Growing up as a woman, you eventually get tired of hearing tips and tricks on how to protect yourself. It’s as though it’s the rule of the world that our bodies have to be protected from predators right from our childhood. But even though we take all these precautions, there is at least one incident where a woman’s privacy has been violated, without her consent. In the book, the Ethical Slut, the author writes Dossie, giving a lecture on consent to about two hundred people, asked those who had never been sexually assaulted to stand up. Only about a quarter stood up, mostly men, some women. There were many men as well as women among those still sitting.
This is only an example, a statistical way to show the reality of how easily consent can be violated. As children and as grown up womxn, we have to be acutely aware of our surroundings. But sexual harassment isn’t the only place where consent is violated. Lewd comments, catcalling, being overly friendly in a way to gain sexual favors, these are some of the ways people invade private spaces.
So, this is why the conversation of consent becomes essential. If womxn know how their consent is being violated and if men know the consequences of forcing themselves on womxn, then we can live a safer and a better life, one without the underlying threat and danger that we have been accustomed to.
What is consent?
Consent, in its simplest terms means permission. Consent in sexual activities means an enthusiastic agreement to engage with the other person. It can be verbal or through non-verbal cues, just as long as it is clear and unambiguous. Minors or children under the age of eighteen are considered legally incompetent to give their consent to sexual engagements. Similarly, people with Alzheimer’s are considered legally incompetent to give their consent.
Consent have been widely debated and the policy makers have taken into consideration of what constitutes as consent. But the basic characteristics of sexual consent are:
IT IS ENTHUSIASTIC
When the parties engaging in sexual activities are consenting, they are enthusiastic about it. It is essential that all the parties involved are actively saying, ‘yes’ or encouraging the other through non-verbal cues. Any sense of hesitation implies that they are not consenting. This is an offence, and a breach of trust.
IT CAN BE REVOKED
Consent can be revoked at ANY time. If someone feels that they don’t want to engage in any activity while having consented before, they can revoke their consent. Even if it’s right in the middle of a sexual activity, or before it starts, everyone has the right to revoke their consent. If they do revoke their consent, anything after that is considered sexual assault. This is important to remember.
CONSENT IS SPECIFIC AND INFORMED
This means that the individuals involved in sexual activities should know what they’re saying yes to and under what conditions they are agreeing to have sex. If someone is being shady and doesn’t disclose everything, it constitutes as sexual assault. For example, if someone consents to kissing but not in certain places, then that should be kept in mind.
Now that we know what consent really is and the characteristics of it, we can discuss the ways we create the culture of consent. Why is it necessary? Well, consent is important to protect the parties involved. This way, sex can be fully enjoyed. Drawing boundaries and being comfortable enough to say no is an essential part of the time spent together.
What is consent culture?
It is a way of creating safe spaces by allowing open conversations and communicating with each other to be in tune with each other’s needs. The Rakshin Project defines it as “a culture that works to build a society where asking for consent and respecting the responses to it is the standard. It affirms peoples’ personal boundaries, i.e., a person’s right to choose what is acceptable and comfortable to them, and that it must be respected unreservedly. Consent is voluntary, and is not assumed or implied in the absence of “no”.”
For Trauma Survivors, the author of The Ethical Slut says, “Sometimes all it takes is a little collaboration about safety, establishing clear agreements about boundaries, creating safe space, and being supportive and understanding. Survivors and partners alike need to be willing to deal with the interruption if a person needs to stop and recover from a bad memory, even if that happens in the middle of sex. We hope you will be patient with yourself if this is your situation, because being kind to yourself and your partners can become the practice that heals you.”
The number one rule in creating a safe space is to listen. Listening to what your partner is saying and what they want from you. Communication is key. If you fail to listen to your partner’s cues, then that can result in the violation of consent and trust. Pick up the non-verbal cues and keep asking your partner if it’s okay. It does not ruin the mood.
The second rule is to not shy away from conversations about sex. With your friends, confidants. It’s not taboo, and through conversations we can empower people and educate them. Especially in cases where someone doesn’t know that their consent is being violated.
Consent culture is essential and has sparked conversations after the #MeToo movement. Primarily, women have taken things into their own hands and have started talking about boundaries and as wee see on social media, womxn also discuss the various ways in which their consent has been violated, from men in positions of power.
We live in a patriarchal society where the bodies of womxn are used as commodities. The rape culture that we’re surrounded does worse to our mental and psychological well-being. Cat-calling, locker room talk, sexualizing women’s bodies in item numbers are ways to propagate and perpetuate rape culture and as a result of which, talking about consent is not encouraged.
But we’re here to tell you that we should talk about it. We should create spaces for these conversations that can contribute to a sex-positive environment. When we de-stigmatize sex itself, a freer environment is created automatically. And consent becomes a requirement rather than the exception.
Pause for Perspective