Why is it so difficult to understand?


"Consent is an act of reason and deliberation. A person who possesses and exercises sufficient mental capacity to make an intelligent decision demonstrates consent by performing an act recommended by another."

That's it. Or, more accurately, that should be it. The definition of consent is so unbelievably simple, and yet in 2017 it is very obvious that a lot of men and woman still do not grasp the concept at all. This article attempts to look at the reasoning, and the ways in which consent must be viewed, for the good of everyone!

There seem to be external factors that confuse and muddle the boundaries of consent for certain (questionable) people and these range from the amount of alcohol consumed to the dress code of those involved and pretty much everything in between! We have to look at these complications as what they are, which is essentially victim blaming — and yes, we are talking about issues of consenting to sex, sexual activities, and when it becomes sexual assault. If someone is absolutely intoxicated, and can barely stand or even formulate a proper sentence, this person is not of sound mind, and therefore cannot consent. If someone wanted sex last week, they are under zero obligation to have sex tonight if they don't want it. Essentially, if someone doesn't want to have sex, there shouldn't be any pressure. At all. There are vile dregs of humanity who ignore this as a concept, and if you have read my previous article on PTSD, you will be aware that these disgusting people have made an appearance in my life.

Yet it is obviously not only in this circumstance that consent is a problem. It seems to be an internalised idea in today's society that if someone says "no" to anything, be it an offer of a drink or an offer of help, you can push the issue further. "Are you sure?" "But you wanted it before?" and similar questions are all commonplace in everyday conversations. There is a sense that people don't truly know what they want, and so that others must make sure that the person is absolutely sure if they do not want something. This may well be okay or seem harmless in general, however, in relation to sex, pressure can really destroy the concept of consent and brings the issues of sexual assault and rape to the forefront.

One of the best explanations of consent I have found to date is detailed in the "Tea and Consent" video below. I feel that it perfectly sums up issues that people might be able to think of for different circumstances when consent is required.

This video shows perfectly how to react when someone in situations when you aren't sure if consent has or has not been given.

My main concern here is that some people simply do not care if consent has been given or believe that they simply don't need consent — that it isn't mandatory and that it can "kill the mood." This does not matter — there must always be consent. Even if someone changes their mind during sex, they are under no obligation to do anything they don't want to. If they wanted to yesterday, they don't have to have sex today, and they have the right to tell you no. This does seem really basic, but clearly a lot of people have an problem understanding it.

In terms of the issues I faced, alcohol was involved, and because of this it seems to be difficult for people to realise that the men involved were at fault. I was told by a (very) ex-boyfriend that I shouldn't have been that drunk and maybe then it wouldn't have happened to me. I was unconscious for most of what happened, and the rest is incredibly vague. What happened couldn't have possibly been consented to due to my compromised state.

I know that many people will react to what is written here with "oh, but what if...?" and that there surely must be circumstances were these rules cannot apply. I can only say that consent is mandatory, every single goddamn time. Yes means yes, and no means no.

How does it work?
Read next: The State
Catriona Boardman

Talking about life, mental health and the things I love. 

See all posts by Catriona Boardman