Consent – When silence doesn’t mean “yes”

Consent is more than someone not saying “no”. Wait for them to say “yes”.

With American student Brock Turner able to sexually assault an unconscious woman in public, yet swerve proportionate jail time thanks to a lenient judge and glittering future in sport, the Weinstein scandal barely out of the headlines for more than a day, and more and more male celebrities admitting they have been “part of the problem”, sexual harassment, power and consent are all parts of a big conversation going on right now.

But what’s your understanding of these words, and how do you relate them to your own encounters?

It is easy to think that stories such as these could only ever involve other people; that no-one you know – and certainly not you – could ever be the man in question. But this is a time of self-reflection and responsibility, of understanding our actions and their consequences.

Whether you’re in a relationship or have different partners – regular or infrequent – active consent is always relevant.

It’s a myth that someone who doesn’t want to have sex will always fight and try and get away, or scream “no” at the top of their voice. And it’s a myth that having consensual sex once implies ongoing consent for future encounters, or that by starting to have sex, it’s impossible that someone might change their mind in the middle and want to stop.

So, how can you tell if someone is consenting? It’s strangely simple – ask them! There is nothing wrong with checking that your partner is comfortable, enjoying things and happy to carry on. And if they’re not, stop. Asking and checking in will not make you less of a man, or kill the mood. What could be sexier than knowing how much you both want it to happen?

As a man, you have such an important part to play in this ongoing conversation about consent. It’s up to you to know for sure that your partner is as into it as you are – and make this a turn-on, not a barrier.

And – daunting as it may be – be the one to call out your mates if you see questionable behaviour – if they’re having to use things like alcohol or guilt-tripping to move a relationship to the next level, be the one to stop them in their tracks.

The 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” has not helped matters, basically saying that good girls require “liberating” and alarming repetition of “I know you want it”.

And in a world of fake news and stories that come down to “they said/they said”, it can also be tempting to dismiss narratives we disagree with as false, or subjective storylines where opinion trumps fact. There are no blurred lines when it comes to sex – and tuning into your partner and their wishes can only make for a better experience for you both, each and every time.

To see a brilliant video that describes consent using tea (yes, tea), click here.

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