The first real conversation I had about consent happened in college. IN COLLEGE. At orientation. Before I even had a firm class schedule, two RA’s sat us down to talk about consent. At the time, I was irritated that they felt the need to talk about it. In retrospect, I’m irritated that no one talked about it sooner.
I personally feel that consent is very misunderstood. It’s more complicated that a simple yes/no. It shouldn’t be more complicated than that, but the fact is that we live in a culture of Hollywood myth, bravado and stupidity. So I’m here to give it to you straight (pun intended.)
You have probably heard “No means no!” That’s true. The word “No” absolutely, 100%, no questions asked, means NO.
Unfortunately, I know through both experience and story that “No” is not always accepted. Here are some things a person might hear in response to a no:
- “Just let it happen.”
- “C’mon, let me convince you a little.”
- “Really quick, no one will know.”
- “Why not?”
- “Let’s just try a little and if you are still not into it, I’ll back off.”
Get the fuck out. Those responses are absolute bullshit. They are manipulative, demeaning, demanding, and (frankly) predatory.
Someone once told me that consent, true consent, is a “Hell yes” and a high five. Anything less is not consent. It’s rape.
Let’s dispel some consent myths (because there are A LOT out there):
- Myth: Consent is only necessary for sex.
- Reality: Consent is necessary for everything up to and including sex. If doing [insert activity] in front of your family would make you uncomfortable (including kissing, depending on the situation) then consent is absolutely necessary.
- Myth: Once you’ve said yes, you can’t take it back.
- Reality: You can absolutely take it back. If you tell your partner yes in the morning and by evening you don’t want to—say no. If you tell your partner yes and 30 seconds later you don’t want to—say no. If you tell your partner yes and you’re in the middle of the deed, you can STILL say no.
- Myth: You need a reason to say no, an excuse.
- Reality: You don’t need an excuse; you don’t need a reason to say no. You can say no for WHATEVER reason you want and that is FINE. Whether you tell the other person or not is completely up to you.
- Myth: If you can’t/don’t explicitly say no, then it’s a yes.
- Reality: If a person is being “coy” or “shy” or whatever and doesn’t actually say no, that does NOT imply a yes. If a person is too wasted to know what it is (and who) they are doing, that is absolutely NOT consent. It’s rape.
- Myth: “Maybe” means yes.
- Reality: Maybe means maybe. In fact, usually it means no. It certainly does not constitute consent.
- Myth: If you’ve done [insert activity] with so-and-so, now you have to do it with this new partner.
- Reality: Big fat nope. Sexual past does not mean anything with a new person.
- Myth: If you get your partner turned on then you “owe” them.
- Reality: I hate this one. Whether a person gets turned on by you is their damn problem. You owe them nothing.
- Myth: People in a committed relationship don’t have to give consent because consent is implied
- Reality: Consent is always necessary, even if the people involved are dating, engaged, or married.
- Myth: Men don’t have to give consent because they are always up to do the deed.
- Reality: Back off, men have to give consent as well. A man saying “No” is just as valid as a woman saying it.
If you are unsure if your partner has consented, always stop and directly ask.
If you have explicitly not given consent (AKA said no) and your partner refuses to accept or acknowledge it, you are now in a rape situation. Get out. It doesn’t matter if your partner is a “nice person,” if you think they wouldn’t do that, if they’ve never done it before. Sexual contact after an explicit no is
Consent is a big deal because rape is a big deal. Consent is a big deal because sex is a big deal. Do not flirt with that line, do not let others flirt with that line.
With that, I wish you happy consenting.