We say we understand consent. We know it’s the most important part of sex. We know the absence of it has serious implications; legally, physically, psychologically.
Yet young people, in particular, have told researchers they don’t know exactly what it looks like in a real-world scenario.
After all, every encounter is different; different contexts, different relationships, involving different people with different histories and capacities and abilities and needs.
So let’s consider an analogy. Something more universal, relatable.
A three-course dinner.
Watch: Consent served as dinner. Post continues after video.
So what does this tell us about what consent should look like, and what it shouldn’t?
- an enthusiastic, mutual “yes” that’s given freely and continuously.
- a constant process of checking-in. Are you into X? Would you like to try Y now? How about Z next?
- able to be revoked at any point.
- reliant on the person’s capacity to make a sound, reasoned judgement.
- about establishing trust and an equal balance of power (even — in fact, especially — if you’re playfully exploring/acting out an imbalance).
- managing desire and possible rejection at the same time, with respect.
- being able to say “no” in a situation where culture has almost exclusively shown you people saying, “yes, yes, yes!” (often only just to be safe, or ‘polite’).
- achieved via deception, manipulation or pressure. Ever.
- a blanket agreement that covers whatever happens next.
- only applicable to single people, or ‘casual’ encounters, or straight couples.
- a guarantee of satisfaction, pleasure or even enjoyment.
Order what you like.
If it’s not exactly what you asked for, it’s not to your taste or you just don’t feel like it anymore, don’t hesitate to send it back. And respect when your partner wants to do the same.
The menu is big and it’s varied. So try something else, if you’re hungry.
But only ever if you’re hungry.
Feature image: Mamamia.