By Amy Juran
I was watching a spoof about sex ed by John Oliver the other night.
While a lot of the content was primarily humorous, I was very intrigued when they took a good chunk of the segment to talk about consent. They showed some hilariously outdated clips about a boy asking a girl to have sex and the girl answering with various versions of “no.” Each time, the boy responded with either a plea to reconsider, or an eye roll of irritation.
Though my views and opinions aren’t completely aligned with Oliver’s (to see what I mean, watch the spoof here *Graphic language and some content*), I was impressed by his reaction to the videos. Like me, Oliver was appalled by the fact that this girl was getting coached as to how to say “no”confidently, while no one was reprimanding the boy about being disrespectful of her wishes. I think our culture has emphasized how to stand up for ourselves while failing to teach us how to recognize the signals we are getting from others.
When it comes to sex and physical intimacy, convincing someone to do these things should never be part of the scenario.
You shouldn’t have to talk them into being on board with something, nor should you take it upon yourself to interpret their words how you think they might have meant them. Under no circumstances does “no” translate to “yes.” Saying “no” isn’t being coy or playing games. “No” means no. Period.
And this goes for having sex, kissing, or holding hands while walking down the street; if one person isn’t totally comfortable with something, that is the final word.
An article from Love is Respect defines consent as “communicating every step of the way.” Even if you have established boundaries as a couple, it’s possible feelings can change. It’s important to continue having open conversations even if you’ve been together for a while.
If you are the one who is uncomfortable with the direction that a physical situation is going, you must be assertive. Dropping subtle hints or passively protesting a behavior may not get the message across entirely. Even if you feel that you are past the point of no return, you are never obligated to continue any activity you are not okay with.
On the other side, don’t ever assume that a behavior is consent to go further. Even if someone is wearing suggestive clothing, or being flirty and forward, that is not code for what they are willing to do sexually. Verbal communication is the only way to confidently know what both people are comfortable pursuing.
All of this talking and checking in can feel akward, but ultimately it will lead to the freedom that comes with confidently knowing the other person is comfortable. When no boundaries are being crossed or feelings being hurt, it can make relationships so much healthier and stronger. It builds trust between both people, and completely eliminates the possibility of someone misinterpreting the other’s actions.
How have you handled conversations about consent? What worked well?