TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains details of rape, sexual consent, drugs and alcohol.
Sexual consent culture is essentially the opposite of rape culture; it makes it more socially acceptable and normal to ask the other partner for sexual consent across a broad range of engagement. This mutually based culture seeks to create and standardize a safe and respectable environment for sex – and is something that can (and must) be taught within our education curriculum but is not happening enough.
In this article, I wanted to engage others on the importance of sexual consent and why we need to practise and consolidate its ethos as part of our daily lives. Here are four ways consent should be considered:
- Clear Active Consent.
This is clear, mutually understandable permission created from words or actions. Note that the lack of a partner saying “no” is not clear active consent, neither may silence be considered as consent. Remember, we are not mind readers; we do not know what the other person might find attractive or permissible.
- Coherent / Equal Power Consent.
Consent must be given coherently. Someone under the effects of drugs or alcohol, who is asleep or not in a rational condition, cannot give clear consent.
- Choice Of Consent.
Partners must be able to make a choice without feeling pressured by the other. Consent cannot be manipulated by physical, psychological or emotional pressure; this includes partners in a long-term relationship. Partners must be on an equal ‘power balance’ – someone under another’s authority is not able to give willing and clear consent.
- Ongoing (A Process) Of Consent.
We must not forget that consent needs to be an ongoing thing; it should be discussed not only during every sexual encounter but with each step or ‘base’ within these encounters. Just because someone agrees one day does not mean they will the next. We must remember that anyone can change their mind at any given point. We should ask simple questions such as “would you like to?”
Additionally, consent may be given for the future but can also be retracted at any time.
If someone close to you has reached out about how they feel affected by rape culture, support them, be their ally, even just a simple “I believe you” could be the motivational boost they need. Remember, this can be a big deal for victims, and it’s often a difficult (sometimes embarrassing) subject to discuss. We need to stand in solidarity with one another and make sure that anything other than clear, active consent is unacceptable and immoral in today’s society.
Inspiration for this article comes largely from a Consent Workshop run by Dr Caroline West, a sex educator, author and lecturer who hosts the Podcast @GlowWestPodcast. The show offers detailed ways of dealing with sexual awareness. If you would like to listen to it, I strongly recommend following this link to her series: https://open.spotify.com/show/2VWbnnD55VY1CgMJDnOKsf?si=y5ZdR8N4R-mFAhgFvFzluA&nd=1.