YES is a simple word. But, when it comes to consent, we have to take a step back and examine it closely. From ancient Greek mythology to movies like The Fifty Shades of Gray and beyond, the concept of consent has been misconstrued.
Here, they represent a lack of consent, coercion, and seduction as ways of presenting the old romantic hero. But, in reality, consent is not something that you can assume or imply. It is way more than a simple YES or NO.
So, What Exactly Does the Term Consent Mean?
Consent is an enthusiastic agreement that is mutual, honest, and clear. Remember that consent is not just a term related to sex. It applies to any situation that can happen, whether it has a connection with sex or not.
When it comes to sexual or any relationship, consent is an ongoing process, which can change over time. Don’t forget that it is not a legal contract that you have signed, as you have the right to say NO if you find it uncomfortable at any point in time.
There are many instances where partners imply consent when they are in a relationship. However, regardless of the stage, history, or type of relationship you have, consent is a must. It takes not more than two minutes to ask consent, making your relationship better for the best.
Through this, you can strengthen the bond you share with your partner. And it will bring respect and communication to your relationship. Seeking consent is also applicable for friendship, familial and other forms of relationships. It is a way to respect your partner’s boundaries and understand what makes them feel comfortable or uncomfortable.
One of the problems faced by most people is providing consent in the heat of the moment. Even though, in reality, you might not want it, you decide to give consent to keep your partner happy.
When you offer consent for something you don’t want, it can affect your relationship with yourself and your partner. Hence, it is always better to have discussions related to consent before things get spiced up, especially when it comes to sex.
How did the No Means No Concept Evolve?
No means no became popular in campaigns and movements around 20 years back. It was developed by the Canadian Federation of Students¹. It aims at bringing awareness and reducing the cases of sexual violence.
There are different materials available for the no means no initiative such as research, stickers, etc. Even though years have passed by, the relevance of bringing down violence in campuses and other places continues.
When we look at it, the concept sounds reasonable and simple. It is a way to take measures to reduce sexual assault, violence, and even rape.
But is that all when it comes to consent?
Consent, as discussed, has a lot more to it than bringing in no means no as a rallying cry. Even though the movement or motif is beneficial, we have to remember that only a few would be in a position to say NO when they mean No. There are many, due to different reasons, including fear, who provide consent even if they wanted to say NO.
What are the Elements in the Consent Model?
Different elements come in the consent model, and they include:
- Informed Consent
You will inform your partner of all the outcomes and consequences associated with a sexual act. Here, the focus is on providing voluntary consent and making informed decisions.
- Enthusiastic Consent
It is a way of expressing consent positively, where the focus is on the presence of YES and not on the absence of no. Here, you can use both verbal and non-verbal cues. For instance, using positive body language such as smiling can act as additional details for consent.
- Affirmative Consent
Here, the focus is on making mutual decisions to engage in sexual activities. There has to be clear consent where silence or lack of resistance doesn’t imply consent. Yes means yes is also part of this model.
- Authentic Consent Model
Developed by Dr. Nadine Thornhill, the authentic consent model has an agreement that comes from the sexual desire to have sex. It can be because of pleasure, love, or exploration.
- No Means No
Coined by the Women’s Movement in the 1970s, this model focuses on respecting the disapproval made by a person. However, it is not always possible to convey their lack of consent in the form of a ‘no.’
Why Do We Need More than No Means No in the Consent Model?
For some of us, ‘No means no can mean try harder,’ Michael Meek, a filmmaker, professor, and journalist, said during their TedX talk².
Meek’s words are accurate as many people consider trying harder or using coercion to change a person’s decision. Meek states that many use seduction as a tool to persuade an unwilling participant to engage in something sexual.
Here, sex becomes a conquest, and through this, the person might be trying to blur the gap between consent and coercion. When we look at the yes means yes model, it shows mutual desire, and the act is consensual.
Whereas on the other hand, no means no depicts sexual assault, coercion, and unwillingness. Even then, many fail to understand the difference. We have to remember that no means no doesn’t describe consent, as many of us might think. It is because there is no specific language for consent.
You can convey it verbally or nonverbally. It means that you don’t have to say the exact words to show your disapproval. You can use different words or actions for that purpose.
In simple terms, you can look out for an active YES as consent. But, if your partner provides a passive YES, it doesn’t mean your partner is comfortable with it. Here, your partner might be agreeing to it because they are unsure or worried.
Under these circumstances, you have to ensure that your partner is comfortable communicating what they want to you without fear or doubt.
If you are not ready to provide consent, remember that you don’t have to decide anything because your partner wants. It might not be a sign of a healthy relationship.
When we look at the community level, changes are happening to the consent model. The National Center for Higher Education Risk Management³ states how 800 universities and colleges prioritize affirmative consent. Similarly, there are legislative bills created in New Hampshire and New Jersey giving importance to affirmative consent.
When we look at the first place in the US to bring out consent law, it is California⁴, especially for campuses. According to them, consent goes beyond the no means no framework.
If there is no enthusiastic YES from the person, it is equal to no consent as per this law. Similar to California, other states are also bringing in initiatives to present the importance of consent.
Thus, we have to focus on bringing consent through effective education, communication, and understanding. Read more about consent from here.
Cover image from Unsplash