Why Is Consent So Confusing to Some?

If you have been listening to the media or been on FaceBook, you might have seen the video “Consent: It’s As Simple As Tea” or, the “1 in 5” video where sexual assault is symbolized as a bear. While these videos can be a good starting point to conversation, they can also be a bit confusing as to what consent actually is.

So, why are some people still so confused about consent? The confusion comes from many years of different definitions, campaigns, and wildly contrasting ideas of when you need to do to request and receive consent. Some ideas of consent are archaic.

Example: years ago, many women were taught to wait for the man to make the movie (which assumed everyone was heterosexual). Think of how messed up that teaching is – both the heterosexual assumption and to teach a gender to always wait on your partner (thus not have your own sexual voice to express).

Others have been wrongfully taught that if you get consent once you don’t need to get it again. The reality is consent is ongoing. There is never-ending consent.

Across the country, we need to define consent clearly and consistently. Here is a simple definition that if honored would result in sexual assault not occurring.

Consent is mutual, enthusiastic, and freely given agreement between partners of legal age and sound mind.

How do you normally get agreement among individuals? You ASK. This goes for all forms of sexual activity, including but not limited to: holding hands, hugging, kissing, sex, and more.

Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault. If someone is engaging in a sexual act that a partner does not want, then it should not be happening and the actions are criminal.

  • Mutual means all partners have affirmed they want the sexual activity to occur together.
  • Enthusiastic means all partners are positively looking forward to the sexual experience together.
  • Freely Given means no pressure, coercion, guilt, or manipulation of any kind is being utilized by a partner to gain consent.
  • Legal age means all partners are old enough to legally make this choice together according to the laws in the state they are in.
  • Sound mind means all partners have full mental, intellectual, and emotional capacity. No partner is utilizing drugs, alcohol, or emotional manipulation to gain consent.

If a partner of legal age and sound mind does not give an enthusiastic, freely given affirmative response,  trying to change the partner’s mind is not a way to get consent. Trying to change the mind of a partner is failing to respect that partner’s answer by applying pressure for the answer to be different than what was given.

While PSA’s about bears and tea can be humorous and get the attention of social media and news outlets, we need to have a more in-depth discussion of exactly what consent is.

How do you define consent?

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