This is a long delayed follow up commentary about my last post The Devil Is In The Details here If you haven’t read it, it might be helpful to read it first but it is explicit in nature and does describe a sexual assault in graphic detail so trigger warning. I would like to think there is still some useful information regardless of whether you read the other piece.
Why do we as a society think it’s impolite to go into someone’s fridge without asking, and yet often presume consent access to other people’s bodies? The absence of a “no” does not mean yes.
I know some people are stringent on getting verbal consent, but I don’t think it’s always necessary. I do however expect that if it’s non verbal, that it be enthusiastic consent. If you’re not sure, then you should probably stick to the verbal. Even then, verbal consent isn’t always reliable. A good rule I once heard was from Greta Christina: “Saying yes when you have the power to say no.” It is unreasonable to think you can get an honest yes if someone is under duress, such as if someone has a knife to your throat while asking. More common scenarios are when someone can feel pressured by someone who has some kind of power over them such as a boss, professor, counselor or a medical care provider. This isn’t to say that I think there have never been consensual relations in these scenarios, but it makes it more complex. That being said, if I could only give consent to those that don’t have any power over me, my list of possible sexual partners would be extremely limited, due to my compromised health.
In my last post I gave two scenarios that seem similar on the surface until you read the details. One of these women was sexually assaulted, and one of these scenarios was completely consensual. Did you even notice that when I was talking about the sexual contact in these stories that it was largely what HE was doing to her? There seems to be this pervasive assumption in our culture that women are suppose to be passive in and out of the bedroom. In my experience it’s a lot more fun if everyone is actively participating.
If you couldn’t tell which woman was sexually assaulted without the details did you still find yourself thinking they both put themselves in sketchy situations, and they were probably both just sluts anyways and they deserved it? If you do, you are part of the problem. Everyone has the right to seek and fulfill their pleasures as long as it’s consensual and legal. As a woman who has been an openly polyamorous woman, I have been constantly subject to slut shaming, or people just having this weird curiosity about me, even within my own atheist community. I’m somehow strange because *gasp* I’m a woman who admits that I enjoy having sex because it feels good, and I actively seek it out, and not because I’m searching for my one true love to come along.
My friend recounted that she had been trying to rationalize the situation the entire time it was happening. Maybe he didn’t understand her? Maybe he couldn’t tell how freaked out she was ? Many people ask why victims don’t fight back, but part of why they are victims is because they they feel that their power has been taken from them. They will often do whatever they can to survive what’s happening, and make it end as quickly as possible with as little harm to themselves as possible. This too frequently means them going along with something they don’t want to because they are afraid of the harm that might come to them if they say no, which means they are incapable of actually giving consent.
The guy knew he couldn’t presume he had a ride home from her, why would he presume he had access to her body? You should assume NO, not yes when it comes to access to someone elses body. Non verbal consent can work when given enthusiastically which I tried to demonstrate in scenario A. Unless agreed upon in advance, all those taking part in the sexual encounter should be actively participating! My partner commented on the fact that he liked how responsive I was. I assume this is because he could tell I was enjoying myself. In most of my experiences, people do actually like knowing that they are actually making the other person feel good. Let them know what you do, and don’t like verbally, or non verbally. If at any point you aren’t sure they are enjoying themselves, just ASK!
I don’t subscribe to alcohol automatically negating your ability to give consent depending on the situation, but that might just be because I only allow myself to get inebriated with people I trust and feel safe with in the first place. I also don’t usually allow myself to drink enough where I’m incapable of making coherent decisions.
The kink community is a definite exception to non-verbal consent. If you’re entering a world where power is being given over and taken willingly, then you better know exactly what power you do and don’t have, and even after they’ve given you that power, they STILL have the right to take it back and say no at any time.
It’s also important to remember that just because you’re in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean you have an all-access pass anytime you want. Also getting into bed with someone doesn’t automatically give you consent. Your body is your property, and my body is my property, and without my consent you are TRESPASSING!