In a generation where many of us meet our sexual partners on apps or in clubs, the idea of consent is often drowned out by alcohol and the thought of sex at our earliest convenience.
I have talked to many friends and even colleagues, and have discussed the fact that while we are the generation with the most forms of communication, we are the worst at actually communicating. And I think that spills heavily into how we navigate dating spaces and our sex lives. No one wants to have these important conversations of "are you sure the condom/ dental dam is on properly?" or "have you been tested" or "are you on birth control?" Safe sex is more than finding ways to prevent pregnancy or STD transmission. It is ensuring that whatever you are doing, it is 100% consensual, and it's necessary to understand exactly what that means.
It took me some time to assure myself that I do not owe my body to anyone. Ever. In a society where our bodies can be so undervalued and oversexualized, I often remind myself that my body is mine. At all times. Under every circumstance. When I'm drunk. When I'm horny. When I'm engaging in consensual sex. I can take away your access to my body at any time, and if or when I choose to that's not a conversation or a negotiation or an opportunity for you to fuss. It is a decision that I have already made, for reasons that I may or may not choose to share with you, and quite frankly, you have no say.
And that goes for everyone. Regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ability or any other aspect of identity. Everyone should have complete agency over their own bodies at all times, and shouldn't be put into situations where they feel like they are no longer in control. Consent is something that can be examined and better understood far past one simple blog post, but this will hopefully give a better idea of what it means.
Intersectionality cannot be overlooked
When discussing consent it must be done through an intersectional lens. This topic cannot be properly addressed without taking into consideration different aspects of identity such as race, gender, ability, and sexuality. You can teach someone what consent is, and get them to understand that only yes means yes, but if they're racist, or sexist, or homophobic, and do not value folks who fit under those identity markers, then consent cannot be understood until they break through-or at the very least, acknowledge- their discrimination.
Body language is not enough
Despite what we hear in songs or see in movies, a simple look doesn't give you the green light to make any sexual advance. Especially if it's coming from someone you don't know very well. Consent has no blurred lines. It should always be a clearly communicated 'yes'.
Persuading someone into saying yes, is not an actual yes
If you had to ask them more than once, and by the end they finally give in because they're clearly uncomfortable, that is not a yes. That's someone sacrificing their body out of fear.
You must get consent for EVERY act
Many people think that once there is any access to someone's body, that it must mean full access. Someone might only consent to a kiss, but nothing else. I explained it to a friend once by saying "just because someone agrees to give you oral sex, doesn't automatically mean you should assume you can skip to anal without a conversation." Everybody is different, and every body is different. Not every person you have sexual encounters with will want or be okay with the same things. That's why it's necessary to discuss what you are willing and unwilling to do, and keep each other aware of what's going on.
Doing it once doesn't mean you always have access to their body
Even if you are in relationship, no one else's body belongs to you. Just because you might only be having sex with each other, doesn't mean you have access to it whenever and wherever you please. Doing anything with someone once, doesn't give you an unlimited free pass back to their body.
Consent can be taken away at any time
Believe it or not, but humans have a crazy way of having something called feelings, and the ability to change our minds. If someone says they wanted something at first, then last minute decided it wasn't what they wanted anymore, you need to respect that. Even if you are already engaging in sex, and your partner decides that they no longer want to continue, that is their absolute right as the ruler of their own body.
(Cis-hetero men, don't give me the bullshit excuse about blue balls. Rub it out in the bathroom and keep it moving.)
Consent can't be given in some circumstances, here's why
You cannot receive consent from someone who is not in a mental state to make informed decisions. If someone is unconsciousness, intoxicated, or underage, then consent cannot be valid due to unequal power dynamics and/or other influences. This can also be the case in situations where someone is under your authority or care (teacher/student, doctor/patient, etc).
No enthusiasm? No consent
'Yes' doesn't mean they nodded, or shrugged their shoulders. That person has to give a willing and enthusiastic YES! Makes sense, right? I want to know that my partner is excited to have sex with me, if I can see they aren't really feeling it, then I'll take that as a no.
No one owes you shit
Even if you travelled a long distance to see this person. Even if you know they like you. Even if you've been sexting for months. Even if you're married to them. No one owes you any part of their body. Ever. Don't ever get it fucked up.
Reacting negatively is a red flag
Your sexual partner ain't shit if they respond negatively when you choose to not give consent. If they begin to pout, or get angry, or show resentment to you for not engaging, that is not okay or normal. They can survive without it in that very moment. Adults usually know how to masturbate. This is not life or death. If they make you feel guilt or shame for not fulfilling their sexual needs at a particular time, that's not your problem or fault.