#SexColumn: No-vember and sexual consent as 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based violence is commemorated
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By Sharon Gordon
Johannesburg - So let’s start with the most basic question.
What constitutes consent?
A recent survey found that everybody agreed that consent was essential when it came to sex. And I mean everybody interviewed in the survey. I was impressed.
If everyone knows that consent is essential and that without consent you are committing a crime, how come we have such high rape statistics?
I understand that rape is a touchy subject and that it seldom has anything to do with sex and a lot to do with power. In any form rape is completely unacceptable and a violation of human dignity. In its worst form it leaves the victim mutilated, if not dead.
In 58 countries around the world, a husband cannot be found guilty of raping his wife. It is her duty to have sex regardless of her wishes and take it any time he wants to. I find the concept repugnant.
Consent as I was saying is an important part of the sexual transaction. In relationships that play in the Bondage space to participate in a play the parties are required to give unambiguous verbal consent. For those of you who are unsure about what I mean – let me spell it out.
‘May I blindfold you and cuff your wrists behind your back?’ she asks. He replies, ‘Yes, you may blindfold me and cuff my wrists behind my back.’ Unequivocal, unambiguous consent.
Now imagine if we could do that kind of communication in our common garden variety relationships.
Consent can be withdrawn at any stage. In relationships referred to above it is withdrawn by the use of the safe word. To continue with the play after the safe word is called is a complete breach of the relationship and the trust that exists between the parties. We all know what happens when trust leaves, it’s gone forever.
The problem with consent is so few of us have actually said yes!
Consent is almost always implied and that’s where things go wrong. Think about it, have you ever been asked or asked, ‘May I have sex with you?’ or how about ‘may I kiss you, touch you? Etc.
No! What a surprise!
Have you ever received a reply, ‘Yes you may.’
The point is that 99.9% of us never ask and never give actual verbal consent.
In the same survey where everyone agreed that consent was vital to the sex transaction, they were then asked how they asked for and received consent. This is when the squirming began.
Nobody had actually asked or even said yes. Consent was implied and here is where it gets really terrifying, they all said – ‘well nobody stopped me!’
It would seem that consent is implied because you didn’t say no.
I don’t know about you but I can’t even say no comfortably to the telemarketer who calls me at dinner time.
Saying no to someone is one of those things we have to go on self help courses to learn how to do. It is the word NO that stands between you and a criminal offense.
So what if we turn this upside down and ensure that consent means something other than not saying no.
What if consent is simply to say verbally and unequivocally, yes. Nothing is assumed. We may be able to save ourselves from a difficult he said, she thought, conversation.
I asked my family about how they all get consent. Yes we do talk about sex as if it is a normal part of life and conversation. It would seem that even in my house we have issues. ‘Would you like to come over, watch Netflix and chill?’ seems to count as asking for consent.
I’m putting a stop to that way of thinking right now.
I think this concept of consent is extremely difficult with young adults. They seem to be consumed with being liked and will do almost anything to be accepted by the pack or that boy they like.
I know someone who has a family member that has been accused of sexual assault. He is the sweetest child who got very handsey in the movies. She didn’t say no or stop or move his hand away. His version is she started it by feeling his penis and then he made his move. Three days later the police arrived. His life seems to have been derailed and she has moved on. I have to ask who was at fault?
When I’ve spoken to girls in this situation their response is often ‘He should have known by my body language’. I can tell you from personal experience, once the blood is rushing to genitals there is only one thing that is going to stop it and that is a firm NO! Had he asked for consent, this might not have happened.
I’m going to suggest, no beg you to ask for consent from your partner the next time you want to have sex. It is actually really sexy!