two people laying on a bed in an embrace

Put consent into practice – without killing the vibe.

TW // Sexual Violence

Consent. We’ve all heard about it. But how well do you understand the concept – and have you been putting it into practice?

The #MeToo movement instigated many important conversations regarding better sex education in schools and universities. Sexual assault trials against well-known celebrities like Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey have highlighted the importance of standing up and speaking out against inappropriate sexual conduct.

We all have a part to play in disrupting rape culture. We all have obligations as individuals to understand how to participate in healthy, happy, and consensual relationships – because everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

Consent is saying “yes” and accepting when someone says “no”

Asking for consent is important in every single relationship and encounter you have – even if it isn’t sexually related. But most importantly, consent is required at any stage of being intimate with someone. Whether it be asking them on a date, dancing, before sexting, making out, or just holding hands. Consent is used at every point in the relationship regardless if you’ve just met the person or have been dating them for ages.

Consent is:

Verbal

Consent is clear and unambiguous. Did the person give you clear verbal permission for each sexual activity? If they hesitate or reply with a “maybe” … then that’s a clear-as-day “no.”

If someone is too intoxicated or incapacitated by alcohol or drugs, whether they are semi-conscious or fully conscious, then they are incapable of giving consent, so that’s a hard “no”. If their “yes” or “no” doesn’t seem clear enough and you fail to recognise this, then that is classified as sexual assault. 

Enthusiastic 

Consent should be given freely and willingly. Pressuring someone, or repeatedly asking them until they eventually say yes is not consent. A healthy sexual encounter involves everyone feeling comfortable enough to express their needs without feeling judged if someone chooses to say no.

It is not okay to get angry, frustrated, or insistent if someone declines any sexual activity. Using threats, or intimidations is coercion.

Continuous

Consent is relevant to everyone – even those who have been intimate with each other before, or are in a serious relationship, yup, this means, even if you’re in a relationship or married. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean you are obligated to participate in any type of sexual activity. 

You can say no at any point. Just because you said “yes” at the pub, doesn’t mean you have to go through with it by the time you get home. Even if it’s been 30 seconds since you said yes, or if you’re halfway through the activity and change your mind. You can say no.

In any sexual encounter, it’s the responsibility of the person initiating sexual activity to ensure that the other person feels comfortable and safe.

So…. How do you go about asking for consent… without killing the vibe?

Healthline.com have some great examples.

You could get right to the point and ask:

  • Can I kiss you?
  • Can I take this off? What about these?
  • Do you want to have sex, or would you like to wait?
  • Can I [fill in the blank]?

You can also take the opportunity to use open communication about sex and boundaries as foreplay. Here are some ideas:

  • I think it’s hot when we [fill in the blank], do you want to do this?
  • It feels so good when you [fill in the blank], do you want to do this?
  • Can I take your clothes off?
  • Can I kiss you here?

If you’re already in the heat of the moment, you could say:

  • Are you comfortable with me doing this?
  • Do you want me to stop?
  • How far are you comfortable going tonight?

This short video is also really good at showing everyday examples of when and how to ask for consent

It’s also important to think about the types of sexual activities you are comfortable with, that way if someone asks to do something then you know exactly where you stand with it and can provide clear and concise consent.

It’s a two-way street. You need to understand how to ask for consent and respect someone’s “yes” or “no”, and you also need to understand your own boundaries and where you draw the line in giving consent.

You can read more about enthusiastic consent here. If you’re confused about this, that’s okay – what you need to do is research and talk about it, and we know it can be a tricky subject with some friends and family, so if you don’t know who to speak to you can reach out to our team and we can point you in the right direction – we’re here to help!

If you have been sexually assaulted or have concerns about your experiences and consent, there are a range of services available.

  • UNE students can access free counselling through UNE Student Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS). They are fully qualified and registered psychologists, offering on-campus appointments and phone/video chat sessions for online students. The service is confidential and free for UNE students. You can contact them Monday- Friday, 9am-4 pm, on (02) 6773 2897.

External support:

  • 1800 RESPECT. Confidential sexual assault and family and domestic violence counselling via phone and webchat. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Phone: 1800 737 732.
  • NSW Rape Crisis.  24/7 telephone and online crisis counselling service for anyone in NSW – men, women and non-binary – who has experienced or is at risk of sexual assault and their non-offending supporters. Phone: 1800 424 017.

Our team at Advocacy & Welfare are here to help you when you need – if you need to talk with someone, and you’re not sure which direction to go, please reach out to our team. You’re never alone at UNE. 

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