Let’s talk about consent and get it right, once and for all.
Sexual consent is the active communication and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity with another. The decision to consent must be made without the use of intimidation, force, or coercion.
It is important that any and all sexual acts begin with each party giving consent. Any sexual activity that takes place in the absence of consent is considered sexual assault, and is a criminal offence (in most countries).
The age of consent varies from place to place around the world, and ranges from as young as 11 years old (in Nigeria, Africa) to 21 years of age (Bahrain, Asia). The average age of consent worldwide is 16 years of age.1
The laws around consent can be tricky as they are dependent upon the ages of all parties involved in the sexual activity, and these laws change depending on where you are in the world.
For example, in Canada, even though the age of consent is typically 16, a 16- or 17-year old’s ability to give consent is not deemed lawful if their sexual partner is:2
In a position of authority over them (ex: a teacher, a police officer, a landlord)
Someone they are dependent on, OR have a relationship of trust with (ex: a guardian, social worker or therapist, a lawyer)
Participating in exploitation
The purpose for these exceptions is intended to protect young people who are in vulnerable positions due to the nature of their relationships with certain people.
In the above section there are perfect examples of people who have sensitive relationships with youth, and who could easily intimidate, coerce, force, or persuade them to participate in sexual activity. In these cases, the youth’s vulnerability may prevent them from making appropriate decisions and therefore make any consent they give invalid.3
What does Consent look like?
It’s important to note that consent can take many different forms. Not all are as explicit as others. In general, consent looks like respecting people’s boundaries and limits.
From directly asking “do you want this/ to have sex now?”, to asking “is this ok?” as you progress to more intimate sexual acts, to saying “I’m open to trying”, to certain body language and physical cues (such as a head nod), and even to saying something as simple as an affirmative “mhmm”, there are many options for giving and getting consent. So, society can throw the excuses for not obtaining consent far, far away. #theresnoexcuse #consentfirst
What Consent Is Not
Consent is not something that one can assume is implied for their sexual partner(s).
Silence, or not being told “no”, is not the same as hearing yes. *Anything other than yes means NO! #silencedoesntmeanyes #yesmeansyes
Consent is not being told yes by a minor, or someone so intoxicated that they can barely stand up. In fact, someone who is incapacitated by alcohol or drugs, unconscious, or impaired by serious mental disability can not legally give consent.
Consent is not assuming that someone wearing a revealing outfit ‘wants it.’ Consent has absolutely nothing to do with the way someone is clothed - “my dress doesn’t mean yes.” - Certain outfits, or a lack there of, is not the same thing as giving and getting consent. #mydressdoesntmeanyes #notaskingforit
Consent does not mean generalizing permission given at one time or for one act, to all other sexual interactions with that person. Giving/ getting consent during one experience does not mean you have it for future sexual encounters. #consentisnotpermanent #askeverytime
Consent does not mean being pushy, forceful, or threatening someone to participate in sex, and it certainly does not mean refusing to acknowledge when someone says “no”, “don’t”, or “stop.”
Consent can be withdrawn at any point during a sexual encounter, and that is to be respected immediately– you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
In my opinion, when it comes down to it, consent is pretty clear in that only yes means yes, and anything but yes means NO! #anythingbutyesmeansno
Personally, I recommend giving consent verbally - yes, or no, I want it, or no, I’m not interested. This way, less is open to interpretation and there is less of a chance that someone might feel taken advantage of, or worse.
“Every 92 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 9 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 5 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.”4
“Over 80% of sex crime victims are women. One in four North American women will be sexually assaulted in their lives.”5
“It is estimated that, worldwide, one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.”6
“Approximately 15 million adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19) worldwide have experienced forced sex (forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts) at some point in their life. Out of these, 9 million adolescent girls were victimized within the past year.”7
Support and Resources
Regardless of what other people say, if you have experienced any form of sexual assault, it is not your fault. You can not control a predators actions, and you certainly didn’t “ask for it.”
Please don’t struggle silently or alone. Reach out and get support - talk to someone about it! Below are some free international resources. #reachout #yournotalone
The National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
⁃ Provides local resources
⁃ Information about laws in your community
⁃ Trained support staff
⁃ Referrals for long-term support in your area
⁃ Medical information
Pathways to Safety International
⁃ International toll-free: +1-833-723-3833
⁃ 24/7 crisis line
⁃ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
⁃ Web chat -www.pathwaystosafety.org/get-help-now/
Handbook of International Centers for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Harassment
⁃ Online list of worldwide resources: https://headington-institute.org/files/international_centers_for_survivors_of_sexual_assault_45553.pdf
I’m here for you.
Until next time, babes!
25 Things you Need to Know About Sexual Consent. (2019). Retrieved from Reach Out: https://au.reachout.com/articles/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-sexual-consent
3Age of Consent to Sexual Activity . (2019). Retrieved from Government of Canada: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/other-autre/clp/faq.html)
4Facts and Figures: Ending Violence Against Women. (2019). Retrieved from UN Women: http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures
1Legal Ages of Consent By Country. (2019). Retrieved from AgeOfConsent: https://www.ageofconsent.net/world
7Let's Stop Sexual Harassment and Violence. (2019). Retrieved from Government of Canada: https://www.ontario.ca/page/lets-stop-sexual-harassment-and-violence
6Sexual Assault Statistics in Canada . (2019). Retrieved from SexAssault.ca: https://www.sexassault.ca/statistics.htm
5Statistics. (2019). Retrieved from RAINN: https://www.rainn.org/statistic