A hot topic. One which comes and goes in the news and we hear about for a time and it drifts away almost unimportantly. It is, however, quite the contrary. Consent is a highly important topic, which huge grey areas (some may say) and usually only a case of one word against another making it very difficult to decipher the real situation.
When we talk 'consent' what we are actually talking, in reality, is 'sexual consent': to consent in sexual activity. This means you say yes, or no to the sexual activities on offer and you do have that choice. For me that is the most important note to make, yes, you have the choice to say NO!
To go all legal on you, sexual consent is defined in section 74 Sexual Offences Act 2003.
Someone consents to vaginal, anal or oral penetration only if s/he agrees by choice to that penetration and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Consent to sexual activity may be given to one sort of sexual activity but not another, e.g.to vaginal but not anal sex or penetration with conditions, such as wearing a condom. Consent can be withdrawn at any time during sexual activity and each time activity occurs. In investigating the suspect, it must be established what steps, if any, the suspect took to obtain the complainant’s consent and the prosecution must prove that the suspect did not have a reasonable belief that the complainant was consenting. There is a big difference between consensual sex and rape. This aide focuses on consent, as allegations of rape often involve the word of the complainant against that of the suspect. The aim is to challenge assumptions about consent and the associated victim-blaming myths/stereotypes and highlight the suspect’s behaviour and motives to prove he did not reasonably believe the victim was consenting. We provide guidance to the police, prosecutors and advocates to identify and explain the differences, highlighting where evidence can be gathered and how the case can be presented in court.
Consent really is giving an individual the opportunity to make a choice without any pressure or manipulation, but importantly, to also be able to make this decision without being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You can ALWAYS change your mind. If you have done it before, it may not mean you want to do it again. If you are naked in bed, you still don't have to do anything more, you can still say NO!
In relationships, communication is soooo important. It is the backbone of any strong relationship as you can put things that niggle in your mind, or that haven't been expressed correctly to bed (so to speak!). Alongside communication is honesty and respect of course and these three things combined, make any sexual relationship much, much better. Even in a well-established relationship, asking for or gaining consent shows respect for both yourself and your partner and it eradicates the entitlement someone may feel over you, your body and what you choose to do with it.
In short, always remember:
- It's up to you, you can say NO at any point you want
- Your consent must be obtained before any sort of sexual activity
- It's your body, your right and if someone takes advantage of that, you must report it.