Written by Sana Ilyas, The Meraki Project Team
What is really important for all of us to understand is that consent is an agreement that’s made between all the parties involved, for something that is either sexual or anything that requires you to let someone into your personal comfort zone, there needs to be a conscious affirmation present from everyone involved.
How do you give consent?
You give it as a loud and enthusiastic “YES”. You say “yes” to something you are okay with doing and something you aren’t hesitating or doubting even for a second. You say “yes” and discuss openly and explicitly about what you and your partner’s comforts are, what’s a no-go territory and cannot be breached under any circumstances. Saying “NO” is also a form of consent.
Saying “yes” and then later changing your mind by saying “NO” is also still giving consent-- this is where most of us come up confused thinking just because you have said “yes” it still applies, well it doesn’t and you have every right to change your mind, it’s your choice really. You have a choice to whatever it is that you want to or not want to do.
There might be a few things that you might not be too sure about that you can and have every right to change your mind about, at absolutely any given point of time. And whatever you decide -- needs to be openly, clearly and verbally communicated to your partner.
How to identify consent?
This is the part where we find ourselves the most conflicted about. How do we know if we have been given consent, the permission to go ahead, to make a move? Well, first it needs to be given to you verbally, read above. Second, it is always better to explicitly ask for permission. What’s okay and what’s not, wait for a response and then, only then you may proceed.
There are other ways to get a verbal consent like you can always present them with what you are going to do and pause till they give you a go ahead.
Another substitute can be asking them what you’d like them to do and see how they respond.
But in all of these what is the most important thing to remember is that your partner is allowed to refuse and is allowed to change their mind. And you may not under any circumstances force yourself or guilt trip them into changing their mind to please your needs. If they do change their mind it needs to be on their own accord. What you also need to acknowledge is that you are allowed to change your mind as well.
Sometimes you need to see for both verbal and non-verbal consent and that’s where body language comes into play. It’s vital that you pay attention to your partner’s non-verbal behavior and how their body reacts. Consent and comfort go hand in hand and non-verbal cues tell you all about one’s comfort.
When the obtained consent is invalid.
Yes, you have read it right. There are particular instances where even verbal consent is a big fat NO. First being, when one or both participants are minors. Two being when the person giving consent isn’t conscious, is under the influence of substances like alcohol or drugs. When they have no control over their own actions and there is a high chance that they might not be in the right state of mind (including a troubled emotional and mental state) to give you consent. Third being when the person has given you an A-Okay but then has fallen unconscious right after. Fourth when the person in question gives you consent under pressure.
One more thing that we need to stress upon is just because we have obtained consent once, doesn't mean we have it forever. It’s always important to ask and communicate beforehand on what’s okay and where to stop. It is important to have an open conversation about how you’d like to engage with each other.
It’s important for all of us to establish and communicate boundaries and acknowledge each other's comforts and discomforts. Take consent -an enthusiastic consent- before engaging in or pushing any sexual or personal boundaries. Engaging in any sexual activity with consent and respect for a person’s decisions, can be a memorable and pleasurable experience for all the parties involved. It’s a cherishing experience as everyone involved have discussed their comforts, it’s an act where you can explore your sensual side with utmost trust and care. There is no room for fear or apprehension when consent is given and taken. Let’s try our best to respect each other and not scar one another with an experience that could forever be mentally and emotionally traumatic.