My neighbour’s wife came crying to me early one morning. She looked like she had been knocked down by a train. This was weird, especially for her, because she always looked so “put together”. I proceeded to ask her what was wrong. She said her husband raped her all night.
That was shocking to me. She added that her husband had asked for sex that night, but she wasn’t feeling up to it.
She expressed her feelings, but he wasn’t having it. He proceeded to forcefully have intercourse with her, hurting her in the process. Afterwards, he justified his actions with claims that he is her husband so he has a right to her body, anytime and every time.
This is a very wrong and backward mindset. To start with, your partner is not your property or a sex object. She has a right to do what she pleases with her body because it is hers.
When two people are in a sexual relationship, they are only privileged to each other’s bodies because of that fact. No one has ownership of any other person’s body. Consent should be sought for sexual activity, even in a long-term relationship like marriage.
Sexual consent is a topic that has gained prominence in recent years, especially with the increasing cases of rape and sexual assault.
So, what exactly is consent?
Giving consent is actively acceding to being intimate or having sex with someone. Consent is critical in sex. Some men may say they get mixed signals from women or that when women say no, they mean yes. Well, this is very relative, which is why communication is a major part of everyday living.
So to eliminate confusion, here’s how to recognise consent: The easiest and foolproof way to know if you have consent is by asking your partner. Because consent is active and continuous, you have to keep checking in to make sure they’re still comfortable with what’s happening. The consent that was given yesterday does not work for today. Consent is needed for all types of sex and in all stages of intimacy not just before penetrative sex. On the other hand, even if you agreed to do something, you can always change your mind if you stop enjoying it or you feel uncomfortable about it.
Body language can also help you sense how your partner is feeling. Look out for signs such as nodding, smiling or if they’re responding to your touches or kisses. These signals aren’t consent on their own, but they can still be a helpful indication as to whether or not your partner is enjoying what’s going on.
But if the person is unresponsive or resisting and is not smiling, this could be a sign that they aren’t comfortable. It’s important to note that silence is not consent. Just because one hasn’t said “no” or asked you to stop directly does not mean that it’s OK to keep going.
It’s difficult to give consent when you’re high or drunk, even if you say “yes” or ask for sex. The same goes for people who are asleep or unconscious. They cannot give consent either. Going ahead to have sex with anyone in this condition means you are taking advantage of the situation to have your way and this is wrong. To properly give consent you need to be awake and sober.
You should know that there are different types of consents. These include:
i. Enthusiastic consent: This is direct consent that involves an active “yes” – as opposed to not saying “no”. Having sex with someone who isn’t into it isn’t much fun for anyone. So it’s always better for both parties to be actively involved and in the mood. Remember that consent can be withdrawn at any time. And just because someone consents to make out, doesn’t mean that they consent to have intercourse or oral sex. Discussing what you’re both comfortable with before you have sex can help establish boundaries, but you must know that you both have the right to change your mind at any time!
ii. Informed consent: This is based on facts from the previous communication. Consent can only be complete when you have all the facts, and if you and your partner are honest with each other. For example, if you agree to have sex, understanding that your partner will use a condom, and then they don’t use a condom, then that is not informed consent because the circumstances have changed.
Other things to note:
Getting an erection doesn’t equal consent. Our bodies have natural responses to stimulation, sometimes irrespective of the situation. For example, getting an erection, having vaginal lubrication or reaching orgasm. These are the body’s natural response to sex and are not the same as giving consent – you can still experience any of these physiological changes even if you haven’t consented to sex.
Clear communication before and during sexual activity
Needed every time you have sex
Positive and enthusiastic
Informed and honest
Needed for all types of intimacy
Consent is not:
Silence/not saying “no”
Automatically granted even if you’ve had sex before
Given when someone is drunk, high, or asleep
Tied to someone’s behaviour such as their sexual history or the way they dress
Physiological responses such as having an erection, natural lubrication or an orgasm
Continuing to ask someone for sex after they’ve said “no”
Importance of consent
Sex without consent is rape or sexual assault. Statistics have shown that more than half of all sexual assault cases happen at or near the survivor’s home. Sexual violence doesn’t happen in just one way. It’s different for everyone. But it’s important to recognise when it happens and educating and understanding consent is a great first step to doing just that.
Being open and honest about what you do and don’t enjoy can strengthen your relationship and lead to better sex in the long run, and assuring that we always have enthusiastic and informed consent will help normalise a healthier attitude towards sex.
I would love to get feedback, questions and recommendations on the topics you would want me to shed light on.
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