Let’s talk con­sent

Girlfriend - - WINTER 2017 -

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.’”

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