From the first post on sexual consent, we learned that sexual consent isn’t something we just do or give once: it’s something we’re doing (or not) in every moment of every sexual activity. If someone consents to one thing, that doesn’t mean they’re consenting to anything, just to that one thing. Consent is also always something we or others can revoke: in other words, everyone gets to change their mind, at any time, including after they’ve already said yes.
In this post, we would revisit sexual consent and the six essential rules of consent:
Consent is about everyone involved in a sexual or possibly sexual interaction. Not just women, not just young people, not just whoever didn’t initiate sex to begin with, not just the person whose body part someone else’s body part may be touching or going into. Everyone. For sex to be fully consensual, everyone needs to seek consent, everyone needs to be affirming it, and everyone needs to accept and respect each other’s answers, nixing sex or stepping back, pronto, if and when someone expresses a stop.
Consent can ALWAYS be withdrawn. Consent to any kind of sex is not a binding contract nor does consent obligate anyone to follow through. It is also one-time-only: because someone consented to sex Tuesday does not mean they were giving consent for sex on Thursday.
Nothing makes consent automatic or unnecessary. Being someone’s spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t give anyone consent by default. Someone loving you or saying they love you doesn’t mean they have your sexual consent or you have theirs. No one kind of sex means consent to another, or that anyone is “owed” any sex. For instance, someone who engages in oral sex is not asking for or consenting to intercourse; someone who says yes to kissing is not saying yes to any other kind of touching. Because someone has had any kind of sex in the past does not mean they will have sex or consent to sex again with that same person or anyone else nor that they are obligated in any way to do so.
In some situations, full, informed and free consent cannot truly be given or shared.Those include: being drunk or wasted, being asleep, being unable to really understand what one is saying yes to, including possible risks and outcomes; being under severe duress, like when seriously upset, ill, grieving or scared or being unable to understand another person’s words or other means of communication. Consider things like these to be a red light to even asking about sex: sex should usually be off the table entirely in these situations. Legally, when someone is under the age of legal consent, with someone of an age where sex is not lawful, and in most of the above situations, sex is a crime.
Nonconsent means STOP: If someone is NOT consenting to something or says no with their words and/or actions, the other person MUST stop trying to do that thing AND must not try to convince that person to do that thing in any way. If they do not stop, or exert emotional or other pressure and that person gives up and gives in, they are sexually assaulting that person. Sex is not sex if everyone is not consenting. If anyone is not consenting or not asking for consent, then what is happening is or may be rape, sexual abuse or assault.
A lack of no does not mean yes: No does NOT mean yes. Maybe does not mean yes. Yes means yes. And saying yes should always feel just as awesome as hearing it.