Nicole.


  • When playing the game, Toby and Nicole are completely in sync: chatty and playful.
  • When they start getting more intimate, they both get nervous, so they fall back to non-verbal communication.
  • The problem is then they are trying to guess what each other is thinking, but they don’t actually talk about what they are thinking until Toby goes a step too far.
  • It isn’t Nicole’s responsibility to shut Toby down—he should have checked in before kissing her and before reaching for her breast.
  • But on the upside, when she moves his hand, he reads her signal, and then he checks in verbally.
  • When they do communicate verbally, they communicate clearly and well.
  • So good job everyone!


How do they do with Yes No I Don’t Know?

Nicole and Toby on the couch; Nicole pushing Toby's hand away from her breast.


  • They do pretty well, but again the problem is that Toby takes action before there is clear verbal communication, so the line between “asking” and “acting” is blurred.
  • Basically, Toby is assuming yes-yes agreement on each decision, and taking unilateral action. But this means, strictly speaking, the kiss, butt-squeeze, and boob-squeeze are all line moves.
  • The first two work out okay because Nicole sits with the action for a moment and then decides yes, but the boob-squeeze is a clear no for her.
  • The good news is that, because Toby is happy to follow the rules of the Action Zone, then the moment Nicole wants to wind back, he is supportive and cooperative—so it doesn’t feel that disrespectful, and they negotiate what the next step is and end up in a happy compromise.
  • Ultimately the impact of a line move is determined by the receiver, and in this particular scenario Nicole comes out feeling happy and positive, so no harm done.
  • But it’s also worth thinking about how this could have gone very differently. What if Nicole’s reaction to the very first kiss had been horror or fear? Or if she was angry about the boob squeeze? Or if she’d been too scared or uncomfortable to stop Toby at the boob-squeeze?


What could they have done better?

Toby asking Nicole if she wants to keep going.


  • Even though this all works out for the best, Toby could have avoided putting Nicole in a stressful situation by talking earlier.
    • He could have said, “I want to kiss you.” (Or “Do you want to kiss me?”)
    • He could have said, “I want to touch you.” (Or “Can I touch you?”)
  • You might say, “But that’s going to kill the mood!”
  • But nobody is saying this has to be a long, drawn out discussion.
  • If Nicole really wants to kiss him, she’ll be like, “Hell yeah!”
  • If she has doubts, then yes she might err on the side of saying no—but how is that bad? (So they miss out on a kiss or a feel-up on this occasion; there’ll be other occasions, and it’s more important that no one got hurt.)
  • But there are also ways the conversation can be part of the flirtation, establish some boundaries, and keep the action going in a way that everyone’s comfortable with:
    • “I want to kiss you.” “Interesting.”
    • “Can I kiss you?” “Maybe just once.”
    • “I want to touch you.” “Where do you want to touch me?”
    • “I want to feel your butt.” “Butt’s okay. But just my butt.”
  • If you don’t say openly and directly what you want, you are ultimately just avoiding responsibility. You might think it’s being seductive or confident, because you’re leading with action, but really it’s putting the responsibility for managing your behaviour onto the other person.
  • Being clear and upfront gives the other person power, which is actually far more confident.