Consent is a matter of communication and an act of consideration for other people’s personal space. Consent is not negotiable, consent is not presumable, consent is an answer to a question, and yes, it can be NO. Consent, along with many other variables, is about respect, limits and trust.
If you respect a girl, you won’t push her, you will make her feel like she doesn’t have to – because she doesn’t. If you respect a girl you will help her take ownership of her body. Girls are not toys.
No matter how old we are – 10, 15 or 18 people will always tell us girls, not to talk to strangers, not to walk home alone, not to disclose personal information. This is mostly out of concern and many of us have the experience of being told by those who love us change our ‘provocative’ outfits, because we shouldn’t make ourselves vulnerable. All this, and every other lesson we learn about how to behave with the purpose of surviving, happens because we live in a society with no limits, no trust and, therefore, no respect.
How is a girl supposed to feel comfortable to meet someone new if she KNOWS she must prepare a strategy beforehand to defend herself in the case of an uncomfortable moment? What is a girl supposed to do to “earn” the respect of those around her? Are girls in jeans safer than those in skirts? Are girls ever safe? Do you, as a woman feel 100% safe in every possible setting?
More than 60 thousand rapes were reported in Brazil last year. According to data gathered by the Brazilian Public Safety functions in 2015, every 11 minutes a woman is raped. Every time the bus to Rathmines passes by my stop, a woman has her body violated in my home country.
I am a girl and I don’t feel safe. That’s because I know I could be a victim.
If you are someone like me who takes a bit of time to decide what you want, who likes to get to know a person well enough before doing anything sexual or physical you might worry whether that person will have patience. You might worry that you are being ‘too complicated’. I know I do.
There isn’t a clock that’s ticking your time away until you have to ‘give in’. There aren’t any rules. First date, third date, sixth month, after marriage! There’s no rule for holding hands, for kissing or sex. We tell ourselves we know it, but still feel pressured, because I think people won’t talk to each other – or listen!
I remember very clearly that in 2016, when I was 16, I went to a party with my friends. Two boys came up to us, one of them was interested in one of my friends, and the other one, was kind of drunk. He asked for my name and all that and then asked me if I wanted to kiss him. I said no and he insisted on it, pulled me close to him. He was taller and stronger than me. I had both of my hands open on his chest trying to push him away from my face, and my friend had to help me, ‘she made a scene’ and freed me from the – literal – trap. The boys walked away. What did they say? ‘Oh, you are too angry’.
That boy asked. I gave him an answer and he did not respond accordingly. Communication is not a one-way process. Why don’t people get it that sometimes we just don’t want to kiss them, or have sex with them, and that they have to accept it and not make us feel bad about it? I was scared! You are not supposed to harass someone into kissing you, okay?
Asking for consent does not make anyone seem stupid. Being cautious when it comes to intimacy is cordial, is polite, respectful, reassuring. I could go on forever. Responding well to what the other person might say is not an option, it’s an obligation. You are obliged to take your hands off someone if they tell you they would not like you to touch them. Period. It’s about being a decent person really.
Consent is not negotiable, consent is not presumable, consent is an answer to a question, and yes, it can be NO. We should ensure that the women around us are safe.
If everyone sticks to the procedure, chances are that nobody will get hurt. Communication is everything in any type of relationship, including those that could last only for a few hours!
Consent is the magic word. Asking is caring.
Editors Note: Have you been affected by this story?