Consent is when one person agrees to the proposal or desires of another person. It holds a lot of significance in fields such as law, medicine, research and sexual relationships. Consent is very important in any kind of sexual activity. Even if the individual has been in a long-term relationship with the person or even if it is a new partner, taking a step further requires consent. Consent is a way of communication of a conscious and freely made decision by each participant to engage in the sexual activity. Without consent, sexual activity will be considered as sexual assault or rape. But, consent to the actions leads to a strong human emotional bonding.
This mutual agreement is broken when a man engages in intercourse with his wife when she is in a minimal conscious state, when the wife is paralyzed after an accident, when she has suffered a major brain injury and is unable to talk, walk, and so on. In such scenarios, it is unethical to engage in any sexual activity as there is no choice given to the other partner. Just because the person is incompetent to make any decisions in the given situation, does not mean that they have provided consent to the sexual intercourse.
Consent can be verbal. It is the safest kind of consent. Few examples of verbal consent are, “yes”, “I’d like to”, “I’m enjoying this”, “that sounds great”, etc. Consent can also be non-verbal. There are ways to express the willingness without using words. Examples of non-verbal consent include, head nod, thumbs up, nodding a yes, making direct eye contact. However, it is also imperative to understand that body language is different for every person and to solely rely on it can lead to lot of problems. If one is unsure about what the other person wants, it is the responsibility of the person to ask. People might consider it as ruining the mood or making it awkward, but the consent is very important and necessary. There is always a choice to be made from both the ends.
These are the situations where there is no consent. The examples of verbal non-consent are, “no”, “stop”, “I don’t want to”, etc. The examples of non-verbal non-consent are, staying silent, turning away, not participating, avoiding any kind of physical contact, etc. Another important aspect of consent is that it must always be freely given without any manipulation, pressure or under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Any person can change his mind about what he feels like doing, regardless of whether this has been done before. The consent can be withdrawn anytime and once withdrawn, the act must cease immediately. It is important to clearly communicate with your partner if you are no longer comfortable with his activity and wish to stop.
Another important element is the idea of it being informed and very specific. Consent needs to be informed. The consent needs to be specific. For example, saying yes to one thing does not mean one has said yes to the others, like agreeing to kiss someone does not give that person the leverage to engage in any sexual activity.
Consent must always be clearly communicated. There must not be any questions or mysteries to it. There are laws about who can give consent and who cannot. People who are drunk, high, drugged or have passed out cannot give consent. There are laws protecting the minors, i.e. the people under 18 years of age. They cannot be forced to perform any kind of sexual activity with someone older to them.
Nowadays, it has become very important to teach students about consent as a life skill. Everyone must be educated about this. Teachers must teach how to respect physical boundaries. They must be trained about the non-verbal cues and what consent actually looks like so that they are able to educate children well. This will help to inculcate in them respect for the partner, their wants and desires and will also help them understand the existence of physical boundaries beyond which one should not transgress until and unless the other person is comfortable with it.
Rape, sexual assaults and sexual abuse are all forms of violence which exemplify sexual contacts without consent. Anyone can be a victim to this. No matter what the person’s gender or age is, one can always be raped. However, people who are likely to experience more sexual assaults in their lives are women, LGBTQ identified people and people with disabilities. One needs to understand that it is not necessary that sexual violence has a weapon. The victim doesn’t necessarily have fought back or to have said a ‘no’ for it to count as a sexual assault. It doesn’t always be a stranger. Sometimes, it can be someone who the victim knows. It can even be his/ her life partner for that matter. If one experiences such kind of violence one needs to know that one can always reach out for help and that the person is not alone. There are several legal actions that can be taken in such a situation. But, speaking out is important.
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