A Primer on Consent

by Webmd Men Staff
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          We are presently in the midst of a cultural shift, with the #MeToo movement and rising awareness of sexual misconduct. This is a wonderful thing; it’s opening many lines of conversation and making our society a better and healthier place. At the same time, it leaves the men of our society confused, nervous, or even scared. There have been reports that less and less men have been seeking out sexual relationships out of a fear of crossing the wrong line, saying the wrong thing, or doing the wrong thing. The thing is, a healthier perspective on the sexual dynamic between men and women doesn’t mean that such relationships shouldn’t be pursued. If anything, women are becoming more and more comfortable with their own sexuality. If you respect boundaries and act appropriately, then there’s absolutely no reason not to seek romantic or casual sexual relationships. The most important concept to understand is consent.

What Is Consent?

          At it’s core, consent is a very simple concept: someone consents to sexual contact when they agree to have it with you. There’s nothing more to it, and yet, it’s constantly misunderstood. Consent, like so much of sex, is all about open communication. Consent can be given verbally or non-verbally, but obviously, it’s clearer when it’s verbal, so if you’re ever unsure, simply ask. Non-verbal consent should be extremely obvious. In order to really create a good idea of what consent is, it’s really important to look at what consent is not.

Consent is Not Indifference

annoyed woman blocking man trying to kiss her, consent          It’s a common trope from 80s movies, where the guy in the car goes, “C’mon, baby. Just for a little bit. Just the tip,” while the poor girl stuck in the car with him is clearly uncomfortable. I will confess, when I was younger and less aware, I had similar looking scenes play out in my own life. I never forced anyone to do anything, but I would push the envelope and ask for just a little bit more from the few girls I was intimate with. That is not consent. One word should pretty much be tied to consent in your mind: enthusiastic. If she is not enthusiastically into what’s going on, then it doesn’t qualify as consent. Never take or seek a begrudging yes. Especially don’t push your hand further and further up her leg, hoping she won’t stop you. Some women aren’t confident resisting, or fear some sort of consequence for refusal. Silence or a lack of response either way can never be substituted for consent. Do what she’s comfortable with, and don’t push for more. This, of course, doesn’t mean you can’t talk about what else you might want to try, but approach it by genuinely asking her what she wants to do and would feel comfortable with. As long as you don’t pressure or plead, there’s no harm in asking about anything.

Consent is Not Permanent

          If a woman agrees enthusiastically to have sex with you, that is not a lifetime pass. Hopefully, if you want, things go well and you have another date, but never assume that consent is granted just because you and she had previous relations. Every time, you need to be sure that there is consent. This applies to second dates, and this applies to marriages. No matter what stage of the relationship that you’re at, there may be instances where she doesn’t consent. That is ok, she is allowed to do that. It doesn’t mean your relationship is falling apart; sometimes, women just aren’t in the mood to have sex, and you need to respect that. Granted, if she refuses to consent over a long period of time, that’s probably an issue, but it’s one to be solved by marriage counseling, not by taking it anyway.

Consent is Not Flirting, Dressing Sexy, or Being Friendly

          Too many men take the casual banter, salacious flirting, or revealing outfits to be “implied” consent. This is absolutely not the case. Sometimes the scantily clad girl has a huge sexual appetite and would love to jump all over you, sometimes it’s a shy girl in a committed relationship whose just trying to come a bit out of their shell. It’s never a problem to try and find out, but respect her wishes if she doesn’t seem interested. Similarly, some girls (and guys) just naturally flirt with everyone; they enjoy it, and that’s their right. No matter how thick they lay it on, unless they say some variation of “I would like to have sex with you,” don’t assume it to be consent. As always, if you’re not sure, just ask.

Consent Can Be Revoked

no means no, consent          Just because she was into it a little bit ago, giving consent isn’t like signing a contract. At any point during the sexual encounter she decides that she’s not into it anymore, then that’s her right. Maybe she’s feeling sick, maybe she’s not turned on anymore, maybe she just decided that she’s just not that into you. She’s under no obligation to continue sex that she consented to previously, nor does she have to explain her reasons. Respect her right to change her mind.

Consent Isn’t Just For Sex

          Consent doesn’t just apply to penetrative sex. Just about any form of intimate or sexual contact requires consent. Kissing someone, fondling them, smacking their ass, none of it should ever be done without consent. Just like always, the consent can be verbal or non-verbal; it’s pretty apparent if a woman wants to kiss you or not, and if it’s not, then ask.

Consent Applies for You, Too

          Consent doesn’t only apply to women. You have all of the same rights that women do. It might not be culturally acceptable, but there are definitely instances when men are pressured into sex. Maybe she mocks your manhood or threatens some consequence if you don’t perform. Maybe you’re in a committed relationship, or perhaps, you’re just not interested, but she’s coming on way to hard. Remember that you never have to consent if you don’t enthusiastically want to.

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