Here at CollegeCandy, we care what you have to say, and want to know what you’re interested in reading about. It was thanks to a comment last week that this article was finally born; special thanks to criolle johnny for the push.
Between my new-found love for feminism, my interest in volunteering at a local rape crisis center, and the incredibly offensive non-consent debacle on Jezebel, the idea and principle of consent has been in my head a lot lately. It turns out it’s not quite as easy as that “no means no” sheet they hand out in health class – there’s more to giving consent than just not saying no.
And that’s where enthusiastic consent comes in. It might sound “cheesy,” but it’s really just a simple way to ensure that the person you’re having sex with actually wants to be having sex with you. I think it’s fair to say that any decent human being wouldn’t want to inflict something sexual on someone who doesn’t want it. Rape is completely avoidable; just make the decision to gain consent before acting sexually. Easy, right?
What we want to avoid is the grey-area in sexuality that has the potential to leave one person feeling violated. We want to create situations where both parties aren’t just going through the motions, but are rather going into sexual activity with enthusiasm.
While it’s as easy as saying “don’t have sex with someone who hasn’t given their expressed and enthusiastic consent,” we have to take a look at what “expressed and enthusiastic consent” means. How do you know if someone really wants to participate in sexual activity with you?
Ask questions. It’s sexy (and responsible) to ask for permission. Asking things like “is it okay if I…?” or “do you want me to…?” is not only a great place to start your dirty dialogue, but it’s also the best way to obtain enthusiastic consent. If your partner doesn’t respond to those questions with “yes!” or something equally as clear, don’t have sex with them.
Are they capable? In a college environment, it’s not rare to be in situations where consent can be made unclear by alcohol or other drugs. After a few drinks, it may be more difficult to remain outside of that grey-area and to obtain enthusiastic consent, but just because it’s a little harder, doesn’t mean it’s not as important. Not obtaining enthusiastic consent, or having sex with someone who is unable to make the decision, is date rape. Don’t have sex with someone who won’t remember it in the morning. Don’t have sex with someone who is unable to make the decision (passed out, inebriated, etc). And if you need to coerce your partner in any way in order to get consent, don’t have sex with them.
Don’t assume. Just because a person has said yes before, doesn’t mean in any way that you can assume they will say yes again. While Cosmo boasts that “Sagittarius guys LOVE surprises” and you should “wake him up with some mind-blowing oral,” you can’t gain consent while your partner is sleeping, and it is not safe to assume that everyone would be okay with having sexual acts enforced on them while they can’t consent. Unless your partner has said “I think it’d be really sexy if you woke me up like this tomorrow,” they haven’t granted you consent. If you’re only assuming it’s okay, don’t have sex with them.
Be aware. If at any point during your sexual rendezvous something feels off or your partner doesn’t seem into it anymore, go back to step one and start again; ask if it’s okay. If you want to stop, say so. It’s important to remember that consent can be revoked at any time, and it’s the responsibility of both parties to be aware of the moment that happens and to ensure you are both still enthusiastically engaged. If your partner doesn’t seem engaged, enthusiastic, or “into” it, don’t have sex.
Be clear. I know that many of us are taught that sex is bad and wanting sex is even worse, but it’s so important to make your intentions clear. Say yes, or say no, either is fine, but make sure you’re saying something. While it’s important to obtain your partner’s enthusiastic consent, it’s equally as important to give yours. Be passionate, enthusiastic and clear about what you’re doing or want to do. If you can’t be those things, or you’re having doubts, don’t have sex.
We’re all for sex positivity here at CollegeCandy, but we want to ensure that all sex is safe, sane and consensual. If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault, visit RAINN.org or call 1-800-646-HOPE.