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Part of: Rape culture and consent


The way we think and talk about consent needs to change. We’re used to the expression “no means no” which is really important but we need to go beyond that. There are two reasons for this. For one, it can play into a cultural trope where sex is considered a “conquest” by cis men, and cis women’s pleasure is considered “bad”. Secondly, it contributes to the idea that only women can be raped and are the guardians of “No”. That if we don’t say “no”, then it wasn’t really rape. We know this is not true. Absence of “no” can be there because of a fear response of “freeze” or “fawn”, or because of coercion within relationships and a fear for the safety of yourself or others. It’s also important to recognise that sexual abuse can happen to and impact everyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, age or race, and as survivors, it’s up to us to make space in our world for solidarity with everyone whose boundaries have been violated.

A feminist definition of consent can be… one that is given freely and enthusiastically.

This model of “enthusiastic consent” was popularised by the feminist and activist Jacklyn Friedman who has written a whole book titled “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape”.

Healthy sexual relationships cannot be treated like a check-box exercise.

Consent can be given and withdrawn at any time by all involved.

Consent may be withdrawn and then given, or the other way around.

Consent may be given for one interaction and not for the other.

People are allowed to change their minds.

If someone betrays the boundaries you’ve set without any remorse or understanding of why that is problematic. If they refuse to acknowledge your sexual agency (your right to have and enjoy sexual interactions), then you know that this is not someone who respects you. You deserve respect. You deserve to enjoy your sexual interactions - that is quite literally the point of it! If you’re interested in learning more about female pleasure and boundaries, there are few podcasts, books and platforms that get into it.

This is not to say that if only rapists knew the feminist definition of consent, they wouldn’t perpetrate sexual abuse. We’re discussing this because as we go on with our lives, we may look out for red flags and root out internalised acceptance of non-consensual sex. And that as some of us may nurture children into adulthood, we teach this new model of consent which can stop rape culture in its tracks.

We’ve also put together a playlist of art, spoken word and videos about consent here.