I recently attended a lecture in which the speaker offered advice on relationships and dating while in college.
He also discussed adjusting to college and safe practices. Much of the night was unsurprising and straightforward until the speaker addressed consent.
Consent, according to his statement, is a complicated issue because people sometimes are not able to express themselves. In this view consent is a fuzzy, gray area where people are unsure and confused.
That is far from what consent is and what consent should be framed as.
There is nothing confusing or complicated about consent; yes means yes and no means no. Anything other than yes also means no, and the only thing that truly means yes is the word yes.
That is it. There is nothing else to it. That goes for all genders, all people who are asking for permission to do anything to and with another person.
I cringed when I heard the speaker discuss in consent in such a hazy way. How could anyone in a position of influence discuss such a topic in such a way with a group of college freshmen?
All the students in the audience will at some point or another encounter a situation in which consent will need to be clearly established. Consent is something every person has to deal with and so every person should have the same definition and understanding of the concept itself.
That is the problem with varying ideas of what exactly consent is, and how people approach it. When anyone discusses consent in terms that make it seem confusing it is easy for people to push the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not.
The "confusion" or, in the case of the speaker, the "complication" gives people a buffer should they ever face accusations. All one must do is argue they were unable to voice their thoughts, or that their partner was unable to voice theirs, and suddenly the picture becomes unclear.
Consent needs to be approached and discussed in a simplistic, authentic way for all parties involved to be sure of their actions and any subsequent consequences.
There can be no gray area, blurred lines, or confusion when it comes to something as impactful as a person's consent.
In short, I think we all need to be on the same page when it comes to what consent is. The differing degrees to which consent is taken seriously is troubling for all of society. It is up to all of us to call out issues when we see and hear them.
For me, this article is a call-out of the idea that consent is difficult.
Consent isn't difficult. And if it is difficult for you, work on it. Make yourself better at it.
None of us can afford to be awful at consent. And none of us should encourage others (or ourselves) to take the subject lightly.