The “Why” of Consent.
Acquiring sexual consent is a moral obligation because it upholds the value of honouring a partner’s independence by involving them in the decision-making aspect. This behaviour demonstrates consideration for both oneself and the partner, eradicating any sense of entitlement that could arise. The significance of sexual consent lies in its role in averting instances of sexual assault. Fundamentally, consent entails a sincere, voluntary, and mindful agreement to engage in sexual activities with another individual.
What are the features of a healthy consent?
- Freely and explicitly given- Without pressure, force, manipulation, coercion, or under the influence of any substance. It is also important to understand that there is no such thing as “Implied” consent.
- Reversible- Consent is a continuous thing and can be reversed at any time. It all depends on how a person feels at any given point in time.
- Informed- (all people should be informed of EXACTLY what they’re consenting to, no misinformation on any side).
- Enthusiastic- (consent must be an enthusiastic yes!!! A hell yes versus a maybe, idk, perhaps).
- Specific-(specific to that act/moment in time. Just because someone has consented to the same thing BEFORE doesn’t mean it applies to the moment. This includes the context of marriage).
Some Myths around Consent:
Consent is about saying “No” Only when you are uncomfortable.
Consent is not just about saying “no” when you’re uncomfortable, but it’s also about actively and enthusiastically saying “yes” to sexual activity. It’s important to communicate with your partner and make sure that you both are comfortable with what’s happening. If you’re ever unsure about whether someone has given their consent, it’s always best to ask. Sexual or nonsexual activity that occurs because of fear, guilt, or pressure is coercion. If you’re engaging in sexual activity and the person declines to go further or seems hesitant, stop for a moment and ask them if they’re comfortable doing that activity or if they want to take a break.
Anything less than a “yes” is a clear NO. Even if your partner is confused, it is best to infer that you do not have their consent.
A person might communicate that they don’t consent by using actions and body language. These are possible nonverbal cues that indicate that you don’t have consent:
- pushing away
- pulling away
- Avoiding eye contact
- shaking their head “No”
- not responding physically — just lying there motionless
- Looking scared or sad
- not removing their clothing
Silence equals consent:
A lack of words should not be taken as agreement. The duty falls on the individual initiating or intensifying sexual actions to obtain explicit consent at every stage. Whenever there is uncertainty about your partner’s intentions, it’s essential to request clear communication. If your partner declines or appears hesitant, it’s crucial to honour their feelings and choices.
Arousal means consent:
Arousal does not mean consent. Just because someone is aroused does not mean that they are giving consent to sexual activity. Consent must always be explicitly given. Arousal of the genitals is an involuntary action and hence it is always important to seek consent.
Consent is only necessary for penetrative sex:
Consent is necessary for any sexual activity, not just penetrative sex
There are many different sexual activities, many of which don’t involve penetration.
Consent is only necessary for strangers:
Consent is necessary for any sexual activity, regardless of whether you know the person or not because you are in a relationship does not mean that you have permission to have sex with your partner.
What impacts can misconceptions about consent have on relationships?
Here are some ways in which misconceptions about sexual consent can affect relationships:
Lack of Communication: Misunderstandings regarding sexual consent can result in a breakdown of communication between partners. When one partner wrongly believes that silence implies consent, they might neglect to seek clear approval, which can result in confusion, misinterpretations and violation of boundaries. Consequently, this could erode trust and mutual respect within the relationship.
Blaming the Victim: Misunderstandings surrounding sexual consent can result in assigning blame to the affected party. When one partner presumes that the other was somehow “inviting” or “desiring” the situation, it can contribute to a deficiency of compassion and insight into the other person’s encounter. This, in turn, might establish an uneven distribution of power within the relationship and potentially result in additional breaches of personal boundaries.
Lack of Intimacy: Misunderstandings about sexual consent can result in diminished intimacy within a relationship. When one partner presumes unfounded consent for any sexual engagement, it can undermine the emotional bond and closeness between them. This situation may give rise to feelings of disconnection and discontent within the relationship.
Some common questions
If I keep asking for consent every time, won’t that kill the mood?
Consent is a continuous thing. Besides, if the partner feels uncomfortable after a certain act- won’t that kill the mood?
The key hence lies in respecting the boundaries of each other. Remember, less violation allows more space for love and intimacy.
How do I tell them “Not right now” without making them feel unlovable?
This comes down to our ability to handle rejections. The person passing the rejection is also afraid of the consequences.
The best way here is to provide reasons to your partner. Doing so would allow your partner to feel more empathetic and hence understand you better.
If we have matched on a dating site, do I still need to ask before sliding into DMs?
Yes. Better to ask and not just assume implicit consent. Dating apps and social media apps are separate and people interact with them in different ways. The key is to recognise boundaries and hence ask for consent. This is true for any interaction online-
sexting (check our sexting guide here), sending/asking for nudes, adult games, etc.
What to do if consent is violated?
When consent is violated, in the case of an online platform, take immediate action and report/ block the person. This will ensure your online safety. If you feel that a match on a dating platform is violating your consent, you can always unmatch them. Violation of consent on dating platforms also includes- sending inappropriate emojis (e.g. The Eggplant emoji) without the consent of one’s match, asking for nudes, sending unsolicited sexual images, etc.
What if I violate someone’s consent?
It is important to take immediate action to address the situation and prevent further harm. As soon as you realise that you have violated someone’s consent, stop the activity immediately to avoid further harm
Consent is ongoing, reversible, and ideally enthusiastic, which means that as soon as someone is uncomfortable, you need to stop what you’re doing immediately.
Take Ownership and Apologize: Take ownership of your actions and apologize for violating their consent- acknowledge the harm that you caused and express your commitment to doing better in the future.
Make Amends: Ask the person what you can do to make amends and repair the harm that you caused
This could involve taking specific actions to address the situation or seeking professional help to address any underlying issues.
Educate Yourself: Educate yourself about sexual consent and the importance of respecting boundaries
This can help prevent future consent violations and create a safer and more respectful environment for all sexual interactions.
Seek Professional Help: If the violation of consent is severe or if there are underlying issues that need to be addressed, seek professional help. A therapist or counsellor can provide guidance, facilitate discussions, and help navigate any difficulties related to consent and communication within the relationship.
In a world where communication and mutual respect are at the core of healthy relationships, understanding and practising proper consent is paramount. By dispelling misconceptions and embracing the principles of ongoing, enthusiastic, and informed agreement, we pave the way for stronger connections built on trust and empathy.