Let’s talk consent
Everything you need to know before, you know…
here to help Consent – it’s pretty clear, actually – and we’re want). you get what you want (and nothing you don’t
robin Thicke’s got some explaining to do. No matter how much he croons, “I know you want it,” he – and any man, boy or partner of ours – does not know we want it. No-one does, until we tell them. So we must know what we want and don’t want – and we can’t be afraid to say exactly what these things are.
OK, what’s consent?
We hit up Girls Gotta Know, the Tasmanian Women’s Legal Service, and found out consent is a ‘yes’ – a vocal one – that says you’re OK with what you’re doing or what’s being done with you (for this story, assume we’re talking about sex).
Consent is yours to freely give and yours to freely take away at any stage.
Big emphasis there on ‘freely’ – with no pressure, threats, manipulation or using your emotions against you (“if you loved me, you’d do it”). No-one can give consent for you, no-one can assume it, and silence isn’t consent.
You must be fully awake and aware of what’s going on around you – not passed out or under the influence. You must also be above the age of consent. Since the law varies by state, check out Girls Gotta Know for deets.
“Girls sometimes say: ‘Well, I’d been drinking’, and put the blame on themselves, but it’s the person asking for the act who must make sure the other person agrees to it,” says Lakshmi Sundram, a senior solicitor of Girls Gotta Know.
How can I establish my boundaries?
Talk about EVERYTHING. Speak up at any stage, speak up early and often. Get cool with chatting with your bae about your likes, dislikes, boundaries and preferences – what gets a green light from you and what’s a hard pass – as confidently as you’d speak about music or fashion.
You can say: “I like [this], but I really don’t like [that]. I’m not sure I’m ready for [this] and I don’t even know if I’ll like [that], so let me get back to you. I love [this], but don’t even think about [that] without a condom.” Substitute [this] and [that] for whatever you like – no-one’s judging, but we are saying you’re the boss of your body and the choices you make must be respected.
Be as specific and frank as possible. [This] and [that] could be anything from ‘kissing’ to ‘fingering’ to ‘you going down on me’ to ‘penetration’ (or anything else in between). And if you can’t say particular words without giggling or getting embarrassed, those actions might not be right for you rn.
You’ve got to be assertive and confident about your boundaries – which comes from knowing in yourself what’s OK.
“Make sure you’re doing what you want to do because it’s what you want – not because it’s what’s popular, or what your friends are doing, or what your boyfriend says you should do because if you do it, he’ll like you even more,” Lakshmi explains. “You can say: ‘If you don’t like me for that [speaking up] that’s OK, but my choice is to be me.’”
Lakshmi recommends asking for more time if you’re not sure about something, and even exploring your own body first to suss out what it all feels like. As your relationship changes and what you want
But know yourself, know what your values are. If you love someone and they love you, you saying ‘no’ won’t hurt their feelings because they respect you.
changes too, have another conversation – consent is not a one-time thing.
It’s hard to actually talk about sex, most def. YA novelist Kirsty Eagar wrote Summer Skin, a book that deals with sex and consent, “because I was thinking about my own experiences – despite having had the most open Mum who talked about everything and feeling prepared in that sense, I found it so hard to articulate what I wanted and what I didn’t want, so be prepared and remember you have every right to say, ‘Hey, I’m not comfortable with that’ or ‘I would prefer this.’”
Kirsty says when setting up boundaries with your bae, a bit of lightness can help: “Having a sense of humour about it can make it less scary and less intimidating.”
Another thing that helps? Phrases like: “I am really into you, but I am not into that.” And if your partner’s under the impression you’d enjoy something you definitely wouldn’t, phrases like: “That would do nothing for me.”
“You can put it in those terms: ‘It’s not all about you and what you want, it’s about me and what I’m getting out of it as well,’” Kirsty says.
I can’t say no to my bae – I’m in love!
When you’re in love, it might feel like the world’s going to end if you upset them.
“But know yourself, know what your values are,” Lakshmi says. “If you love someone and they love you, you saying ‘no’ won’t hurt their feelings because they respect you. If you’re only saying
‘yes’ because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, that’s not good.”
Kirsty agrees our emotions can make us vulnerable, and we must talk about it.
“It comes back to saying: ‘Look, I really feel this, and I also feel that I want to be comfortable with what we’re doing.’”