Consent is one of the biggest gray areas when it comes to understanding interpersonal violence. When we learn how to talk about consent, get or refuse it, each person minimizes their risk of experiencing or committing sexual assault.
So, what is consent?
- A sober, enthusiastic, mutual agreement
- Not coerced
- Asked for during every stage of sexual intimacy
- Never “pre-approved”. Just because you’re in a relationship with someone doesn’t give you a pass to have sex with them as you please.
- Remember: Absence of “NO” does not equal “YES”!
By law, when can someone NOT give consent?
No matter what she or he may tell you . . .
- If they’re heavily intoxicated from using alcohol and/or drugs
- She or he is mentally or physically disabled
- Once the person has said “NO”. It doesn’t matter what happened in that moment leading up to the “NO” , last night or the past year. It doesn’t matter if you’re married, in a committed relationship, a “friend with benefits” or in relationship that’s falling apart. If someone says “NO” and sex is forced, this is RAPE.
So what if she / he is too drunk to give consent?
As we all know, alcohol and drugs play a role in our ability to make decisions – and whether or not we want to have sex with another person is no exception. So, if that girl you met at your friends’s house party can’t walk or talk straight, just move on.
When someone doesn’t know what’s happening to them, it’s rape, plain and simple.
This also applies to looking out for our friends in social situations. If you see your best friend getting intimate with someone after her eleventh shot, do the safe thing and remove her from the situation. Ask her if she knows what’s going on. If it’s the opposite situation and you see your friend getting sexually aggressive with someone who is plastered, you should try and pull them aside. No one ever died from not getting any one night – spare your friend from a potential felony.
OK, so how do I know I’ve obtained my partner’s consent?
The only surefire way to know is if your partner tells you. Bear in mind though, it’s often difficult to tell others that we’re uncomfortable, especially if it’s a new partner we’re trying to please. If you have even a sliver of doubt, try asking one of these questions:
- Do you want to stop?
- Do you want to continue?
- Can I try this?
- What are you not comfortable doing?
Body language is also a great indicator. Check to see if:
- He isn’t responsive to your touch
- Pushes you off of her
- Arms crossed
- He won’t look you in the eye
- Her body is tense
It’s not always about hitting a home run!
Yeup, you read that right! Intimacy comes in all forms. Someone may enjoy kissing, but they don’t feel ready for sex. Someone may have had sex before, but doesn’t want to have sex in that particular moment just because they’re making out with someone.
Any time you’re intimate with someone, it’s important to let them know what you are and aren’t comfortable doing. You ALWAYS have the right to say “NO” and withdraw your consent at any point in the act!
How can I slow down to make sure we’re both comfortable / feeling safe?
If you feel things are moving too fast with your partner, try one of these:
- Can we stick to this for a while? I’m not ready to be that intimate with you.
- Can we please slow things down?
- I don’t want to go any further than x, y, z.
I’m not OK with how things are progressing. How can I tell him I want to stop?
Again, it’s your right to say “NO” and stop at any time regardless of what you’ve done in the past. If you want to stop, try saying:
- I want to stop
- I don’t want to do this anymore
Consent: Why it turns us on!
- Asking for and obtaining consent is respectful. Not just towards your partner, but yourself.
- Improves communication, respect and honesty in your relationship. In the long run, this will make sex AND your relationship better!
- Allows you to clearly state the kind of sexual intimacy you’re comfortable with
- Protect yourselves against STDs and unplanned pregnancy
- Recognize that you and your partner have mutual desires and sexual needs
- Respect your partner’s values – and yours
- Reinforces confidence and self-esteem
- Empowering, positive views of sex
- Challenges the notion that rape is exclusively a women’s issue
- Challenges sexism and the status quo on gender and sexuality
- Owning your body and sexuality!
Do you have a better understanding of consent after reading this post? We want your feedback! In the comments section, tell us:
1) How do you GIVE consent?
2) How do you GET consent?
Feel free to tweet your responses to @EndSilenceIPV with the hashtag #Consent . You can also discuss with other readers on our Facebook page! We will pick the top three responses and share them in tomorrow’s blog!