As important as consent is and as talked about as it seems to be, we still donʼt talk about it enough, so itʼs understandable if youʼre not completely sure of what it is and what it is not. Because of the way consent is received whenever it is brought up, the discourse around it is somewhat pacifying but thatʼs the wrong way to talk about it. So what is the right way to talk about it?
We live in a world where comedians feel rape stories in which they are the perpetrators, are a funny anecdote. We live in a world were Brad Williams describes himself partaking in sexual activities with a woman without her knowledge, and only one listening man decried it. The work is being done, but we are at no where at the depth of resolving this issue
To start of the year right, we’ve broken it down to the basics of what it is and isn’t below!
Not sexy. It is not supposed to be sexy, it is about respect, it is not a lacy little nightdress that you could use to get your partner turned on if you wanted to. Consent is compulsory, you can have sex without lingerie, you cannot have sex without consent. Consent means voluntary affirmative response required before engaging in any physical and/or sexual activity. Consent means you have control over your own body and that cannot be taken away, it doesnʼt matter what youʼre wearing, how much youʼve been drinking, not where you are, who you are with or what time of day it is.
It is yours to give away freely and withdraw when you donʼt feel like sharing it anymore.
Not automatic. Giving consent to one sexual act does not give automatic consent to another one. It must be given and gotten every step of the way. Agreeing to kiss doesnʼt mean youʼve agreed to have your clothes taken off, agreeing to foreplay does not mean youʼve agreed to have sex.
Not forever. A yes today, is not a yes tomorrow or even in two hours. Consent is not silence, not getting a no doesnʼt mean it is a yes, consent is communication, it is okay to say yes to one thing and no, to another. It is okay to withdraw consent in the middle of an act if you start to feel uncomfortable, what is not okay is having the decision to continue made for you.
Not forced. It is not coerced, it must be given freely and actively, it is mutual communication, if it is not mutual or if your partner cannot actively communicate with you because they are intoxicated or asleep, there is no consent.
Not uninformed, if you give consent without getting the full information of the health status of your partner or if youʼre under the impression that you were using protection but werenʼt for example, you did not give informed consent and so no consent at all.
Enthusiastic. The only valid form of sexual consent must be enthusiastic, where “no means no” suggests that in the absence of your partner saying no, you can proceed with whatever you want to do, enthusiastic consent preaches “yes means yes” which means you shouldnʼt do anything your partner isnʼt actively excited and enthusiastic about and if itʼs not clear whether or not they are into it, then you should ask. It encourages and requires open and verbal communication between partners and an affirmation of any sexual activity to be performed. It disregards the idea of a passive yes and replaces it with an outright declaration that the person is interested in the sexual activity that has been suggested. This shift from “no means no” to “yes means yes” is necessary because while the former gives room for the rapist to claim the victim didnʼt verbally object as a valid defence and places the onus on the victim to prove they objected, the latter makes it the perpetrators responsibility to prove that enthusiastic consent was given.
There has been a shift in the conversations regarding consent in society today. While this is great, we believe there is still so much work to do. Most people are still oblivious to what constitutes consent and what does not. This is why these conversations must be honest, open and consistent. We must talk about consent every day and not just in relation to sexual relationships. Work is being done, but it has only just started and there is still so much work to do regarding consent and the deconstruction of rape culture.
If you’re looking to hold workshops at your school or organization visit our resource section for some of our curated workshop materials or better still reach out to us firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Ayotunde Balure
She is a web specialist at The Consent Workshop and also a school representative. Ayotunde is a writer and hopes one day to write and direct movies. She decided to volunteer at TCW because she wants to actively participate in creating a positive culture of sexual consent, combat rape culture and help support survivors of sexual assault