Enthusiastic consent: what people mean
I know too many people who keep quiet about politics and social justice because they’re afraid they’ll say the wrong thing and offend somebody. I bet you know people like that too.
And I’m not an expert on this stuff. I don’t always have the right language to dive into the tough topics that dominate my news feed. But I do have Google, and the determination to find reliable and diverse voices who are already writing about issues that the rest of us need to understand so badly.
The idea of enthusiastic consent is quite simple. In a nutshell, it advocates for enthusiastic agreement to sexual activity, rather than passive agreement. Many of you may be familiar with the book Yes Means Yes!, which popularized the idea. The concept also requires that consent be given to each piece of sexual activity, meaning that a yes to one thing (such as vaginal penetration) does not mean consent to another (like anal penetration). Basically, we’re saying, “Yes! I want this!” or, “No, I don’t think I want to do that,” and we’re asking “Is this ok?” To do these things is to be respectful of not only your own bodily autonomy, but also your partner’s. It’s just common courtesy, really. To give enthusiastic consent isn’t exactly to scream that you want it at the top of your lungs; it’s more that an unsure or hesitant yes is not enthusiastic consent, and needs to be considered. But still, I have faced opposition when talking about this.
Go read it all: Why Do People Hate the Concept of Enthusiastic Consent? by Elfity
If you want one word to define consent with it’s yes. Consent is a yes a million times over, for the love of all things sparkly, awesome and delicious, and not a minute longer if you want to do it too, please, yes. Everyone’s yes doesn’t always look or sound the same, of course, but there are often common threads. There also isn’t always a question, exactly, to say yes to. Sometimes yes is inviting someone else to do something with us. Sometimes it’s saying what we want, even if the other person says no or not now. Sometimes yes is using hands to pull someone closer, or an excited squeal or moan. A yes with words is a lot easier to understand and know as consent than some other kinds of yes.
Consent isn’t something we just do or give once: it’s something we’re doing (or not) in every moment of every sexual activity. If someone consents to one thing, that doesn’t mean they’re consenting to anything, just to that one thing. Consent is also always something we or others can revoke: in other words, everyone gets to change their mind, at any time, including after they’ve already said yes.
Go read it all: Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent by Heather Corinna
Think of enthusiastic consent as an active and ongoing process of willingly and freely choosing to participate in any act of sex with someone else.
Each person involved equally participates in the process and feels comfortable to make and communicate any choice or feelings without feeling pressured, manipulated, or afraid.
Consent should be thought of as an ongoing process and conversation — just because you’ve given consent once, are in a relationship with someone, or even married to them does not mean that you are obligated to have sex with your partner.
Go read it all: Navigating Consent: Debunking the “Gray Area” Myth by Sara Alcid
Enthusiastic consent is a principle that says that “no means no” is crucial — if a sexual partner says no, you have to stop — but it’s not enough. In order to ensure consent and prevent sexual violence, everyone, regardless of gender, has to make sure that their partner is enthusiastic about what’s going on.
Enthusiastic consent is an ongoing state, not a yes/no lightswitch. It requires sexual partners to be in ongoing communication with each other. It does not mean that you have to get a signed contract to touch my right breast. It does mean that you have to pay attention to whether or not I’m into it as you move your hand toward my right breast, and that if you can’t tell, you have to ask.
So go read all of these! And let me know what has helped you understand enthusiastic consent (links and powerful quotes also appreciated).
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