Talking about consent used to be taboo. It wasn’t “cool” to talk about asking if sex was okay because it “killed the mood.” After years of repeated sexual violence in the news, movements like Me Too and organizations like RAINN have stressed the importance and intricacy of consent. These organizations and movements have taught us that “no” is a full sentence. Your boundaries do not need reason or conditions. You always have the final say over your body. Sex should always be safe, comfortable, and fun. If it isn’t? Remember that “no” is all you need to say for anything further to stop.
So what is Consent?
Consent is the ongoing communication between partners over boundaries while engaging in sexual activity. Planned Parenthood uses the acronym “fries” to break down consent. Consent is freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic, and specific.
Consent is given without coercion, pressure, or manipulation. Consent cannot be totally given if one or more partners is under the influence of drugs or alcohol where decision making becomes impaired. Consent cannot be given by minors. Consent cannot be obtained by intimidation, violence, or fear. Consent can only be given when all involved are safe and comfortable.
Consent can be rescinded at any time. It does not matter that you’re both naked in bed, married, or have previously said yes. If there is any point where you do not feel comfortable, consent can be rescinded. Consent is yours alone to give and yours alone to take back no matter the circumstances.
Consent is having all the information necessary to make the decision. Did your partner disclose all STIs? Did your partner say they were going to use a certain form of birth control? Did your partner inform you of any other partners they have? Did your partner lie in any way? Full consent cannot be obtained without total honesty and communication.
Consent is doing things you want to do; not things you are expected to do. A spouse is not expected to have sex just because they are married any more than a teenager is expected to have sex to keep their high school boyfriend/girlfriend. Enthusiastic consent means all partners are on board for every part of sex taking place. Your partner should respect those boundaries and know what you are and are not enthusiastic about.
Consent is saying yes to each specific act. Saying yes to making out does not mean saying yes to anything else. Saying yes to having sex last week does not mean saying yes to having sex tonight. Previously saying yes to any sexual act does not give consent for right now. Consent is about constant communication. Saying nothing does not mean saying yes. Check in with your partner and ask “is this ok?” or “are you comfortable?”
Consent means you have the final say. While we specified consent during sex, remember that “no” applies to any boundary. Saying “no” can be the most powerful sentence for a survivor. “No” can mean setting boundaries around your recovery. “No” can mean protecting your mental health by any means. Only you can give consent over your body and mental space.
Here at Our Wave, we aim to support you through every “yes” and every “no.” If you are a survivor of sexual violence, you can always share your story here.