What is Consent
The mother of two teenage boys was asking the other day, “How do I keep my sons protected against claims of rape? Kids are going to explore their sexuality,” she went on, “so what happens when consensual sexual discovery suddenly becomes perceived as a forced conclusion by one party or the remorse or regret of the next morning, followed by accusations.”
It’s a fair question. And it’s being asked a lot. But all too often there is a victim and the victim is blamed. She shouldn’t have led him on. She shouldn’t have worn revealing clothing. She shouldn’t have met up with him in an isolated location with no one else around.
But at any moment, anywhere, in any circumstances, “no” should mean no. This is where it stops.
Unfortunately, we are not necessarily taught that those who have the power to rape, also hold the power to stop. They can stop sexual discovery from becoming rape.
A recent public radio discussion of “Consent,” suggested that consent could only be assured if the initiator continues to ask for and receive a verbal “yes” throughout any sexual progression. Sex is, after all, a two-way street. Sex should be good for both people; a giving and receiving of mutual pleasure in the most intimate way possible.
Sex between a predator and a victim or anyone inflicting their power by force, threat or coercion on another for sex without consent, is rape and rape is a crime with severe consequences for the offender and an involved healing process for the survivor.
Communication, as in all relationships, is key in sexual situations. Whether the parties are married or dating, first-time or experienced, dialogue about what’s happening right now and what happens next can only enhance and enrich the physical and emotional understanding between consensual sexual partners. And in the end, yes means continue and no means stop.
Conversations between parents and children about sex are the first step, but conversations between participants in sexual activity can be vital in establishing whether sex is consensual or whether it is rape.
OUR TURN is a public service series made available by Turning Points Network in celebration of its 40th anniversary of providing violence-prevention education programs in our schools, services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and helping people move from the darkness of abuse toward the light of respect, healing and hope. For information contact 1.800.639.3130 or www.turningpointsnetwork.org or find us on Facebook.