Contemplating consent culture

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Illustration by Terra DeHart

Imagine a picture-perfect night out with your super-cute date who also happens to be your super cute crush you’ve been lovin’ up on and spendin’ lots of time with lately. It started off as a night consisting of vegan whole bowls and lactose-free ice cream and has now been topped off with hours spent at Holocene dancin’ and drinking.

This super-cute date of yours recognizes your drunkenness and your vulnerability and starts making some moves to get straight down to doin’ the dirty.

But instead of simply making the moves without any conversation or consultation, this date asks for your consent. They express their desires, their needs, and wait for you to express yours.

And when—or if—you say no, this super cute date of yours halts all efforts and thoughts and lets the sexual intentions die before the intentions become an actual act.

Sadly, in our culture today, this scenario may have been played out much differently.

Though the idea of consent has been more openly stressed and openly expressed, it has been assumed that a sexual act can first be attempted without asking for permission or receiving consent from the person who will become a sexual partner.

It’s almost assumed that it’s okay if sexual acts are initiated because the simple initiation isn’t necessarily wrong. After all, how are you going to know how your partner feels about this sexual act unless you start doing it? In many minds, it only becomes wrong to continue with these sexual acts if someone expresses the desire for it to stop, although things have already started.  

However, consent is the only way to know what your partner wants, what your partner doesn’t want, and exactly what they are okay with. Consent is necessary before the sexual act even starts, before anyone is ever touched, and before anyone is ever put in a situation where they don’t feel safe, happy, or secure.

And silence is never consent: The absence of words should never be assumed to be a yes, a no, a maybe, or an answer. The only type of consent that will allow you to bring your fantasies and desires to life is a yes.

No consent, no sex. No consent, no touching. No consent, no further action is allowed.

Period.

In a perfect culture where consent is mandatory—not sexy as those super cliche, over-sold sweatshirts actually say—consent is obtained before any sexual act starts. It’s gathered by asking questions, possibly coming to agreement, and solidified with a definitive answer.

In a perfect culture where consent is mandatory, the inability to answer because of intoxication or drunkenness is not considered a green light.

In a perfect culture where consent is mandatory, short shorts, halter tops, or any other form of clothing—or the lack of clothing—does not mean sexual acts are welcome or wanted. These things do not count as permission.

In a perfect culture where consent is mandatory, coercion is not validated when things do not go your way.

In a perfect culture where consent is mandatory, no means no. And it doesn’t feel wrong to say no. When no is muttered, screamed or softly spoken, no violent act is taken out on the person who turned you down.

In a perfect culture where consent is mandatory, permission to proceed is gathered before it feels too late to turn back: before shame is or feelings of guilt or remorse begin to creep up.

I’d like to live here and it makes me sad to feel as if this culture is far-fetched from my own reality. Culture is fluid though, meaning it changes and fluctuates and may differ from time to time.

So no, this culture is not unobtainable. We’ve just got to work to actually create it.

Ask
“Is this okay?”
“Are you comfortable?”
“Do you want to slow down?”

Communicate your needs and wants.

Respect your partner’s needs and wants.

Red flags to LEAVE THE SITUATION 

Your partner guilts, pressures, or tries to persuade you to do things you do not wish to do.

Your partner reacts negatively to your no or advances despite it.

Your partner ignores your attempts to communicate needs and wants.

Red flags to STOP ACTION

Your partner says no.

Your partner is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Nonverbal cues such as pushing away or trying to leave.

Your partner says yes out of fear or pressure.

 

 

 

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