Let’s talk about sex: Consent is not just sexy—it’s mandatory

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April 4, 2019

Yes, consent is sexy. But it is also so much more than that, and it should not have to be sugar coated in sex appeal to encourage people to practice it.

While asking for consent doesn’t have to be awkward, it sometimes can be, and that’s okay. Consent is essential in sex and relationships, working to minimize violence and trauma, not just because it is sexy.

When talking about sex, it is crucial that we talk about consent. Asking for and giving consent is the first step of every sexual encounter, and is essential in maintaining respect and comfort between partners.

Nonconsensual sexual acts are considered sexual assault, and are illegal in the United States, but the legal definition of consent varies from state to state.

The United States Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.” This definition leaves questions of consent and sexual assault up to state jurisdiction.

In California, the age of consent is 18. According to RAINN, an American nonprofit anti-sexual assault organization, California law requires “affirmative consent,” meaning the lack of saying no does not mean a person is consenting to a sexual act. In 2014, California passed the “Yes means Yes” law, which recognizes/provides a definition of consent that requires an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision by each party to engage in sexual activity. While intoxication and consciousness impacts a person’s ability to legally give consent in California, mental incapacity or a developmental disability does not.

According to RAINN, the legal age of consent varies within the United States, with 16 being the age of consent in the majority of states. Other states such as Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, Texas and Wyoming have an age of consent of 17, and states such as Arizona, Florida, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, Utah and Wisconsin have the highest age of consent at 18 years old.

In Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming affirmative consent is not legally required, according to RAINN. If a person does not say no to a sexual act, then it can be considered consensual by law.

The laws surrounding consent and intoxication also vary by state, and some states such as Alabama consider sexual acts where a member is voluntarily intoxicated to be consensual. Some states, such as Alaska, Nebraska and Oregon do not address intoxication in their consent laws.

In Maine and Ohio, a person can be found guilty of a sex crime if their partner is unable to consent due to old age, physical or mental disease, disorder or defect. In South Dakota, consent laws do not reference consciousness, according to RAINN.

Because of these legal discrepancies between states, consent laws are not necessarily good indicators of what consent is. For example, just because some states do not address intoxication in their laws, intoxicated people are legally considered unable to give consent in those states.

So what is consent then?

Even though the majority of states have a “no means no” policy rather than “yes means yes,” you should never engage in sexual acts with someone unless they give enthusiastic and affirmative consent.

If a person is silent or says yes but seems unsure or uncomfortable, you should stop what you are doing immediately and check in with the person, asking if they want to continue in a way that does not pressure them. If a person is coerced into saying yes, then that is not consent. Always make sure your partner knows that they can stop at anytime and do something else.

People are also unable to give consent if they are intoxicated, regardless of whether or not they intoxicated themselves. Along with intoxication, if a person is unconscious, they are not able to give consent. While some people may enjoy being awakened with kisses or other forms of physical contact, you should only do this if your partner has explicitly stated that this is something that they would like when awake and able to give consent.

Another important piece of consent is that it can be revoked at any time. While in some states such as North Carolina women can not legally revoke consent after sex has begun, if a person changes their mind while you are hooking up, you must respect that and stop what you are doing immediately. If a partner consents to sex once, that does not mean that you are always entitled to have sex with them. While in some states such as North Carolina, women can not legally revoke consent after sex has begun.

During her appearance of the talk show “It’s Not You, It’s Men,” model Amber Rose explained that consent can be revoked at any time.

“If I’m laying down with a man, butt-naked, and his condom is on, and I say, ‘You know what? No. I don’t want to do this. I changed my mind.’ That means no,” Rose said, as reported by Insider.

Additionally, just because someone consents to one action such as kissing, that does not mean you are entitled to touch them in other ways. You must ask for consent every time you hook up with someone, and every time you engage in a different action with them. Simply asking “is it ok if I ____?” is one way to ask for consent as you go along, without making it awkward. In the case of consent, it is always worth making it awkward rather than not.

Consent is a crucial part of sex, regardless of the gender or relationship of the individuals. Sexual assault can take place within relationships and between same sex partners, and people of all genders and sexualities can be victims and perpetrators.

Consent is not important because it is sexy, but because it is an essential step in avoiding sexual violence. Sexual assault and rape are deeply traumatic experiences, and not because they aren’t sexy. Discussing consent isn’t always going to be sexy, especially when the answer to every question is not an enthusiastic yes.

The only thing that consent always is is mandatory. In all sexual interactions it is more important to be safe than sexy.


Let’s talk about sex: Consent is not just sexy—it’s mandatory was published on April 4, 2019 in Sports & Health

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