Consent is key to sex, but some people are still trying to pick the lock.
Most students had a sex education class in middle or high school. While these programs teach anatomy and how bodies mature, most programs do not teach about consent.
Consent is a fundamental part of sex. It is the affirmative, avid and active agreement between people who wish to engage in sexual activity. While this concept may seem obvious, consent is still a concept that society is wrestling with.
Consent is not implied. There are no blurred lines. Let’s be clear:
• Consent is not given if the person is under the influence. If a man or a woman cannot even drive home, they are not able to give consent because their judgment is impaired.
• Consent is not necessarily given even if a person does not object. Not objecting does not mean they agreement. Consent requires expressed verbal agreement
• Consent cannot be given if the person is unconscious. Prior consent does not apply if the person has passed out or is sleeping.
• Consent is not given if the person is giving into pestering or bullying. Succumbing to peer pressure is not consent and can lead to prosecution of the perpetrator.
• Consent is not given if the person gives a reluctant answer. “I guess…” or weak “…okay,” responses show that a person may be reluctant to agree to sexual activity. If a person hesitates, they may not be all that willing. Consent should be given with an affirmative and avid “yes.”
There are some things to keep in mind while engaging in sexual activity to ensure that your partner is comfortable and still giving consent.
• Pay attention to body language. If a partner seems to tense up, shy away from touch, or fall silent second thoughts may have crept in. Keep in mind that participants should be appear to be enthusiastic about the activities.
• It is wise to get verbal reassurance from your partner. A simple, “is this okay?” or “would it be okay if…?” should suffice. Be sure to get verbal feedback. It is okay to stop if either party express discomfort.
• Have a discussion afterwards. Take a few minutes after the activity to discuss what was and what was not enjoyed. It is important to be attentive to a partner’s likes and dislikes.
A person may give consent at the start of sexual activity, but can revoke if the situation becomes uncomfortable. It is important that people express their discomfort or when they are unwillingness to continue. While it may be frustrating, it is important to be an understanding partner and not badger or make someone feel guilty for revoking consent.
A recent study funded by the Center for Disease Control concluded that 10 percent of high school and college-aged people have coerced another person into sexual activity.
The study also finds that the age of 16 seems to be when teens are most likely to coerce others into doing things against their will.
Teaching consent at an early age and reinforcing it through higher levels of education is the key to preventing sexual assault and empowering individuals to speak up against pressure.