Being a roaring success, over the last five years, not only in the US but also in the entire world, the #Metoo movement has had a very strong impact on people of all ages, genders, from different social and economic backgrounds. Through sharing stories of most often, though not limited to women on their past sexual harassment experiences and showing how common that is in every corner of the world, it aims at being a source of solidarity to girls and ladies, condemning rape culture and inculcating the ‘Consent’ idea in every single part of sexual activity.
What’s sexual consent?
Sexual consent is a discretionary, eager and clear expression of assent or approval to be involved in sexual activity with a partner or group of people. Many countries have made no room for ambiguity by requiring consent to be explicit, verbal and in many cases -a clear YES, namely Canada where impliedly expressed consent has not been considered as a defence for rape since 1999.
Does a “yes” always mean a real YES?
The answer is not necessarily. Many organizations have tried to set some rules to get rid of any source of ambivalence and create trust with the sex partner and with the state, should any sexual violence arise, thus, avoid non-consensual sexual activity and protect victims from being raped.
Consent should be objective and voluntary, meaning, this inherent right should be expressed of one’s own free will, without external pressure or threats from coworkers (peers), family members or partner(s). It equally should be direct and verbal. In fact it always has to be conveyed clearly in an enthusiastic and engaging context. Moreover, it has to be communicated to and with the other(s) in an ongoing manner, because agreeing on getting involved in a certain stage or part of the sexual activity does NOT imply any further assumptions. Should one not want to give permission for certain steps in any sexual encounter, they are fully entitled to indicate that, and withdraw their previously given consent. Last but not least, it’s very important for the context to be carefully and thoroughly scrutinized. This means that consent is not deemed valid if one of the participants is under the age of consent, intoxicated, debilitated by drugs or under certain medication or experiencing cognitive decline.
Many organizations and foundations around the world are trying to implement those core rules in the constitution, yet few to no countries have positively responded to this idea, and victims are still not fully protected by law.
Why is it important?
Sexual consent is extremely important on multiple levels. In fact, it helps have stronger relationships and more bonded individuals by keeping them in a certain power balance where they are fully heard and respected and where their rights are not being infringed.
Adding to that, it is extremely beneficial for the two/ all parties to make sure all other participants are enthusiastically enjoying the sexual encounter because, the otherwise (nonconsensual sexual activity varying from the act of touching to kissing to penetration…) is subject to severe judicial punishments by law, should the sufferer lodge a complaint. On the other hand, it will have several lifelong effects and mental issues on the victims’ personality namely depression including consistent feelings of hopelessness, dissociation from the real world; better assimilated with loss of concentration and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) generating severe anxiety, and uncontrollable nightmarish thoughts.
I just want to sleep. A coma would be nice. Or amnesia. Anything, just to get rid of this, these thoughts, whispers in my mind. Did he rape my head, too?”Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak
Examples of what consent should be like
It’s very important to ascertain any sexual activity one is getting involved in should be consensual. This may be better understood with the following illustrative examples:
After agreeing to have sex, every party is enthusiastically engaging in every act. Meaning, they don’t openly claim nor show through body language or facial expressions any feeling of discomfort or disagreement. And most importantly, they communicate pleasure and contentment.
Everyone keeps ongoing checkups on whether the other gives permission on continuing or leveling up or any other changes in the lovemaking process. This goes for mutual agreement on every single step in sexting as well.
Exemples of what consent does NOT look like
As stated earlier, consent should follow a set of rules, without which it is not considered valid.
In fact, it’s important that we acknowledge the fact that physiological responses like erection and lubrification are not voluntary, thus, do not determine whether or not someone thoroughly gives consent to be engaged in a sexual activity with the other partner(s), and legally speaking, they are never deemed as a defence for sexual assault.
A “yes”, again does not necessarily mean a real YES, let alone silence. To remain silent is indeed, never viewed as an expression of approbation. It can be provoked by either fear, shock, or worry. And in all cases, it does not imply, in any means, an agreement to a certain sexual act. On the contrary, that must be well understood and communicated before stepping any further. And the same goes for “maybe”, changing the subject or the absence of a “no”.
Assuming one gives permission to engage in a sexual act because they have done it in the past, or that they are committed in a relationship (boyfriend/girlfriend, domestic partnership, marriage…) is wholly wrong. Because everyone is entitled to change their mind over the course. Plus, everyone has their own limits which they expect to be respected by all partners they decide to be intimate with.
Consent Culture requires fun ways to communicate
Many people are not real fans of consent because they don’t want to get too verbal while intimate with their special other(s). But is Consent always dull?
The Consent part can be just as fun as the rest of the sexual activity and can be triggered by different ways and forms, namely:
“Are you confortable with …?”
“Can you help me …?”
“I know you are into …, do you want to try it with me?”
“Which of your fantasies can we enact?”
This is indeed an excellent way to show the other how captivating and above all creative one is!
Age of consent
Sexual agreement, being an absolute necessity in intimacy, setting a minimum age of sexual consent from which someone is deemed capable of consenting to sexual activity was of pivotal importance in relation to protecting adolescents from abuse and from the lifelong consequences of which they may not be aware at that age.
However, legislations on age of consent differ from a nation to another, sometimes even from a tribe to another. But overall, the average is around 17 years old. But while it’s 12 in Angola, it’s 21 in Bahrain.
In fact, it is urgent that laws are set in countries where age of consent is not specified, and eventually uplift it in other countries where it is too low. Actually, this has an immense impact on lowering the number of child molestation cases, for instance, since the considerable reforms in its laws (namely uplifting the age of consent from 13 to 18 to girls) in 2017, Tunisia has had a significant decrease in the reported child sexual abuse cases, dropping from 250 in 2016 to less than 100 in 2020.
This gives the child the ability to make a decision while mature and able to differentiate what’s good from what’s harmful to them and to their bodies. And it, equally, reduces to a great extent paedophilic activity within prepubescent children which is traumatic for many if not all.
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