Consent Is Like Pizza
First base. Second Base. Third Base…. Score? Do I win? The analogy that sex is like baseball has been around for quite some time, with the various bases indicating different sexual acts. A “home run” is considered vaginal intercourse, typically resulting in orgasm (at least for the guy). We also use metaphors like “pitcher” or “catcher” to refer to the giving or receiving of a sexual act. If you “strike out,” you don’t have any sexual activity. There are several problems with comparing sex to baseball. First, its emphasis on “scoring” is problematic. In baseball you want to win. A home run is the ultimate success. By comparing this to sex, it creates a mindset in our culture that the pinnacle of sexual interactions is intercourse, and that’s a dangerous mindset. By believing that intercourse is the end-all be-all goal, performance anxiety, inadequate arousal, and sexual boredom can result. Additionally, the baseball analogy is inadequate because it indicates that sexual interactions are a linear process. That is, after first base, you move to second, then third, etc. It doesn’t leave room for backtracking or changing minds. Baseball games also occur on a schedule. If it’s a game night, you’re expected to show up and play. Before each game, there isn’t a discussion about the rules of the game, what might happen after the game, or how the game could be good or bad for us. Everyone knows the rules and what’s going to happen already, so you just take positions and play the game. Along similar lines, in baseball you’re playing against someone. If we’re sticking to the analogy, does that mean we’re “against” our partner? Where does the baseball comparison leave room for the partner’s input? Instead of comparing sex to baseball, consent should be better understood – and taught – to be like ordering pizza, an idea introduced by educator Al Vernacchio. How do you decide to order a pizza one night? There’s an internal cue, like hunger or a craving for pizza, that sparks the decision. Inevitably, there’s going to be a discussion about what toppings you and your partner each want on the pizza. Think of the toppings like different sexual acts. Some days you might want to be adventurous with your pizza toppings, some days you might want the usual. There are millions of different pizza topping variations available, and none of them are wrong. In baseball, you can’t hit the ball and run to right field. You also can’t hang out on first base forever. There are specific rules that must be followed instead of letting the players decide what happens next. Baseball also requires a specific skill set to play. Not everyone can play baseball, but everyone can eat pizza, if they want. Perhaps more importantly, there is always a discussion between partners about what toppings to have on their pizza. Just because one partner wanted pineapple and ham last time you ordered pizza, doesn’t mean they want it again. That would be silly to assume your partner’s pizza order never changes throughout life. Some days you may be craving pepperoni and sausage, other days you just might want cheese. No one questions a changing pizza order. Finally, once the pizza is delivered, if your partner decides they aren’t hungry anymore, you wouldn’t force them to eat the pizza. You would put the leftovers away and save it for a different day. You can still eat your half of the pizza by yourself, of course. But you wouldn’t guilt or pressure your partner into eating if they weren’t hungry. Similarly, you stop eating pizza when you and your partner are satisfied. It’s time to put the baseball analogy to rest. Sexual consent seems like a very simple idea on the surface, but can be complicated. Ultimately, a yes is only a yes when there’s the freedom to say no. The way we teach our children about consent – at home and at school – is important. We must start teaching our children that consent is a requirement, not an option. The pizza analogy is easy to comprehend and communicate; it should be a principal component of sex education. After all, who doesn’t like pizza?