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Sam is a Patsexual1 who has a foot fetish. Pat is a Samsexual who has feet gets a nonsexual enjoyment from footrubs. If Pat, not knowing Sam’s fetish, asks for a footrub, and Sam, knowing Pat doesn’t know, rubs Pat’s feet, is that adequate consent? What if it was Sam who offered rather than Pat who asked?

This was inspired by the first letter in this Savage Love column; the answer seems fine at first but when I looked again I wasn’t sure the GGG vase hadn’t become the two faces of rape apology. If the writer could only enjoy footrubs if she thought her boyfriend didn’t enjoy them—my initial understanding, and apparently Dan’s—then without prior negotiation that’s a pretty fucked up relationship dynamic. On the other hand, he did something sexual-to-him without her consent to sexual activity (though that’s more complicated if he thought she knew about his fetish, and now my head hurts). On the other other hand, she consented to the foot rub.

Getting back to Sam and Pat, is there a difference between Pat consenting to a seemingly non-sexual footrub and to a footrub Pat knows is sexual to Sam, even though it isn’t to Pat? Sam doesn’t need Pat’s permission to go off and masturbate while thinking about Pat after cuddling (laying aside the question of whether masturbation is like sex); is this different, and if so, how?

1That is, Sam’s sexual orientation encompasses an interest in appealing members of Pat’s gender.

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