UNDERSTANDING CONSENT

UNDERSTANDING CONSENT

2021-02-06

Talking About SRH: It’s Not Just One Conversation

Consent: asking for permission to do something. It involves respectful communication and mutual understanding of one’s boundaries and comforts. Understanding consent equips one with the skills to leave an uncomfortable situation and respect when someone else wants to do the same.

So let’s dive right in!

When is consent needed? Literally for everything! Whether you’re with friends, family or romantic partners – consent needs to be taken before carrying out an activity or attempting to touch someone. We each have our boundaries, our individual likes and dislikes. What seems okay to you, may not be okay for someone else. That’s why you ask for consent, before going ahead and possibly overstepping or harming someone.

It is important to remember that both parties need to agree and have an understanding of what they are agreeing to. Agreeing to do one thing does not mean consent has been given to progress or do something else. In romantic and sexual relationships, agreeing to go out on a date does not imply agreeing to “taking it to the next level”.

Additionally, there are conditions in which someone cannot give consent. Factors such as the person’s age, state of mind and consciousness need to be taken into account. A lack of consent can become a legal matter, especially when engaged in sexual activity. That’s why its always good to check for consent. If you’re unsure, or feel like the other person may seem uncomfortable – ask again!

Situations in which consent is not valid is when someone is:

  • Under legal age of consent
  • Unable to understand what they are consenting to
  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Asleep, unconscious or semi-conscious
  • Being forced, threatened, pressured or trapped
  • Mistaken or tricked about what and who they are giving consent to

What does consent sound like? Consent is clear and certain. There is no mystery, no doubts, no what-ifs, no buts.

YES! Absolutely! I would love to. I am enjoying this – these are words that imply consent.

No. Maybe. Stop. I’m not sure – these words mean consent has not been given.

Consent is always verbal. There needs to be a clear ‘yes’. Someone being silent, unresponsive, or ‘showing’ interest but not implicitly voicing it – that is not consent.

If someone initially says no, but you try to convince them and they reluctantly agree – that is not consent. It’s always good practice to ask them again, and if they say “no”, respect it. The same goes for you – no one has the right to force you into doing something you are not comfortable with. Honor your boundaries and voice your feelings by simply stating them – “I don’t like this. I am uncomfortable.”

Listen and watch for body cues – our bodies may tense up as a means to protect us from a situation that we may not be aware of. Sometimes, our gut feeling dominates and we just don’t feel comfortable. If you just can’t seem to relax in a situation, remove yourself from it. If you see someone visibly uncomfortable, always check in and ask them how they’re feeling.

We have a right to our bodies and what we do with them. Read that again. You and you alone have the authority to make decisions about your body. If something makes you uncomfortable or if you just don’t want to – say no! You know what is best for you, what would feel good and safe for you. The same goes for everyone else – we are the sole experts on our experiences, no one else.

How do you get consent? You ASK! Say, “do you want to”, “would you be comfortable with” and then describe the activity or action. Consent needs to be asked before any activity, whether it’s new or been done before. Consent is ongoing, it’s not a one-time thing. If someone says yes once, they can say no the next time. Consent is also reversible, saying yes initially does not bound one to carrying out the activity they agree to – they can always stop in between.

Consent doesn’t need to be awkward. In fact, it’s more likely to make the other person feel valued. An environment with solid consent practices is one that feels safe and comfortable. All participants feel heard, understood and free to express themselves. It allows for healthy relationships that foster a deep understanding and respect of one another, bringing people closer.

In short: everyone’s happy and having a good time!