This is the second post in a 3 part series on the topic of consent. In a couple of our weeks, our third blog post on consent will talk about how to make sure you are giving and receiving proper consent.
In our first consent blog post (Consent: The Breakdown) we looked at the basics of what is involved in an activity for it to be consensual. But from what we are hearing in the media, from people around us, and/or from our own experiences, we are finding consent can quickly become complicated and confusing; leaving us unsure of what to do to in the present situation or how to navigate new situations safely.
Here are some examples of things that can easily complicate consent:
X Playing Mind Games (“Hard to Get”)
X Making Assumptions/Not Learning About Your Specific Partner
X Awkwardness and/or Lack of Education
X Seeing “No” As a Personal Rejection
X Rushing Things
X Being Selfish
Now let’s break each of these down:
X Playing Mind Games (“Hard to Get”) – Saying one thing and expecting another.
Say what you mean. Sometimes we think a love interest should be able to read our mind. They should know when the moment is right and when it’s not, when to kiss and when to hold our hand, when to talk and when to listen. But this is all a part of learning, understanding and knowing a person. One cannot learn how to effectively communicate with a person, understand and know what they want and how they work, without time together and honest conversation. If you are unsure about something (e.g. a physical act), wait until you are sure to do it. If you know what you want, ask and/or communicate it. You can be flirty and mysterious, without being confusing and sending mixed messages.
X Not Learning About Your Specific Partner – When we think we know what the other person will enjoy without ever asking them; or when we think that because we enjoy something, the other person will or should enjoy it too.
Different people like different things…bodies are different! We should always ask our partners what they enjoy BEFORE doing it (holding hands, hugs, cuddling, kissing, surprise kisses, and other physical activities). This communication does not have to be limited to just asking in the moment. Open and honest questions and dialogue about likes and dislikes, comfortability, and interest can happen well before and even after an activity, as well as in the moment.
X Awkwardness and/or Lack of Education – Skipping verbal consent because it feels awkward, we are unsure of how to do it, or we feel it takes too long.
Sometimes we may find it awkward to ask for consent because we don’t often see it done (movies, TV shows, porn, etc.) But the reality is: movies, TV shows and porn are all a scripted act, made to look a certain way. It is not often, if ever, natural or genuine. They know (most of the time) what is about to go down before it goes down! And they (should) have signed a contract saying that they are consenting to the activities about to happen on screen.
Real life isn’t like this. It isn’t scripted or contracted. We don’t automatically know the boundaries and level of someone else’s comfortability and consent. It’s not on paper. And that’s ok! Because… instead of knowing what is going to happen and then just doing it, we actually get to be our fully present, genuine selves in the moment and figure out the complexity and uniqueness of the individual with us; which can often be challenging (…and maybe even a little nerve wracking). But this is also so exciting and fun while keeping us on these cute ‘lil toes of ours! ;D
So if we want to go get our mustaches dyed purple with our friend, we have to ask them right?
Yes! Why? Because…
1. They don’t know what we want if we don’t ask and say what we desire.
2. We can’t demand or force anyone to do anything.
3. We can’t just do what we want because we feel like it, when it affects other people.
4. We can’t just take what isn’t ours.
Consent is not awkward unless you make it awkward! If we have to ask our friends to hang out with us and do other activities with us, we definitely have to ask to touch or do physical things to or with someone else’s body? If it ain’t yours, ask! And respect the answer.
X Seeing “No” As a Personal Rejection – Not saying “no” for fear of the other person feeling unwanted or rejected; or not asking for fear of being rejected.
“No” does not mean personal rejection. “No” is setting a boundary and boundaries are necessary for every single relationship to be healthy. Saying “No” to something someone has asked you to do is not rejecting that person; it’s rejecting the activity they have asked you to do. “No” puts a boundary around the activity, situation, or person so the individual stays true to who they are and protects them; which is healthy and important to do in all relationships! (Yay for heathy! WOOT WOOT!) It is very possible (would I dare even say “common”?) for a person to really like someone and just not be ready to kiss them yet. “No” allows a person to feel safe and in control of what is theirs and share when they feel ready and excited to do so.
“No” ≠ personal rejection
“No” = personal boundary
X Rushing Things – Treating physical activities like a destination to get to, instead of a journey you are taking with another person.
It isn’t a race! No really...it isn’t! (ha) Check it out: If the goal is to go from kissing to sex in 10 seconds or less, A LOT of important things will be missed! Ten seconds definitely does not give enough time to make sure all activities are consensual and both parties are comfortable.
So for Pete’s sake… SLOW. *clap* IT. *clap* DOWN. *clap*. We aren’t limited to 10 seconds of screen time! WOOT! Enjoy the moment…and make sure they are enjoying it too, ESPECIALLY if it is your first time doing physical things with someone!
If you are with a partner that is going too fast for what you feel comfortable with or are enjoying, TELL them. It can be something as simple as saying “slower” or “not yet”. You won’t enjoy something you are feeling uncomfortable with or weren’t ready for, and it can often cause resentment or even regret after. (Nor should you want the other person to feel that way ever either!) And if you don’t care…refer to my next point ;). #itsnotcooltonotcare
X Being Selfish – When one person cares more about what they want than the other person’s comfortability or enjoyment.
Physical interactions are meant to be enjoyed by BOTH parties EQUALLY. When one person cares only about what they like or want, it often (if not always) leads to non-consensual acts. Physical interactions are ALWAYS more enjoyable, safe, and consensual when both parties are enjoying, caring, and communicating equally!
X Obligation – When a person feels a duty or responsibility to fulfil their partner’s physical desires or fantasies; or feeling like they have to continue to do something they didn’t like or feel comfortable with because they did it before and their partner liked it.
Hear me loud and clear…You are NEVER in your life REQUIRED to ENGAGE IN OR PERFORM ANY. SEXUAL. ACTS. EVER.
Nor is it your DUTY or RESPONSIBILITY to FULFILL someone else’s EXPECTATIONS, DESIRES, OR FANTACIES EVER!
I hope that spoke to someone.
Never at any point does someone HAVE to do or go through with anything they are uncomfortable with, are unsure about, or just straight up don’t want to do. In consent, a “yes!” is valid until the MOMENT a person says “no” OR communicates that they are no longer wanting to engage in the present activity. Anything that continues after that is non-consensual. So EVEN if they said “yes!” to an activity, people always have 100% freedom to change their mind at any point during that activity (or before). Consent can be revoked at any time, and must be respected when it is.
Your body is yours, and only yours. No one ever has a right to it or to do anything to it. Not your girlfriend, boyfriend, family member, co-worker, spouse, boss, friend or best friend. No one. <3
X Objectifying – Seeing a person as something or someone made for just your pleasure and enjoyment and removing the feelings of the other to perform a “sex act”.
Oxytocin is the bonding chemical released through a person’s body, which makes a person feel close to and connected to another person. Oxytocin is automatically released every time a person engages in physical activities with another person. The bond is then made stronger and stronger each time a person engages in physical activity with the same person. Oxytocin can affect people in different ways and form different levels of attachment in each person. Sex is not just a physical experience; it is also a relationally bonding experience. You are always having sex with a person, not just a body. ALWAYS value and respect the individual person’s mind, body, and feelings.
X Porn – Acting out what you have seen in porn, assuming that it is what sex is like.
With 64% of people between the ages of 13-24 actively seeking out pornography weekly or more often and the average age of first exposure to porn being 11 years old, studies are now showing many young people’s first experience related to sex is through pornography. Studies also show many young people’s main sexual education is from pornography as well.
This is not good because . . . (pause for effect) . . . porn is NOT realistic! *mindblown*
There are MANY interviews with porn-stars who say that they don’t know why people (especially teens) watch porn as a “How to Guide”. That’s never what porn was made to be. It was made to be adult entertainment, a fantasy, and extreme imagery – it is often non-consensual and physically and/or verbally abusive on screen, as well as off screen. It was not made to show you what sex is actually like, nor is it a good representation of what healthy sex looks like.
Porn is NOT created to help educate you on sex. Pornography is a product that is created and sold for profit (aka: to make money off you). They are not focused in any way towards how what they are making affects you and/or your relationships. They are working to make and sell the most addicting product they can, to keep you coming back (as almost all products do). [See www.fightthenewdrug.org for more information].
So now that you are aware of these things, keep an eye out for them. Be careful to engage with any partners that show signs of these but also be aware of whether you have been influenced by any of these things. Work to become an even healthier partner.
So now how do we make sure we hit all the necessary points of consent? In our last consent blog post (Consent Part 3 - The Check: How Do You Know You’re Asking The Right Questions?) we are going to answer that very question… stay tuned ;)