Consent isn’t complicated.
If it’s not an enthusiastic, whole-hearted yes, then it’s a no.
Apparently, that’s a difficult concept to grasp.
In the drama series “Anatomy of a Scandal,” a woman accuses a middle-aged politician of rape.
The entire court case revolves around the question:
Did she give consent, or did she not?
The concept of consent has gotten consistently more blurry with the uprising of modern hookup culture. Where sex has been separated from love and commitment, consent to participate in the act has lost consideration.
Here are some situations that are commonly mistaken as consent.
Caving to pressure
If I had a dollar for every story I’ve heard of a high school girl being pressured by her boyfriend — I’d be rich.
(And these days, it doesn’t even have to be a boyfriend. A friends-with-benny’s or potential prom date will do just fine.)
A lot of the time, pressure wears people down. We want others to like and accept us. We want to do things that make people happy — especially if we already have some level of affection for them.
Caving to pressure is not the same thing as eager and enthusiastic consent.
Boyfriends or girlfriends who push and pressure their partners into things they aren’t comfortable with are incapable of love and respect.
While I don’t advocate for these blurry areas of pressure to be considered legal cases of rape (nor should they be prosecuted as such), this is still far from consensual.
Not verbally saying “no”
This one makes me angry.
Ever heard the phrase, “caught like a deer in headlights”?
Humans can get paralyzed by fear, too.
Sometimes we are so shell-shocked by a situation that we can’t do anything but watch it happen.
Far too many people think that verbally saying “no” is the only way to protest. Fear-based paralysis can keep us from doing that.
Furthermore, there are many other ways that you can say “no” to something without directly saying the word no.
I want to stop.
These are all ways of saying no.
Not to mention, umm, hello— body language. If someone is physically pushing you off of them, or trying to escape your advances, that should be a clear sign that they are not into it.
People tend to make the assumption that if your body reacts in a sexually favorable manner, it means that you want to have sex.
This is not necessarily the case.
Human bodies can be stimulated in ways that imply they are ready and willing to participate in an intimate act, but if a person’s mind and heart are not in it, this is not true consent.
Convincing someone’s body that a physical act would be pleasurable is not the same thing as receiving wholehearted consent.
Drunkenness (or another vulnerable state)
When people are drunk, high, or even extremely tired, we tend to lose our ability to cognitively process things.
This is why sobriety (at a minimum) is necessary in order to give consent to anything, legally speaking.
But it’s not only drunkenness from alcoholic substances. Times of severe fatigue or during a state of trauma can similarly remove people from their right state of mind.
Any sexual activity that takes place while a person is in one of these states of mind are not truly consensual because the person is lacking the cognitive ability to truly give consent.
So — what does true consent look like?
True consent involves the alignment of a person’s emotional state, intellect, and body.
They have to be in the right mindset, heart space, and physically prepared in order to give wholehearted consent.
If these three elements aren’t lining up, it’s not true consent.
This doesn’t mean all blurry situations should be legally prosecuted, but it does mean that we should take a deeper look into what we are classifying as “consent” and what doesn’t make the cut.
We can all do better at identifying whether or not someone is truly saying “yes.”
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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