The Sex-Positive Playlist

Here are the perfect tracks for your consensual sheet soiree.
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Name a song that in moments before a sexual encounter, seeks consent and sets the mood!

*This is the part when you think real hard or stare at me blankly before answering… if you can actually answer.*

Don’t worry, I’m not judging. We can agree that it’d be easier to name songs that discuss sex every way but consensually. But fret not! The next time you struggle to think of and enjoy music that celebrates sexual consent, you’ll have my hand-picked soundtrack of songs that not only emphasize permission, boundary-setting, and respect, but set the mood as well.

Now some men retort that asking permission kills the mood. Let me get them together real quick…

Eighty-five percent of communication is non-verbal, and this fact helps us understand the ways in which we communicate without actually speaking. Do I think men who are “concerned about killing the mood” are referencing this fact? No! I’m mentioning it, however, to make a clear delineation of the one time for which non-verbal communication means absolutely nothing: sex! Sex is sex only if it is preceded by verbal, sober consent. Anything else (and I mean literally anything else) is not sex, because it is rape. As true as it is that there are gray areas in life, this is the one thing that is very, very black and white. Gray areas get no love here (pun intended)!

If anything, this retort makes a couple of things clear:

  • This thinking is scary because it perpetuates rape culture, regardless of how unaware the person who makes this statement may be in their level of complicity. The practice of culture is encoded learning that, in this case, can either be reinforced or challenged. For sure this is thinking that must be challenged because it does not work for everyone, namely women, who are disproportionately impacted by rape culture.
  • The messages people receive about sexual interactions must be examined intentionally and critically. Music plays an important part in every culture. Rape culture is no exception to this fact.
  • Music can provide a different set of examples to help encode a different learning process, and effectively, a different culture; a consent-minded culture that clarifies that under no uncertain terms, without consent, you’re not only not having sex (least of all enjoyable sex) but what you’re doing instead is illegal and oppressive because it is rape.
  • Consent is the only thing that qualifies whether someone is in the mood. The absence of one (consent) will always indicate the absence of the other (being in the mood). Therefore…
  • This soundtrack is very necessary!

Now without further adieu…

1. “I want you the right way/ I want you, and I want you to want me too/Just like I want you…” — Marvin Gaye, “I Want You.”

Peep how Marvin Gaye emphasizes “the right way,” after declaring multiple times how much he “wants you.” This may sound redundant, but leave no stone unturned. Be unequivocally clear about how much you two (or three, or four ― if you like it I love it) want each other!

2. “Tell me what I gotta do to/ Get the hook-up in the future/ Baby you choose tonight/ Whatever you like and I’mma pick you up on time/ And it’s cool if you don’t want to/ But you’d be a fool if you don’t want to/ Cause I guarantee that if you’re with me you’re ’gon be feeling how you’re supposed to be…” — New Edition, “Hot Tonight.”

From “Cool It Down” to “Hot Tonight,” all hail the matured boy (or should I say, man) band that makes a hard sell on guaranteeing pleasure while still respecting boundaries, and allowing you to set the pace.

3. “My car’s right outside, we can leave right now/ That’s if you’re ready to go/ I know you’re just beating me/ You see I’d understand it, I’d understand it if you said no/ But don’t you do it baby…” — Teddy Pendergrass, “Come Go with Me.”

Although Teddy Pendergrass was very persistent, he provided options, which allowed him to gauge her willingness to join him somewhere private. Even though she seemed unsure, he relentlessly assured her that her consent was his primary concern.

4. “You said I move too slow/ I showed you to the door/ You said you’d call me later/ I said don’t call no more/ It is cool if you can’t wait for me/ I’m glad you let me know/ Cause you showed me your true face baby the first time I said no…” — Beyoncé, “Yes.”

While this song does not “set the mood,” it does set precedent for unwavering boundaries. It is never acceptable for anyone to make another person feel obligated to have sex. Let this song be a reminder that in the face of someone being unable to handle rejection, it’s reasonable to assert your boundaries and send that person packing! No consent, no sex.

5. “And I must voice my opinion by not pretending she didn’t have me/ Strung like a chicken chasing my tail like a doggie/ She was kinda like a star, thinking I was like a fan/ Damn she looked good, down side: she had a man…She was a flake like corn and I was born not to understand/ By letting her pass I had proved to be a better man/ She keeps on passing me by…” — The Pharcyde, “Passin Me By.”

Because all men need to learn how to deal with rejection.

6. “Satisfaction I have the right tactics/ And if you need ’em I got crazy prophylactics…” — A Tribe Called Quest, “Bonita Applebum.”

Let’s celebrate safe sex while we’re at it. Got condoms? Remember to put on a condom once she decides to put you on!

7. “We could take that step to see/ If this is really gonna be/ All you gotta do is say yes…” — Floetry, “Say Yes.”

Ladies are not exempt from seeking consent. This is a two (or three or four) way street!

8. “Your eyes say things I never hear from you/ And my knees are shaking too/ But I’m willing, willing to go through. I must be crazy standing in this place/ But I’m feeling no disgrace for asking/ Let me hold you tight/ If only for one night…” — Luther Vandross, “If Only For One Night.”

If it’s only for one night, or every night, the point is, you have to ask. No exceptions and no assumptions!

9. “With your permission/ I just wanna spend a little more time with you/ With your permission/ Tonight I wanna be a little me on you…Come on gimme that green light/ You can let your hair down/ But only if it feels right…” — Ro James “Permission.”

The song is titled “Permission.” Enough said!

10. “And before you get to touch the bed/ Baby back up every word you said…” — Ginuwine, “So Anxious.”

Ginuwine didn’t assume it was impossible for his partner to change her mind. He also didn't assume that because his partner was willing at one point, she would be willing every time, all the time.

Though it will be challenging, try to create a sex positive playlist on your own. And remember, rape culture is oppressive. While other forms of oppression require far more complicated measures of resistance, rape culture can be resisted and dismantled with good manners. There’s no excuse.

Ask permission. Celebrate consent. Practice safe sex.

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