How To Practice, Give And Get Consent

In Honor Of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Let's Talk About Consent And How To Ask For It

Consent—whether in the bedroom or day-to-day life—is essential for more than just the month of April.

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As defined by Planned Parenthood, sexual consent is the active agreement to be sexual with someone, including the sexual acts that take place during contact. The absence of sexual consent constitutes rape or sexual assault.

Many people involved in higher education have at least had the opportunity to come into contact with this concept due to modern advocacy efforts, and many students could muster up a definition slightly along those lines if asked.

That said, approximately 1 in 6 men and 1 in 4 women are victims of sexual violence or assault in their lifetime.

For such a simple concept, why are these statistics so severe?

There is more than just one answer to that question, but a large portion of them are based in a concept no one—be it victims, aggressors, allies and bystanders—hate to address: the "grey area" in consent.

The "grey area" should be considered the miscommunication that can happen between two or more sexual partners which might allow someone to perform a sexual act without the others' consent. Unfortunately, it has increasingly become an excuse used against sexual assault survivors by people who refuse to believe them if the survivor is brave enough to share their story.

While consent is truly a cut-and-dry concept, oftentimes people enter into the "grey area" by pure ignorance for where boundaries lie and how rules should be upheld.

The breadth and severity of the "grey area" is not easily measured, nor can anyone have all the answers about what falls under that scope, be it morally or legally.

With that said, there is one simple answer to how it can be dissolved, which is the age-old solution to all forms of ignorance: education.

To eliminate the threat of the "grey area", it's every individual's duty to educate themselves, their partners and everyone around them on what consent is, what it looks like and how to apply it.

Again, it's a lot more simple, and a lot less awkward, than people would assume.

1. Practice, Practice, Practice!

Though sexual consent is infinitely more of a priority than consent applied to other areas, consent should also be employed in day-to-day activities. In fact, this is the easiest way to practice communicating to others what you're comfortable with, as well as establishing comfort zones; or even just practicing communication in general.

People often underestimate the value of getting consent in common interactions. Providing people with options within regular communication has a tremendous effect not only on the other(s)'s comfort but on setting your own boundaries as well. Examples of this are as follows:

"Can I get your number?" vs. "Give me your number."

"Do you have a minute to talk?" vs. "We need to talk."

"Do you mind if I....?" vs. performing an action without comment.

Even, "Is it cool if I post this of us?" can be more appreciated than you'd ever expected.

Small efforts like these can completely recalibrate the quality of your interactions as well as allow you to practice getting consent in a situation with far lesser consequences. At the very least, everyone can do with a little more politeness in their lives.

2. Give Consent Thoughtfully

Another way to refine your relationship with consent is by practicing defining your boundaries in both social and physical situations.

This step was the most helpful for me when recovering from my rape, as it helped totally restructure my relationship with consent. For a while, I hated all physical contact with others altogether, even the innocent kind like hugs and handshakes.

Basically expressing my comfort zone with a casual "hey, I really prefer not to be touched" lets people know in a respectful, non-confrontational way how they can contribute to us both leaving the interaction feeling comfortable and respected.

In more intimate relationships, consent starts before it even gets to the bedroom. Talking about sex conversationally (not in graphic detail) with potential partners using phrases like, "It makes me uncomfortable when..." or "I'm very sensitive about...." checks unwanted contact during sex before its right in front of you.

A good rule of thumb for giving consent in sexy-settings is to do so as explicitly as possible. While this may sound thoroughly unsexy, consent is a two-way street, so phrases like "I'm willing to try.......if you are", and "I'm feeling........Do you feel the same?", signals an openness that can go both ways. After having a conversation about consent out of context, this introduces consent in the appropriate setting in a fun, responsible way.

3. Good Rules Of Thumb For Getting Consent

Obviously, the best way to get consent from a potential partner is to ask for it directly.

When in doubt, if you've read this whole article and are still iffy on the concept, stick with "Do I have your consent to.....?" if attempting to make any physical contact, sexual or otherwise.

However, we all know there are more playful, yet clear, ways to gauge what your partner is OK with.

I'll never forget the butterflies I got when an ex climbed into bed with me while I was napping at her apartment and said, "Can we cuddle?"

Those who say consent can't be sweet, fun, funny and, yes, even sexy, clearly aren't doing the dirty right.

Simple comments like "I want to kiss you", "Are you OK with this right now?", "What if I...?" and "Are you in the mood for....?" can be exciting as well as direct.

The main thing to remember is that consent should never feel "grey." The more unsure you feel about what they want, what they're comfortable with and how into you they are, the more direct you should be when getting consent. Opening the door not only makes sure that you both are on the same page but allows your partner(s) the opportunity to leave the situation if they aren't feelin' it.

Consent, and sexual encounters should never be anything less than enthusiastic. If it isn't, again, you might not be doing the dirty right.

Considering these steps and putting any of these tips into practice helps reduce the "grey area", which gets us one step closer to a safer society. If you want more information about consent, sexual assault or advocacy work, I strongly encourage you to reach out to your local resources.

State schools are all equipped with a Title IX department designed to address cases of sexual misconduct on college campuses and provide resources. If your school doesn't have one, Sam Houston State University's Title IX website has links to resources and information covering a vast range of misconduct, sexual or otherwise, that may be helpful.

If you are not a student, many domestic abuse shelters in the area feature similar opportunities to learn, whether on their websites or through events, programs, and campaigns.

Finally, as we broach this Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I encourage everyone to seek out a local calendar of events so you can either teach, learn, share your story or hear others. Hopefully, if everyone makes an effort to get involved, the "grey area" in consent can get that much smaller.

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4 Reasons Why Men Should Not Be Making Laws About Women's Bodies

Why do men get to decide if women have a choice?

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Everyone is so quick to judge, especially Christians. Going forward, I'd like to make a point. As Tomi Lahren wrote in a Twitter post on May 16, 2019: "You're not God so don't you dare evaluate my faith based on your moral superiority complex." In more words, judging someone is a sin, and each sin is seen as the same in God's eyes. Romans 6:23 says "For the wages of sin is death..."

There is no specification as to which sin wages as the worst, so before you are so quick to judge, remember we are all seen as the same in God's eyes.

1. Men cannot become pregnant

"Men cannot become pregnant." They have no idea what it is like to be pregnant and to co-exist for an entire 9 months.

2. Men say things like... 

"Rape is kinda like the weather. If it's inevitable, relax and enjoy it." — Clayton Williams, TX Rep.

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that thing down." — Todd Akin, MO Rep.

"Rape victims should make the best of a bad situation." — Rick Santorum, PA Rep.

"If a woman has the right to abortion, why shouldn't a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist's pursuit of sexual freedom doesn't (in most cases) result in anyone's death." - Lawrence Lockman, ME Rep.

3. Men do not get their rights taken away by female politicians 

I'm sure there are things men go through that women couldn't imagine. But we don't judge them about whatever those things may be. Most women are advocates for men and their health. They acknowledge statistics about men, their mental health, and their physical health. We would never want to force men to get (what most of the media is buzzing about) a vasectomy until marriage. That isn't right, and no one would ever consider doing something that radical because ironically enough, it isn't right to tell someone else what to do with their body.

4. Men are men, politicians are politicians, and that doesn't mean they have the appropriate education to make decisions like this 

Some men are rather educated on women and their bodies. On the other hand, there are thousands of men, even men that are in the public eye all the time, that are not educated on women and women's health. They are politicians, they want to win, they want to manipulate, and they will use every single tool that they can to get to the top. Most of the men signing these bills into place have no credibility when it comes to women's health.

At the end of the day, this list could be so long that it would take hours to read. But, it shouldn't have to be. If a man isn't educated and credible enough, he shouldn't be making laws. Women's bodies aren't a playground to see who can go the furthest on the monkey bars. We must put a stop to this. We have to educate our youth. Most of all, we have to put these manipulative politicians in their place.

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I Agree With Brian Kemp's Heartbeat Bill, But I'm Still Pro-Choice Because It Isn't Only About Me

By being pro-choice, we leave room for everyone to make their own decisions, which is their right.

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I remember years ago, I visited the Bodies Exhibit in Atlanta with my AP Biology class and Human Anatomy classes. In the exhibit, they have one room dedicated to how a fetus grows in the womb. I remember seeing that a fetus does not have a heartbeat until five or six weeks and I vividly remember saying to my friend that I would be able to understand getting an abortion if there wasn't a heartbeat yet. If we declare someone dead when their heart stops, then isn't it fair to declare that someone isn't alive until their heartbeats?

To some, I sound extremely cynical, but when approaching the argument of abortion laws, I try to think about every woman, not just myself. I know that many people are against abortion due to religious reasons, and I support that. It is a valid reason. However, not everyone is religious. I know what the Bible says, but we cannot call out one sin when we are drowning in so many other sins. We cannot force non-believers to conform to a law set in place because we are afraid that God would not want it or that we are allowing the world to be a broken place.

We are all living in our own sin and just as Jesus said, "You who is without sin may cast the first stone". We cannot fight against abortion and say, "this is what the Lord would want" when we are ignoring so many other things that He would want for us. I understand the religious argument and I agree, there is nothing wrong with the idea of the argument, my problem is that we are a bunch of sinners calling out other sinners as if we are holier than thou. It is not an easy solution, but I pray that pro-lifers could see that being pro-choice doesn't mean you are pro-death, but that you want to allow women to make their own decisions while we, as believers, pray for them. That is what God would want.

In one semester of Women's Health, I have learned more about both the male and female anatomy, menstruation, ovulation, and pregnancy, than any white male in office will ever learn in their lives. They don't care enough to learn about how the female body works because they hyper-sexualize women and do not see them as human beings. If these men do not understand how the female body works, how can they be in the position to make decisions about the female body?

So, here's where it gets tricky. I agree with Brian Kemp's heartbeat bill personally.

I would support that if it was only a law for me.

But this is not how our government works.

When we put a law into place, everyone has to abide by it. So, when we make these laws out of our own egotistical or religious beliefs, we are showing everyone that we do not care what anyone else believes. By being pro-choice, we leave room for everyone to make their own decisions, which is their right. We do not have to agree, but we have to agree to disagree.

Voters, I encourage you to do your research. Do not simply be pro-life or pro-choice because of what your friends believe or what you see on social media. Make an educated choice. But, do not think only about yourself and your beliefs. Think about all the women of Georgia now and for generations to come. Think about how this bill would affect demographics, public education, orphanages, and finances. Make the educated vote not just for yourself, but for everyone.

Women, we are fortunate to have the right to vote and it is critical that we stand up and exercise that right. These elected officials have declared war, they are threatening to take our rights away, this is our time to fight and our votes are our weapon. They want unborn children to live, but they are not willing to fight for those children once they are born. We are at risk of receiving life in prison meanwhile rapists are receiving six months to fix years maximum. Even if you are pro-life and support anti-abortion laws, I hope you vote against this bill because the punishment is no solution. If you see the punishment as fair, I hope we can stand up against rape so that rapists receive punishments that fit their crime. If we can put the same energy we use to fight about abortion in to fighting against other inequalities in our justice system, imagine where we could be.

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