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Consent

Consent: What is it?

Consent is permission for something to happen or be done. In a healthy relationship, this is giving a partner permission to touch, kiss, or have sex with you. Consent should always be given by both people before starting any kind of physical affection. Having conversations about consent is a normal and necessary part of any healthy relationship.

Consent can be expressed by saying yes or no, but it can also be expressed through body language. Paying attention to someone’s body language while offering affection is a crucial part of consent – it can tell you if your partner is comfortable or relaxed. It is a good idea, however, to still communicate consent with your words (because no one can read minds).

Watch “Consent Explained: What is it?” to learn more about the meaning of consent on AMAZE!

 

Why is it so important?

Consent is about more than a yes or no – it is about listening to and respecting your partner. Every person deserves to be respected, especially by their partner. Having conversations about consent and what you are comfortable with is a normal part of a healthy relationship.

Ignoring consent breaks trust and hurts people. Someone who chooses not to respect their partner’s consent can be breaking the law. Any sexual contact with another person without that person’s explicit consent is considered sexual assault or rape, which are serious crimes.

Examples of this may include:

Attempting sex without consent

Unwanted sexual touching

Forcing the victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetration of the perpetrator’s body

Penetrating the victim’s body without consent (also known as rape)

For more facts on sexual assault and rape and support, visit RAINN.

(plannedparenthood.org/teen)

To remember the necessary components of consent, remember FRIES:

FRIES

Consent is NOT:

  • Giving into pressure after being asked multiple times by a persistent partner.
  • Saying yes under any type of pressure, manipulation, or force.
  • Assuming they want to do something because they’ve done it before.
  • Someone dressing sexy, flirting, accepting a ride, accepting a drink etc. They are NOT “asking for it.”
  • Saying yes (or saying nothing) while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Assuming someone would say yes, but they can’t because they are asleep, unconscious, or mentally incapacitated.
  • Saying yes while under the age of consent.

(loveisrespect.org)

 

 

How does asking for and giving consent work?

Communicate first! Before even asking permission to do something physical with your partner, it is important to communicate with each other about several things.

Boundaries: A personal boundary is a line or a limit we set for ourselves that we do not want to cross. It is what we are comfortable doing and not doing – physically and emotionally. No one else has the right to decide what you should be comfortable with — it is up to you to decide for yourself. It is healthy to talk openly with your partner about what each of you are comfortable doing. Before showing physical affection with your partner, make sure to discuss each other’s physical boundaries. Boundaries may or may not change, so it’s important to continuously discuss boundaries with your partner. Remember, it is never okay to pressure someone past what they are comfortable with.

 

Safety: If you and your partner decide to do something that puts either of you at risk for STIs (oral, anal & vaginal sex) or pregnancy (anal & vaginal sex), it is important to communicate and agree on how each of you will protect yourself. Learn about and discuss condoms and contraception together. Consent has not been achieved unless both partners agree upon a barrier or contraception method. Remember, it is not safe to ask for consent when either of you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

 

Ask: Directly and clearly ask your partner if they want to do a specific thing with you. Example: “Can I kiss you on the lips?” or “Do you want to have sex with me?”

 

Give them the freedom and space to respond how they want to. Make sure to pay attention to their body language. If they look uncomfortable remind them that they do NOT have to do anything they are uncomfortable with. If you are unsure if they are consenting or not, ask again “Are you okay with this?” It is best to receive verbal consent to avoid any confusion.

Once both partners have given and received clear, enthusiastic consent and you have both agreed on a barrier/contraception method, you may proceed with the affection. Continue to pay attention to their body language and response throughout the affection. If your partner seems quiet or unresponsive, stop what you are doing and ask again, “Are you comfortable with this?” and remind them that you can stop at any time. If at any point your partner says “no” or “stop” or “I don’t know,” stop immediately. The only answer that gives you consent is a clear, enthusiastic yes!

 

 

What Does the Law Say About Consent and Age?

Watch “Understanding Sexual Consent and the Law” from AMAZE!

The Age of Consent is the age at which an individual is considered legally old enough to consent to sexual activity. This age differs for each state, but ranges between 16 and 18 years old in the United States. Age of Consent laws apply to all genders (Age of Consent).

Some states have a “Romeo and Juliet law” which says that if two partners are close in age, and at least one partner is under the age of consent, no one will be prosecuted for engaging in consensual sex. Each state also has an “Acceptable Age Difference” under this law, which explains how many years apart 2 partners can be (if at least 1 partner is under the age of consent) for consensual sex to be legal (Age of Consent).

For example: if a state’s age of consent is 18 and the acceptable age difference is 4 years, then it would be legal for a 16 year old and 18 year old to have consensual sex because they are less than 4 years apart.

However, if a state does not have a Romeo and Juliet law that means the acceptable age difference is 0 and the above example would be illegal if at least 1 partner is under the age of consent.

In the United States, anyone that is above the age of consent can engage in consensual sex with another partner that is above the age of consent.

Find out what your state says about consent, age and the law here!

 I Need Help and Support

My partner won’t respect my physical boundaries.

Disrespect of physical boundaries from a partner can include:

  • Pressure or guilt into doing things you may not want to do.
  • Making you feel like you “owe” them — because you’re dating, or they gave you a gift, etc.
  • Reacting negatively (with sadness, anger or resentment) if you say “no” to something, or don’t immediately consent.
  • Ignoring your wishes and not paying attention to nonverbal cues that could show you’re not consenting (ex: pulling/pushing away).

(LoveIsRespect.org)

It is never okay for someone to disrespect your personal boundaries, even if your partner’s boundaries are wider than yours. You never have to feel guilty about what you are personally comfortable with.

Clearly and directly communicate your boundaries with your partner and let them know it is hurtful and not okay for them to disrespect your boundaries, especially after you have already communicated them. If your partner still refuses to listen and respect what you are comfortable with, it may be best to avoid situations of physical affection with them and consider whether or not this relationship is a good one to be in.

I think I may have been sexually assaulted or raped.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, it’s important to tell someone you trust. You don’t have to go through it alone. By talking with an adult you trust – such as a family member, teacher, guidance counselor, coach, school nurse — you can make decisions together about how to protect yourself from further assault and what your next steps are.

If the attack has occurred recently, find a safe place from the person who hurt you. Understand that this was in no way your fault; you did nothing to provoke it. If you can, preserve the physical evidence of the attack: do not bathe or shower, do not change clothing and do not try to clean up the area where the assault happened. Seek medical attention as soon as possible (such as the emergency room) and consider reporting the attack to the police, or asking someone you trust to do so. It is understandable if these are difficult steps to take, especially if you know or live with the perpetrator.

If the attack happened a while ago — know that it is never too late to get help or report the assault. To best explain what happened to you to the police, try to write down what you remember, including any details you can. It may be very difficult and traumatizing to remember what happened, so finding someone you trust to help you write it down can be a big help.

It is important to understand that it can take time to heal from this kind of experience, both physically and emotionally. Finding support can be very helpful in the healing process. You can talk to a counselor, your local sexual assault center, or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE (4673)).You will be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

 

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