As important as consent is, we do not talk about it enough. It is a conversation that needs to be held constantly. Consent happens when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another.
Why is consent important?
Different people have different boundaries and everyone deserves to have their respect. Consent is essential to create a safe sexual place and it goes beyond the catchy phrase “no means no”.
In its simplest definition, the idea is that an enthusiastic “yes” is the only thing that begets consent.
Consent is required anytime you are doing something that involves another person.
Things You need to know about consent:
What a person is wearing is not consent, no matter how short or how scanty it is.
How a person is acting – i.e., dancing provocatively, acting in a seducing manner, does not mean consent.
Assumptions based on what the person has consented to before does not count as consent. Consent has to be required at every point. That he/she said ‘yes’ before does not mean they have consented to every other time.
Consent to a different activity: A person may not be interested in every activity you want to carry out, it is important questions are asked through the way.
Coercion: Consent that comes with pressure or threats isn’t consent. You don’t have consent if you use guilt, intimidation, or threats to coerce someone into sex, even if that person says “yes”. Saying ‘yes’ out of fear is not consent.
A “yes” from someone who is unable to give consent: If a person is drunk, sleeping, unconscious, a minor, or otherwise unable to fully understand what is happening, they cannot give consent.
Not saying anything at all: Silence or a lack of a response is not consent.
Consent can be withdrawn at any time, even if you’ve already started getting intimate. All sexual activity must stop when consent is withdrawn.
Being in a relationship doesn’t oblige anyone to do anything. Consent should never be implied or assumed, even if you’re in a relationship or have had sex before. Be clear and concise when getting consent. Consenting to go back to your place doesn’t mean they’re consenting to sexual activity.
You do not have consent if you ignore their wishes or nonverbal cues to stop, like pushing away.
If you are in the heat of the moment, here are some suggestions of things to say to ensure consent at every step of the way:
- Are you comfortable?
- Is this okay?
- Do you want to slow down?
- Do you want to go any further?
What consent sounds and looks like
You know you have the ‘consent’ to go ahead when the other person has clearly said yes — without being pressured — and has given you permission to do something.
Consent doesn’t apply only to sexual situations; consent is about respecting other people’s boundaries. It is important that the ‘sex talk’ happens at every age. Perhaps one of the most damaging misconceptions about sex talk is that it should happen all at once. It doesn’t have to be so. Teach your children sex education as they grow. Do it in such a way that they can understand at their age.
One of the most vital lessons for children is consent and as a parent, it’s your job to explain, translate and debunk certain messages.
Early education about consent helps children to internalize the message. They would later grow into adults who know how to seek consent. That way, they’ll fight the rape culture.
In a healthy relationship, it’s important to discuss and respect each other’s boundaries regularly. Everyone has a right to their own body and to feel comfortable with how they use it.