Consent

Consent is not just sexy, it’s necessary.

In one of my classes last week, we were studying how to use the idea of theater and role play to figure out solutions and alternatives to problems.  One of the issues we ran through was consent during sex.  The scenario was a male and a female who had just finished up their third date, and were sitting in the male’s room listening to music.  The story starts when the male starts pressuring the female for sex, which she is slightly hesitant but amiable to, but becomes very uncomfortable when it becomes evident he has no condoms.

The girl tried to argue him away by telling him she wanted it to be special (apparently she was a virgin), that she wanted birth control, that they could do it the next day, that she was worried about stds, the list went on and on.  As the scene progressed, I found myself squirming more and more as the boy kept pressuring her despite her arguments.  Finally I spoke up, ‘Why can’t she just walk away?’  The teacher dismissed it with a ‘She wants to keep away from confrontation, and keep their relationship amiable’.  I wasn’t satisfied with this answer. ‘If he’s pressuring her, why does she want to stay friends?’  Another student piped up with ‘What if he’s perfect in every other way?’ Me: ‘Well then she should come back when they both aren’t drunk, and continue it another day with condoms, if that’s the real issue here.’  Apparently that wasn’t a viable answer, so the scene kept progressing, and I just stopped arguing, fearing I would be labeled as ‘that radical feminist Scrippsie’ in a class full of Pitzer students.

Later I realized that what the Professor was trying to say was that not everyone is in a scenario in which they are able to say no, or just feel uncomfortable doing it.  I believe finding and teaching alternative solutions for saying no is important, but that a base case must be stated in order to have a goal to strive towards for our society before other solutions can be taught.  First the issue must be recognized as the fault of the person putting pressure for sex, and once that has been pointed out, then ways for the victim to work around the aggressor can be discussed.  In the previous incident, I did not feel like the teacher recognized that the aggressor was in the wrong and that walking away was an option, but perhaps I was just being too harsh. This class led me to create my own manifesto/base case of what consent means to me.  I’m hopefully beating the dead horse here in terms of consent, but sometimes when I watch the news or read online stories, I’m not quite sure.

My Consent Manifesto:

  • Excuses should be unnecessary.  If you don’t want to have sex, no one should pressure you for sex.  If your partner doesn’t want to have sex, you should not pressure them for sex.  They don’t need to say they are tired, or afraid of stds, or uncomfortable.  If you want to give a reason, that’s great, but there is no reason you should ever be forced to explain yourself.  That’s not saying I don’t believe in open communication, but sometimes all it leads to is your partner trying to convince you why your reasons are wrong.  You control your own body and get to decide what to do with it, and no one should ever make you feel guilty for that right.
  • You are allowed to change your mind. You can love someone and not want to have sex that night.  You can think you want to hook-up at a party, then realize you don’t actually want to.  As stated by Springles, ‘Any action someone takes is informed by the context surrounding it, and it is always changing.’  If it starts out feeling right, then turns to wrong, you can stop, and there is absolutely nothing your partner should be able to do to convince you otherwise.  If you are questioning or unsure, please remember that…
  • …It can always wait.  Sex is never necessary, and no one should ever make you feel it is.  Want to have sex but don’t have birth control?  Do it another night.  Neither of you are going to die between now and your next date, and even if you do, I promise your life is not over just because you skipped sex.  If your partner doesn’t agree with this, always feel free to walk away, which ties into:
  • If your partner wants sex tonight, they will probably want it again, even if you skip it.  One of the worst logic fallacies in sex is that ‘oh god, if I don’t have sex tonight, my partner is going to hate me and our relationship is ruined and I’ll have lost the magic that could have happened my Disney ending is never going to happen ohgawd.’  No.  Your partner will most likely want sex again.  If your partner stops wanting sex just because you refuse one night or because they don’t want to compromise with things such as birth control, you probably should either be talking it out (sober and not in the heat of the moment) or not having sex anyway.
  • And finally, if you cannot say no, you are not weak, stupid, or bad.  Social pressure is hard.  Wanting to please your partner is understandable.  Sometimes your mind lies to you and creates consequences that would never actually occur.  You are not a bad person for believing your mind, but you should work towards recognizing the lies.  Being able to say no and take control your body is the ideal, not always the reality.  Please, please, please just take what I have to say into consideration, but even if you agree with it, don’t beat yourself up if you ever find yourself slipping and saying yes when you want no.  If nothing else, talk it out with your partner beforehand, explain that sometimes you feel pressured, and work out methods to nip it in the bud.

What is stated above is simply my opinion of what should be strived for in terms of consent, feel free to debate it below.  I’m always interested in opposing opinions backed by logic, and I readily admit that I am young, still often see things in black and white and from my own microscopic world, and often need to be made aware of key points I am missing.  Or maybe everything I’ve just said is obvious, and I’ve simply restated what the world already knows. Comment below and let me know!

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About Alicen Lewis

Find me on BaiRabbit.wordpress.com! Archived Blog: Previously a summer intern for the startup incubator Idealab, during the school year I am also on the board of the Scripps College Professionals Network, Team Leader and Head Web Designer for Scripps College IT for Faculty, and President of Scripps Women in Technology. My previous experience includes working Digital New Media with Geek & Sundry, a Los Angeles Commercial YouTube company.

Posted on March 5, 2013, in Claremont, Gender/Sexuality, Growing Up, Opinion, Relationships and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. The reason that I really identify with this post is because this has happened to me many times (I have some fairly bad memories) and my first reaction is to want to shout at my past self to not do it! But I think you also made me realize that maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, and that in the future I will know how to act.

    • I’m really glad that you realize that there’s nothing bad about having made the mistake in the past, and I’m especially happy that you know what you should do in the future ❤

  2. I feel like “You are allowed to change your mind” needs its own bullet point. Any action someone takes is informed by the context surrounding it, and it is always changing.

  3. There’s a really weird link between victim-blaming and women not being able to say no without seeming like a bitch or a prude. And as seen by your post, women seem to need a lot of self-blaming excuses (I’m tired, I’m afraid of STDs, I want it to be special) to navigate that.

    • I really like that you pointed out that all the excuses I listed were self blaming. I hadn’t noticed that before, although now it’s pretty obvious, and the reason technically makes sense from a social psychology standpoint. We want to make sure our partner is happy, and to say the truth could often be hurtful. Even a simple ‘I’m not that comfortable with you’ (whether temporary comfort or permanent) could destroy the partner’s self esteem. Sometimes feelings are more complicated than can be explained, and sometimes the explanations can even be wrong or change. It seems like it’s hard to find a middle ground between truth and not selfblaming for not wanting sex, while still having the ability to say no, which is why I advocate the right to just say no with no explanation. Again, thanks for pointing out the self-blaming trend of the excuses and the link between victim-blaming and women not being able to say no without consequences.

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