Trigger Warning: Talk of Consent and Sexual Assault
Last Friday was a hard day for me; I went to therapy and we processed some of my history with being sexually assaulted. Then I came home and watched the most recent Grey’s Anatomy Episode. As fate would have it, the episode was all about rape and consent. A few days later, I started reading Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson… again, I’m thinking about consent.
There are so many boys (and girls) who don’t really know the rules of consent, don’t really know how to respect the body of their sexual partner. So many kids whose parents just tell them, “if you have sex use protection. Have some condoms. Don’t get [her] pregnant.” And the doors close, never touching on the topic of consent. So here it is, consent, from someone who knows what it feels like to have not consented and been taken anyway.
Consent is talking to your partner, getting the verbal go-ahead. Is it awkward to ask? Maybe. But wouldn’t you rather be clear? His/Her body might be saying, “yes” while his/her mind says, “I’m not ready.”
Consent is stopping if “yes” ever becomes “no” or “stop” or “I changed my mind.”
Consent is not a one time thing. Consent means inquiring EVERY TIME. Just because you’ve had sex with him/her before does not give you permission to feel some sort of ownership over his/her body. Keep talking, keep asking.
Consent is something that cannot be obtained when you or your partner are inebriated. If you’re drunk or your partner is drunk, just wait. Respect yourselves. It will be a better experience for both you and your partner when you’re sober.
Consent is being mindful of your partner. Paying attention to his/her breathing, to his/her non-verbal cues. Sometimes he/she won’t have the words. But he/she is hoping you will notice before you go too far. So be mindful, pay attention. Ask questions if you’re unsure. Dare to be wrong sometimes when you check-in. Better to be safe than to do something you’ll both regret.
Consent is talking about the acts before you do them. Have conversations with your partner about what he/she likes, about what he/she feels ready for, etc. Knowledge is your friend.
Consent doesn’t just apply to sex. When we force children to hug strangers, even if they’re family, we confuse their knowledge of bodily autonomy and consent.
And, I’m sad I have to say this but a child cannot consent to sex. If he/she is under 17/18 (in the states) and you’re more than 3 years older, “yes” still doesn’t count as consent. But “no” still means “no” whatever the person’s age.
I know that there are so many things out there (porn, commercials, TV shows, other people), saying consent isn’t cool (“if you want something, you’ve got to take it”) but I’m telling you, consent is the coolest. Sex between two consenting individuals is the only way to go. Consent will rock your world. 😉