Consent = Respect. We read and hear a lot about “Rape Culture”. Most wonder what to do about it. Identifying cultural norms that foster a dangerous and unhealthy environment where we (children, men and women) are not safe is a start. We all want respect and to feel safe in our relationships and in our public and private environments. A positive response is to create a “Consent Culture” by following these tips.
Start Young. Teaching children more autonomy is one empowering step. For example, do not force or coerce a child to hug or kiss another person if that child is unwilling. Telling little Billy “go kiss your Auntie”, when he does not want to, teaches him that his “NO” is meaningless when it comes to another person’s request concerning his body. Children receive numerous lessons like this that will leave them unprepared and feeling helpless to say “NO” in situations where they do not feel physically comfortable. Rather we need to teach our children they are in control of their bodies. A helpful way to handle this situation is to first ask Billy if he wants to kiss Auntie and if he says “NO”, to encouragingly say “that’s ok, if you change your mind just let Auntie know”.
Stop being pushy and manipulative with your friends. I hate sushi. I have tried 5 star sushi, and a variety of cooked and raw sushi – several times. No amount of coercing or convincing is going to change my mind on this. Razzing me or telling me how close minded I am, is not communicating respect to me. It is my body, I get to choose what I want to do with it and put in it. It is not your place to push someone into an interest of yours. In essence, doing so is emotionally abusive. Accept your friend’s “No thank you” easily and without judgement. Respecting and accepting a person’s needs, wants, and boundaries is being a good friend. The same goes with making plans. Extend an invitation to hang out, but if that person does not want to go, do not try and coerce them, instead say something like “well, the invitation is open if you change your mind, just let me know or come on over”. This type of language helps your friends to know that you respect their feelings and their words matter to you. You accept them just as they are.
Don’t Harass! Okay, I know this seems like a no-brainer. I talk with numerous students who tell me about their “stalker” boyfriend or girlfriend. If you get into an argument with someone, do not try to force an immediate resolution. Calling or texting him/her after she/he has asked you to stop or stopped responding is harassment. Don’t just show up uninvited either. This pattern of relationship drama only escalates a problem. In fact, it is the exact opposite of respect in a relationship and for each other’s feelings. Arguments and disagreements don’t mean you have an unhealthy relationship. Ignoring your partner’s personal boundaries, especially when tempers are hot is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Nobody communicates well when they are angry. Allow a cooling off period then come back together to talk about it. Both will enjoy a greater sense of respect whether you agree or agree to disagree.
“Consent is Sexy”. During Fall 2013 Trojan Wars, we presented a program about healthy sexual communication, verbal and/or behavioral. We define sexual contact as any type of romantic verbal, nonverbal, and physical contact between people ranging from texting and hand holding to sexual intercourse. And as far as what is normal for sex, just about anything is on the table as long as it is legal, negotiated and mutually consensual. Discussing your preferences, kinks, and interests before hand will save you from negative or hurtful sexual experiences. Behaving in an aggressive, “rapey” way when sexually interested in another person is simply wrong. Examples of “rapey” behavior are aggressively or passively manipulating a person, using liquor and drugs to influence or take advantage of a person for sexual gratification. In addition, on the other side of it, passive sexual communication is unhealthy as well. Examples include ignoring and not communicating personal wants and needs, poorly communicating physical and sexual boundaries and not clearly consenting. Both “rapey” behavior and passive sexual behavior usually leads to bad sexual experiences. Further, these behaviors often are indicative of low self esteem or an inflated or false self-esteem. It is unattractive, confusing, hurtful or down right abusive and criminal.
Assertive sexual communication is mature, confident, knowledgeable, personal, caring, clear and healthy. Sexual consent is mutual, enthusiastically and clearly stated before and during any type of sexual contact. Assertive sexual communication offers the opportunity for a mutually fulfilling sexual experience. If a potential or regular sexual partner does not want sexual contact and you do, you may feel disappointed. Handle this situation with understanding and pride yourself on your ability to take a “No” confidently, as a mature adult. An example of a healthy response could be “That’s ok, I want you to want it as much as me, let me know when you are ready”. I promise with this respectful and confident attitude good sex is in your future. Note this well – if you are not mature enough to talk about sex, communicate your needs and wants and take a “No” gracefully, then you are not mature enough to have responsible sex. Plain and simple. If you are not comfortable discussing this with a potential partner, friend or family member, I recommend speaking with a counselor. Your counselor can discuss this in a completely confidential and respectful manner. This type of counseling offers helpful information to increase your knowledge equipping you to make more informed decisions about your personal needs and wants.
For more information watch this video.