TW: mention of rape in final paragraph and discussion of consent throughout.
Consent is simple. It really is. I want to make it clear just how simple it is. People seem to surround all these questions and terms & conditions around it, and I want to help clear those up. So, what is consent? When do you have consent? What’re the boundaries and ‘rules’? What classifies as consent and what doesn’t? Let me tell you.
What ISN’T consent:
- If they said yes last time, that isn’t consent for this time and every other time. Only for last time. Previous consent is not consent for now.
- If they’re your partner (however serious or casual the relationship may be) that isn’t automatically consent. You still need it each time.
- If they are drunk or intoxicated in any way, they cannot consent.
- If they are unconscious, they cannot consent. They are unconscious.
- If they said yes to begin with but changed their mind before you started, then the consent stopped; it was revoked; it ended. You now do NOT have consent.
- If they said yes to begin with but changed their mind part way through, you now do NOT have consent.
- If they are aroused, that is not consent.
- If they let you kiss them or touch them, that is not consent for more.
- If they are unsure, that is not consent.
- If they said maybe, that is not consent.
If a child can understand ‘don’t touch that’ or a dog can understand ‘no, leave it’, then you can understand consent. As can anyone else old enough to be thinking about sex. To clarify, consent goes for all intimate or physical acts – sex, foreplay, kissing, cuddling, even holding hands and hugging.
If someone seems uncomfortable, they probably are. I know this may seem like ‘overkill’ to some people, and I’m sure you can read body language and understand ‘yeah’ and ‘that would be great’ – what I’m saying is if you’re ever not 100% sure, even if they haven’t said something like ‘stop, I’m uncomfortable’ – just ASK. Because it is always okay to stop and ask ‘is this okay?’/ ‘are you comfortable with this?’/ ‘is this alright?’/ ‘do you want to keep going?’ – if the other person is consenting, then you asking that will never make a difference to the situation. It won’t ruin the mood or (for example) stop you from having sex. It is always better to ask than risk forcing someone or just assuming they’re consenting when they aren’t.
And finally, please don’t say ‘consent is sexy’. Don’t sexualise consent. Consent is something that is necessary and valid and VITAL. It does not need to be sexualised or made ‘cool’ to be important.
Remember: consent isn’t optional, it is required. Without consent, it is not ‘non-consensual sex’, it is rape. Sex with anyone, who has not given their explicit consent, is rape, not sex.