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Sex + Relationships

Defining the Line of Consent as a Woman

Is consent taught differently to men and women?

From my experience, men are drilled with the common principles such as:

            “Never have sex with a woman who is under the influence.”

            “Never have sex with a woman who says no.

            “Never have sex with a woman who does not give a clear yes.”

But what about us girls?

How many of us have ever gone to a party with their boyfriend, girlfriend, or hookup buddy and ended the night more sober than our partner? You get back to your apartment and things start to get steamy…do you stop yourself if you know you are in more of the right headspace than them?

Specifically in heterosexual relationships, I feel that there is a stigma that men will always want sex, while women are in charge of choosing when. We are taught very clearly what to do in order to prevent an uncomfortable situation for us, while less so a situation where our male counterpart may feel pressured.


couple's feet sticking out the sheets
Photo by Womanizer WOW Tech from Unsplash

Honestly, I fell into this mindset only recently, meaning that I am now hyper-aware of how the guys I am with feel in sexual encounters. I am not saying that I ever put myself in a situation to take advantage of anyone, but I am now even more conscious to make sure that my partner has just as equal of voice as I do.

The line of consent, unfortunately, is not as crystal clear as it may seem.

What if your partner arranged to have sex with you before they became intoxicated? Is their “yes” valid if they are now drunk? Does this answer change if the intoxicated partner is a girl or a boy?

What if they are begging to have intercourse after coming home from a night of drinking and you comply? Is it your fault if they wake up the next morning feeling violated?

While these questions may seem harsh or blunt, I believe that they need to be asked to prevent any harm down the line in your relationships.

I have had many conversations with my female friends about their experiences with sexual assault and rape. I, myself, have been assaulted and I openly have this conversation with girls around me to bring awareness to these types of scenarios. I think to myself, though: how often do I have these kinds of conversations with boys?


Two women holding hands
Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst/Shopify

I get it — it’s easy to adopt the mindset of “hating all men” after horrific things happen due to the actions of some.

My best advice is to start off with men in your life that you trust — whether that be fathers, brothers, cousins, or friends — and share your stories. This safe space gives you the support that you need while giving your male peers an environment to share their experiences as well.

I was so surprised to hear about sexual assault cases from my male friends, as I honestly had not thought that they were so prevalent. I am thankful to have learned that maybe some of my actions weren’t as acceptable as I thought that they were. I was feeding so much into the mindset that men are much stronger, powerful, and determined to seek sexual encounters that I forgot that they could feel just as violated as women.

I think it is important as women to be critical of ourselves in our sexual relationships, just as much as we are critical of our sexual partners. We are equals in our relationships, which means that we must treat our significant others with the same care as we deserve. The next time that you are with your boyfriend or sexual counterpart, open the conversation with them about consent. Ask them what they would feel comfortable with, or what their boundaries are. I am positive that it will only clear the lines of consent between the two of you and strengthen the relationship that you have.

 

Karen Hareli

U Mass Amherst '22

Karen is a junior at UMass Amherst pursuing a Biochemistry degree with a Psychology minor. In her free time she loves to cook, workout, draw and paint, explore new restaurants, and most importantly play with her adorable cat, Leena.
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