When you start hearing Jose Marie Chan in the malls, you know Christmas is fast approaching. Christmas usually signals a time for parties and mingling with other people, with many hoping to make their holidays hot and steamy with their special someone. However, when it comes to bedroom activities or things of that nature, having fun is always an important thing but nothing is more of a priority than the big C word. No, it’s not condom. (But that’s important too!) The big C word is all about C-O-N-S-E-N-T. While some of you out there may be scratching, your heads wondering why we’re discussing something so basic, the reason for this is that for something so basic, consent seems to be a concept many take for granted, and in worse cases, overlook. Today, we discuss what exactly consent is, what it looks like, and the ways you can better apply it in your and/or your partner’s sex life.
A Psychological study that looked at the concept of consent among college students defines consent in three ways. They cited that consent can mean:
These three definitions of consent can provide different situations and scenarios depending on how the two-people engaging in sex see consent. However, there are several factors and assumptions that interact with these definitions that can provide potential problems in the bedroom when it comes to sex.
One of those problems was found in a study by Peterson & Muehlenhard (2007) during their study of consensual and non-consensual sexual experiences of women. They discovered that for many people, people often assume that when one wants something, they are also automatically consenting to it as well. While this is applicable in situations outside of sex as well, this type of thinking presents a dangerous kind of thinking when it comes to sex. Many people who want sex don’t always consent to it, and this assumption that wanting is equivalent to consenting can open gateways to sexual harassment and possibly assault. This is seen when many rapists, often use the excuse that their victims “wanted it” in order to invalidate the victims’ claims, and due to society’s stigma surrounding sexual assault and gender roles, this is an excuse that more often than not shames the victims. However, one must remember that one of the key features of rape and assault is the absence of consent, and not the absence of desire. If you combine this assumption with someone who sees consent based on their perception of willingness from the other person, this can be a very dangerous recipe for a sexual encounter.
Another problematic assumption surrounding consent is that people tend to assume consent is given unless their partner explicitly expresses otherwise. One study found that the typical script for sexual behavior often included that consent is often assumed when starting sexual activity, and it is the responsibility of the partner that wishes to stop to express any behavior they may find uncomfortable or unwanted. This mindset proves to be problematic as often times when unwanted or non-consensual sexual activity occurs, the victim ends up being blamed for not doing or saying enough to stop what happened. This also becomes problematic when you add factors such as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Wiederman, 2005). Having an assumption such as this perpetuates the mindset that consent is an entitlement that can be taken for granted, which could eventually lead the person themselves to be taken for granted.
Given these definitions and assumptions about consent, you might be asking “Well, what now? What should I do now?” According to Brown (2013), the only way to ensure safe and enjoyable sex through a consensual encounter is to keep the lines of communication and empathy open between the two partners. She quotes that it is important to keep in mind that explicitly giving and asking for consent are still the best ways to navigate what would make your sexual encounter safe for both partners. She also places value on the person’s ability to give consent, citing that if the person is intoxicated or incapacitated then they are unable to provide consent. Consent involves constant communication and revision between what you will or will not permit to be done, and the best way to do this is to sit down, talk, and keep an open mind about what your partner wants to say. Remember, what’s fun for you might not be fun for someone else, and in the end, having respect and communication between you and your partner will make all the difference between something bad and something good.
Brown, N. (2013). Consent & Consensual Sex | Sexual Definition for Teens. Pamf.org. Retrieved 4 November 2017, from http://www.pamf.org/teen/abc/sex/consent.html
Muehlenhard, C., Humphreys, T., Jozkowski, K., & Peterson, Z. (2016). The Complexities of Sexual Consent Among College Students: A Conceptual and Empirical Review. The Journal Of Sex Research, 53(4-5), 457-487. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2016.1146651
Peterson, Z., & Muehlenhard, C. (2007). Conceptualizing the "Wantedness" of Women's Consensual and Nonconsensual Sexual Experiences: Implications for How Women Label Their Experiences With Rape. The Journal Of Sex Research, 44(1), 72-88. http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15598519jsr4401_8
Wiederman, M. (2005). The Gendered Nature of Sexual Scripts. The Family Journal, 13(4), 496-502. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1066480705278729