The topic of consent has been brought to the attention of the public in recent times.
After different movements like the #MeToo campaign and increasing reports on incidents of sexual assault around the world, the need to understanding and exercising our right to consent has become more important than ever.
In situations where we are intimate with another person, consent must be given first. While understanding that is relatively straight forward, getting your head around the actual topic itself can be a little tricky.
So, to help you have a better understanding of it and get involved with the conversation of consent, we’ve come up with an all-inclusive guide to the subject. From what it means to how to give it, we’ve got you covered.
What is consent?
Consent is a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. By giving consent you’re letting another person know that you’re happy to engage in that particular type of intimacy. Consent is all about setting personal boundaries and continuous communication each step of the way in any relationship – this goes from texting right up to being in a committed relationship.
What does consent look like?
Consent for sexual activities (From hand holding to penetrative sex) is something that needs to be freely given. This should be given both verbally and physically. Consent needs to be demonstrated freely and clearly, initiating intimacy by your actions is okay, but the best way to give consent is by saying the word ‘yes’ and also by asking the other person if they are happy to engage too. Saying ‘no’ ‘maybe’ or remaining silent is not consent.
What does consent not look like?
There are certain situations where someone is unable to give consent even after verbal communication, for example, it can’t be given if one person is intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, becomes unconscious, is under the age of 17, is pressured into saying yes or have any other factors affecting their mental capacity.
Consent is never implied by things like your past behaviour. For example, if you’ve slept with someone before, this doesn’t mean that you will sleep with that person or another person again. For any kind of intimate act, both people must agree to it every single time for it to be consensual. Without this consent, the activity can be understood as an assault.
So, how can you give consent?
Like we said above, consent can be should be given verbally and physically. The best way to give your consent is by simply saying it. While you can show you are open to something by your actions, you should also tell the person that this is what you want. If a situation is escalating and you’re okay with it, you can tell the other person that you are by saying you are happy with how things are panning out, and that you’re happy for things to keep progressing. By vocalising your wants you also allow the other person to say theirs, resulting in mutual consensus between you both.
How do I make sure the other person gave their consent
You might think you know if someone is consenting to be intimate with you, but the only way you can be totally sure of their consent is by asking them. Sexualwellbeing.ie have outlined a list of ways you clearly get consent. They said that you can get someone’s consent by asking them if they are okay to carry on with what you are doing, if there is anything they would or would not like to do, and if they feel okay with what is happening, it’s always important to let them know that they can tell you when to stop or change activity too.
How do I let someone know I don’t give consent?
The same way you give consent to someone by vocalising your wants, the best way to let someone know that you’re not comfortable with a situation is by telling them too. You can simply tell the other person no, or letting them know that you’re not comfortable with what’s happening. There are multiple reasons you might want to say no to being intimate and that’s perfectly okay – and you should never feel you have to give a reason. By being open and honest with your partner you will hopefully open up conversation between you both and form a mutual respect for one another. If the other person doesn’t listen to you and continues to put pressure on you it’s important to say ‘no’ again in a firm tone to let them know how uncomfortable they’re making you feel. If you need to, get up and put space between you both. It’s perfectly okay for you to put a stop to things and your partner should respect that.
If you have experienced a situation that left you feeling uncomfortable or had your consent abused and would like to speak with someone, you can freephone Womensaid on 1800341900.