“Consent means that both people in a sexual encounter must agree to it, and either person may decide at any time that they no longer consent and want to stop the activity. Consenting to one behavior does not obligate you to consent to any other behaviors. Consenting on one occasion also does not obligate you to consent on any other occasion. Consenting means only that at this particular time, you would like to engage in this particular sexual behavior.”
Consent ideally ensures mutual interest and minimal regrets. Both parties are comfortable with that they’re doing. If you’re not comfortable with doing something, you shouldn’t do it. And if your partner isn’t comfortable, you shouldn’t pressure them, because it’s a sign they aren’t ready. To know if someone wants to consent, all you have to do is ask, but if they are not capable of consenting because of intoxication or other reasons, that doesn’t constitute as consent. For a healthy relationship, it’s also not good to accept consent from people in a vulnerable mental state either, because that affects the condition of their consent.
Remember, even if you’re in a relationship or married to someone, you don’t owe them your consent. They don’t own you and that’s not how love works. Love is not ownership, and if your partner has the mentality that they own your body or deserves access to it in this way, this is a red flag for an emotionally abusive, controlling relationship that could escalate into physical abuse. Love means you choose each other and you are free to choose. Love is respect, it doesn’t hurt and it isn’t forceful. You should feel comfortable with your partner. And when you don’t want to do something, they should listen to you. It’s okay to change your mind or to say no.
When consent is not respected it can lead to dangerous situations like sexual or physical assault, abuse or rape. Sexual assault is as simple as unwanted sexual contact: a kiss, touch or more. The best thing to do is communicate your boundaries when you date and interact with the opposite sex. Know for yourself what you feel comfortable with doing and within what timelines. It’s also important to assert yourself. A partner who doesn’t respect your consent could lead to or verbal aggression and manipulation which can escalate.
How to avoid an abusive relationship all together: Look for the red flags!
A great visual tool, called the Power and Control Wheel, explains the many signs and red flags that precede a physically-abusive relationship. Some examples are using anger or emotional manipulation, peer pressure, using social status, intimidation, minimizing, invalidating, denial, blaming and sexual coercion. Take note if you see these behaviors in your relationship so you can avoid abusive outcomes and escalation.
If you need to talk or are in danger, call The National Domestic Abuse Line at 1-800-799-7233. Or if you just want to talk and find out more about dating and healthy relationships, check out http://www.loveisrespect.org/.