Remember the photo taken after World War II was over, the photo of a Navy quartermaster kissing a nurse, the iconic photo? Did you also know that the Navy quartermaster kissed the girl without her consent? They hadn’t e even met each other before their kiss.
Why would the first thing that comes to someone’s mind after winning a war be to make physical contact with a person without his/her permission? The act could be somewhat justified if it is referred to as an ‘in the heat of the moment’ act. But why glorify it so much that people romanticize about kissing someone without their consent?
What is consent?
Joyce Short, an author and sexual assault survivor, puts it this way: Consent is freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement. Hashtag FGKIA. Lisa Osherow, Health and Sexuality Educator has come up with the following definition: Consent needs to be clear and unambiguous, voluntary and revocable and prior consent does not indicate future consent.
“Consent might change over time and must not be taken for granted forever. Simply because she consented to something yesterday, doesn’t mean she would have to consent to the same today.
She has every right to say no. Just because you consented to something primarily, doesn’t mean you have to go through with it. If you feel uncomfortable at any point of the act, you have the right to retract your consent and the other person must respect that.” — Sakib Bin Rashid and Rafiath Rashid Mithila wrote in an article for Dhaka Tribune.
Why it’s Important to Understand the Nuance of Consent
Joyce Short puts forward concepts that people confuse with consent. One is assent which means agreement on the face of it. You assent to something when you aren’t knowledgeable about it.
Another term is acquiescence which means agreement under duress. When people engage in sex out of fear or because they have been drugged, that is not consensual.
In Ancient Rome, if a man engaged in physical activity with a virgin daughter of a tax paying citizen the action would be considered as rape but the rape was treated as a crime against her father and not against the daughter. It would be still be considered rape if the girl engaged willingly. Laws shape our morality. It is time for new laws to be formed leaving the outdated and bizarre concepts behind.
Some people advocate consent by stating consent is sexy. Why should a concept be promoted based on how sexy it is?
Hot models in sports car advertisements are sexy, but these advertisements are sexist and objectify women.
Consent is a must have in all relationships. It stems from mutual respect. You respect the person’s boundaries and you will only approach them when they are hundred percent sure they are comfortable. It is not cool to kiss someone without their permission. It’s not a heroic act like many movies have you believing. It’s not funny, harmless or admirable.
Why We Need to Teach Our Children About Consent the Right Way
Sex education is non-existent in Bangladesh. In fact, sex might as well not exist. We don’t know how anyone was born, so why bother with the education?
If parents don’t talk to their children about a sensitive topic such as this, there is a high chance that the child will pick up on negative connotations that the outside community provides him or her with.
Obviously, in a country like ours these discussions will not start popping out of the blue but it needs to start somewhere.
Maybe, the older generation are too superstitious and conservative. However, when the current generation becomes parents, they must rid themselves of the backwards mentality that plagues older generations. Teaching children that it is their body, and that nobody can touch them without their consent is vital for a healthy upbringing. It’s time to teach children when to say no and to speak up when they feel that something’s not right.
Sexual Consent, and the Bogeymen who Commit Marital Rape
Whenever people talk about consent, sooner or later the conversation starts centering around sexual consent because even people who seem to understand the concept of consent, do so in case of all other activities except sexual conduct.
Several times, we have encountered such incidents where people normally perceived to be decent turn out to be the perpetrators. Many people still live by the motto — “My wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend = My property, what’s there to ask?” They will ask your permission before taking your money but they will also engage in non-consensual sexual activity. For them, consent is selective.
Asking for someone’s consent for and in any sort of relationship should be normalized.
Imagine a world where ‘Would you like to have sex with me?’ was treated the same way as ‘Would you like to go play outside with me?’. The person can either decline or accept and the person asking needs to accept and move on. Consent can refer to something as simple as knocking on someone’s door before entering. Somehow, we ended up in a society where these basic manners are still ignored.
Such confusion must be dealt with delicately by parents and children alike. Understanding consent, and standing firmly by your refusal to provide consent, is something that should be normalized, and not vilified in the Bangladeshi society.