Have you ever been in a situation where you did not feel like you had the freedom to say, “no” or “I’m not comfortable with that”? When this happens it should make you wonder, what gives someone else the right or power to make my choices for me? Sometimes people pressure us into making choices that we really don’t want to make, and the more we care about their opinion, the more difficult it can be to say no. If we want healthy relationships, it is important to understand the signals of consent and discover our power to say, “no” and “I’m not comfortable with that”.
When it comes to your body, no one should touch you without your consent. When pursuing touch, just because someone does not verbalize a “no” does not mean they have given consent. Therefore, you need to get the verbal “yes” before you proceed. A ‘no’ might look like:
“I’m not sure”
“Stop, it hurts”
“Not right now”
“I feel worried about…”
Pushing you away
Tense body and expressions
Avoiding eye contact
Crying, looking sad or fearful
If you prefer not to engage in sexual activity and you are feeling pressured, it may be time to end the relationship until you are ready and find someone who respects your boundaries and shares your values.
It’s important for you and your partner to be in agreement with your physical boundaries. If you’re finding it difficult to vocalize your boundaries, consider writing them down and exchanging lists with your partner as a way to break the ice, or maybe you need to recognize that this is a sign you are not ready to make that kind of commitment to someone. When asking for consent is a regular part of a relationship, open communication, respect, and trust will grow between partners. If these three things are not a part of your relationship, consider taking it slow to work on growth.
Consent is to give permission for something to happen or be done. “Consent isn’t just one question, but an atmosphere of comfort and trust...Consent makes people feel respected and reassured.”(1) How do you know if someone has given you consent?
Ask them: “Would you like it if….”; “Do you want to…”What would you be comfortable doing?”
There must be an openness to hear “no” with no repercussions. Genuine love and care is other-centred, not self-centred.
Why would someone choose to wait?
Choosing to wait is about waiting to be sexually active until you feel fully informed and comfortable about your choices. You should be informed about the potential consequences such as contracting a sexually transmitted infection, having an unintended pregnancy, or undermining your personal goals and dreams, and the impact these things could have for your future.
For a quick visual overview about consent, check out this short video:
WATCH “Understanding Consent” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raxPKklDF2k)