Sexual consent: enthusiastic and continuous

TW: sexual assault, rape

This article originally featured in the O-Week 2016 edition of The Oppidan Press

Recent protests on Rhodes University campus have brought to the surface important discussion about sex, and especially about the difference between consensual sex and rape. It is clear that the conversations we are having about safe, consensual sex are being wrongly conducted and are insufficient.

Evidently, the root of the problem lies not in the length of a pair of shorts or how many drinks someone has consumed. This is painfully clear as the majority of men are able to go out drinking without having to meticulously plan their walk back to res or have a friend watch their drink if they leave to go to the bathroom. It is also true that men are much less likely to suffer from the constant stream of micro-aggression’s directed at women in their daily lives from the endless catcalling to the sending of unsolicited dick pics.

According to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Centre of the University of Michigan (SAPAC), consent cannot be assumed:

Body language or appearance does not imply consent. For example, the clothing, facial expressions or gestures of a person do not give consent. It is a statement made explicitly by the individual.

Past relationships or sexual activity cannot grant consent to have sex with you. Although you may be dating this individual or have had sex with them in the past, they still must consent to every sexual act.

Silence or immobility does not grant consent. Just because someone isn’t physically verbally resisting you does not mean that they are consenting to any sexual act.

Incapacitation renders a person incapable of giving consent. However, a perpetrator will legally be held accountable for committing rape or sexual assault whether or not they have been drinking. 

The More Then Yes campaign states that consent must be continuous and enthusiastic and can be withdrawn at any time during sex.

The best way to approach this topic of conversation with a partner is to understand that control over one’s body is a human right and discussing boundaries is key for secure and mutually pleasurable sex. These conversations need to take place between individuals capable of making decisions. This means that they are not intoxicated or unconscious. However, this conversation does not stop there. It continues throughout the sexual act. It is a simple concept perfectly outlined by the Thames Valley Police in their viral #ConsentisEverything campaign video called “Tea Consent”. It exemplifies various scenarios that could play out, all while maintaining the simplicity and importance of consent.

Ideally, the ‘safe sex’ talk would take place with both male and female students present, with a specific emphasis on the education of men as – statistically – the main perpetrators of the crime. This is important for balanced viewpoints and the monitoring of potentially toxic, male-centric spaces.

For more educational resources with regard to rape and sexual assault, consult the Gender Action Project (GAP) website as well as the Silent Protest platforms. If you have any personal concerns or think that you have been raped or sexually assaulted, call the Student Counselling Centre rape crisis representative at 0466037070 or 0828030177. If you find yourself in immediate danger, call the Campus Protection Unit at 0466038146.

Words by: Lili Barras-Hagan

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