I’m writing this post out because I’ve wanted something like this to exist for a while. Here’s a quick primer on how to make sure that the sexual activities you engage in (from kissing all the way to wherever your dirty mind can take you) are consensual. I don’t mean this to be condescending at all – I honestly believe that, in a world where consent is rarely taught in detail, posts like this are necessary to educate people on what it looks like and how to obtain it because, honestly, so many of us don’t know. So, here we go, let’s learn how to avoid rape by learning how to avoid being a rapist!
Part One: What Consent Looks Like
Consent in Positive Terms: All participants are of a sound state of mind, unaltered by drugs and alcohol. There is no power dynamic between them that would influence anyone’s decisions about what they feel comfortable engaging in. All parties express enthusiastic, vocal consent. All parties engage in any activities with the understanding that, at any point during they interaction, they are free to bring things to a stop for any reason without suffering any negative consequences. [My own definition, based on various legal codes, common sense, and a fair bit of optimism about human kind.]
To put it more simply, everyone involved should be enthusiastically involved because that’s how they really feel, not because any substance or relationship is messing with their thoughts.
How to Have Consensual Sexual Interactions
(Applicable for any and all sexual encounters – from kissing to the stuff you don’t discuss in “polite” company!)
Step One: Make sure your partner(s) aren’t drunk/drugged/feeling threatened. If they are not then move on to step two.
Step Two: Ask if your partner(s) are consenting. This can be done in a formal way, or in an informal (even sexy) way. Tell them what you’d like to do, ask them how they feel about it… use your imagination, consent can be fun! If everyone is on board, move on to step three.
Step Three: Have a good time!
These guidelines may seem like a buzz-kill to some but, you know what? I don’t really care. Decent people realize that being a bit inconvenienced when attempting to have sex is worth it, when that inconvenience is preventing rape.
Part Two: What Consent DOES NOT Look Like
Now that we know what consent looks like and how to go about obtaining it, let’s look at situations that (very often) are looked at as acceptable or borderline and see if they actually are 100% guaranteed sexual-assault free.
“Questionable” Situations To Walk Away From No Matter What:
* If you or your partner(s) are drunk. Legally one drink is enough to make things dicey. A good rule of thumb is simple if you have reason to worry that in the morning your partner might wake up and feel violated, walk away. Why would you want to have sex that your partner(s) will likely regret, anyway?
* If your partner(s)’ consciousness has been altered by some substance, see above advice.
* If you’re in a position of authority. It may not seem like an issue to you, which makes sense, since you are in the position of power and therefore, do not feel any additional pressure within the relationship. But if the person being propositioned by a camp counselor/parent/teacher/mentor/etc. will feel pressure, as a result of that person’s power over them, to keep the relationship on good terms. Often this translates into consenting to more than they would ordinarily, which is not cool.*
*If it’s legal (like, say, you’re both adults in an office setting with lax dating policies) and you’re determined to make this work then proceed with the UTMOST of caution and make sure you assure your intended partner(s) repeatedly and convincingly that the refusal of your advances will not cause them negative consequences.
When To (At Least) Think Twice:
* If your partner(s) never says yes or acts enthusiastic about your interactions, but also never says no. Stop and walk away if you cannot confirm their interest in a non-threatening manner. Silence is not consent: until your partner(s) is enthusiastically into your interaction, then you don’t have their consent and, thus, shouldn’t continue.
* If you have to work to “convince” your partner(s) that your sexual activities are a good idea, then those activities may not be the best idea. Putting pressure on someone (a date, a friend, an acquaintance, a long-term partner) to engage in activities that they originally did not want to engage in means that their consent is not being freely given… you had to wheedle it out of them. This is a sign that you are inching very close to rape/sexual assault and, thus, should stop and question your plans.
* If you and/or your partner(s) have had a drink or two. Legally, you cannot consent but I am aware that this rule is all but ignored amongst people who have had a drink or two. There are situations that allow for sex to happen in this situation without it being rape. (For instance: all parties are in an already-established relationship and, prior to drinking, expressed an interest in sexual activities. All parties remain enthusiastic about those activities, even after drinking, and are not impaired to the point where they are likely to forget the situation the next morning.) A good rule of thumb is simply this: if you have doubts that the situation will be considered consensual when you’ve all sobered up, walk away.
That’s really the bottom line, and the heart of the issue: if you have any fear that the people/person you’re attempting to engage are going walk away from your interaction feeling violated, hurt, or regretful then just stop. It seems like common sense, but approaching sexual activity with the mindset of first, do no harm rather than first, make sure I get off pretty much ensures that you make the decisions that allow you to have sex without hurting anyone in the process. You make have sex a little less often and, yes, even wind up frustrated sometimes… but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you are not a rapist, and doesn’t that just make it all worth the while?
This is by no means a definitive guide, just what I could think of while writing/researching. Please, help me expand in the comments!