There are three components to equalist sex:
1) considering mutual desire an essential component to sex, and acting accordingly
2) considering penetration NOT an essential component to sex, and acting accordingly
3) initiating/giving/leading equally
1) Considering mutual desire an essential component to sex means that if the desire is not mutual, equalist sex is impossible. This includes communicating in respectful ways that do not include pressure of any kind. The people participating must both believe in only having sex when both people feel desire, and if desire is not mutual, be willing to immediately drop the topic. If one person continues 'asking' or expresses disappointment in a way calculated to make the other person feel guilty, that is coercion -- it is not respectful and DEFINITELY not equalist. I imagine that there are many ways of asking in a low-pressure way (I've heard of lighting a candle before bed as a signal); for me, I prefer to simply be asked, "do you want to [have sex/make love]?" or kissed in a way that says "I want to have sex with you." (with the kiss, it isn't a question if you don't leave the next move up to me!) However, that would be pressure if I knew that saying no would provoke an angry/grouchy/pouty/sullen/negative response. Since my lovers simply respond by doing something else (with no negative attitude), I feel absolutely no pressure to say yes if I do not want to. (if someone tried to coax/manipulate me into having sex, I would consider that sexually abusive and tell the person so -- if ze continued to behave that way I would end the relationship)
I'll diverge a little to discuss male/female kissing/sex scenes in films and shows. In these scenes, not only does the male initiate but often ze initiates in a way that forces the female to say yes; I cannot count the number of times I have seen a male shove a female up against a wall to kiss zir, or grab zir in both arms, pinning zir arms to zir sides, and kiss zir. Sometimes the female makes a feeble resistance before responding to 'what she really wanted anyway.' In almost all of these scenes it is the first time the couple has kissed and there is no build-up (this is not a kiss between people where desire for kisses has already been established). This is considered 'romantic' -- the amount of force is equated to the amount of desire/'love,' and respect is completely excluded from the equation. Another aspect of this is that the male is always expected to initiate, and initiating means risking rejection. So a male person, not wanting to be rejected, tries to minimize the chance of rejection by initiating in a way that is very difficult to refuse. It's 'mean' to push someone away when they are trying to kiss you, but it's not so mean to pull your face away -- so if you make it so that the other person has the choice of being 'mean,' bumping their head against the wall, or giving in, they are less likely to reject you. And all of this applies to same-sex interactions which fit into butch/femme, seme/uke, or top/bottom dynamics as well.
2) Considering penetration NOT an essential component to sex means that penetration is an option (for the penetrated one!), not an obligation, and definitely not a definition for sex. In male/female sex, it should NOT be assumed that the female will be penetrated any more than it is an assumption that the male will be penetrated (unless the goal of the experience is procreation, of course). Both sexes have their primary pleasure organs located outside the body (the g-spot has not been scientifically proven to produce orgasm and doesn't even exist in most women), so it is quite possible for most people to be sexually satisfied without penetration of any kind. If penetration is desired, one should communicate (by words or actions) that one wants to be penetrated before the other makes any move to do so, and if one does not want to be penetrated, there should be no negative attitude on the part of the other person. In same-sex couples, I think an inequality can develop if one person is always penetrated while the other one never is and if that is the case it should be discussed, but ultimately it is about what each person wants in each experience.
3) Initiating/giving/leading equally means not having roles/habits for who initiates, giving foreplay equally, and 'directing' the action equally. In the stories society tells about sex (movies, shows, 'romance' novels, porn), male or 'masculine' people initiate, do the foreplay (if any is done), and control the position(s), duration, and mood. To have equalist sex, one cannot just switch up the roles every now and then -- one has to challenge the roles themselves. Challenging the initiator role is difficult, because it is based on the individual's desire; how I did it with my partner was by agreeing that ze would not initiate for a while, so that my desire would push me to initiate despite my lack of ease with initiating. Now it is just as natural to me as it is to zir. (it's not the ratio of initiating that is the key, just the lack of an assigned role) Also, each equalist sexual experience contains a fairly equal amount of giving stimulating touch by each person (not including penetration, which should always and ONLY be an option if the person-to-be-penetrated desires it) -- OR the couple can create an overall equality by taking turns. The concept that heterosexual males don't want to receive ("don't need") foreplay is rarely questioned because it fits right in with the assumption that penetration is the ultimate goal of males when having sex. If you take that assumption out, then foreplay becomes more important to both participants. With my male partner, it was during a time of having mostly outercourse that I learned more about how to please zir, because the focus was on both of our pleasure rather than on my-pleasure-with-the-goal-of-allowing-pe
Supposedly women have a lower sex drive than men, generally. But if most women wanted to penetrate men and get off without considering the man's desire or pleasure (and actually had the power to make that happen, while society told them that that was an appropriate way of having sex, eliminating guilt), I wonder how many men would want to have sex. I wonder how many men would even consider such an arrangement 'sex.'