Does Yes always mean Yes?

**CW: rape, sexual harassment, non-consent****

So, yesterday was the last day of the 16 days of Action against Violence Against Women, and so I wanted to chat about consent.

Heterosexual relationships in a patriarchal society can be very gendered. I speak as a woman in this post, and my ideas of consent cannot be separated from my gender identity. Men are raped. Men must also consent. The things I state apply to them also, but just bear in mind that this is a woman’s perspective.

I doubt you will meet many women at University who have never felt pressured, coerced or obligated to have sex in a situation when they didn’t particularly want to. In fact, studies definitely seem to back this sad fact up as well.

There is a lot of great basic education on consent: making sure the person you’re with seems like they are enjoying what they are doing, getting verbal consent, checking for non-verbal cues. However, there is less education in the more subtle ways consent can be differentiated from non-consent. And so, paradoxically, to answer the question: What is Consent? I want to go through some of the things that are not consent.

1. Only a Yes

If you pressure someone into saying yes, this is not consent. A yes must be given freely, of a person’s own accord, and should not be something they seem a bit unsure or sceptical about giving.

2. Lying to get someone into a vulnerable position

This is especially true for casual hook ups. Telling someone you just want to kiss/cuddle and then trying to get them to have sex with you, when it was clearly not what they were after, again is not consent.

3. Making someone feel guilty for not having sex with you

Telling someone you’re “too turned on to stop” or that it’s “too tempting” not to have sex, or anything similar, does not result in consensual sex. If someone is having sex with you because they feel like they should or feel guilty about not doing so, this is not consent.

4. Carrying on when someone is reluctant, but you arouse them to a point they stop refusing

If someone is reluctant when you start foreplay with them, and consistently says/gives non-verbal cues that they don’t want to be engaging in it, but then you get to a point where they are very aroused and not resistant anymore, that is not consent. Also, sexual arousal does NOT equal consent.

5. Wearing someone down

If you’ve asked someone if they want to have sex with you/go home with you/do x, y, z with you and they say no several times, before giving a yes, probably because they’re exhausted of putting up a fight and just feel it’s easier to give in, that is not real consent.

DO: COMMUNICATE! Verbal communication is just about the best thing you can do to ensure consent, especially with a new partner where you have no idea about their non-verbal cues.

Consent is complicated, but it’s the most basic requirement for sex. It doesn’t help that we don’t have compulsory consent education in schools.And for something which really isn’t up for debate, that’s a blatant omission by curriculum organisers. I for one was not told that for someone to have sex with me, then I had to say “Yes, you can do that”. And to me, that might have seemed basic, but how can we go on presuming that everyone understands consent? I’m a feminist, and I have still had questions into my University years about consent. It’s time we start educating. Consent isn’t sexy. Consent is required.

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