2016- a retrospective on sexual consent

Woah

now isn’t that an intimidating title?

When I was younger, having a little mystery in the title always seemed like a better way to make these posts more appealing- the invitation of the unknown, to come find what I’m trying to unpack and explain to you as you read on.

This is one of those rare posts where I really just want to get to the heart of the matter as soon as possible. Sexual consent is a concept I really have never been educated on. Not in a classroom, not with an adult, not in a workshop, or through an institution.

I’ve seen click bait Buzzfeed posts about it, Tab articles about it, HuffPost women excerpts mentioning the need to be aware of it- but everyone out on the internet seems to place vital importance on emphasizing just how crucial it is while simultaneously skirting around just WHAT sexual consent involves.

Now without getting too essay-analytical about this, consent is a broad term, it encompasses a general sense of agreeing, of giving full fledged permission, of involvement and participation in activities. I am focusing on sexual consent in particular because the ambiguity of the situations it can encompass is why the need for us especially as woman to discuss it is more urgent than ever.

I’m going to talk through two instances of situations where sexual consent arose as a pressing concern and how overlooking it made me feel, both incidents that have happened in 2016. I feel no embarrassment or guilt in detailing my situations, purely because other women out there might read this and feel like they too experienced something of this sort and had no forum or outlet to express how they felt

the first incident was in the fall, a guy I had been on three dates with was coming round to my place after I had finished my day at university. Our conversations flew well, I liked how he seemed very attentive and curious to find out about my life and what I was into. On our second date we went for a walk around my area, and towards the end he held my hand and I kissed him. Yes, if we’re going to tally up sexual advances- I* kissed him* first and unsurprisingly our texting got more flirtatious and verging into sexual since we became physically intimate (the day we kissed). The night he came around, Id explicitly said I did not want to have sex with him. I told him I wasn’t comfortable,and on the surface of it all this guy said that was fine he understood my opinion-but he kept kissing me, touching me, saying suggestive things. Now I reciprocated, albeit not to the same extent that he did. But he tried to touch me, and it hurt. After a few such incidents of my body just not responding, eventually he got dressed and left. Now let it be known, I was NOT pinned against my will and made to submit to his sexual advances. But whatever we did , I didn’t want to do. All I really felt, was pain. Physical, and emotional pain. I had to call my best friend in after he left and go to sleep with her around because I felt so vulnerable and unstable.

The second incident involves someone I have never dated, but have always cared about. Through that assumption of caring about them , there was physical intimacy involved and once again I was struggling because it was evident he was much more into it than I was. I was hesitant, and struggling at every stage. I did not have sex, but did other things. Afterwards, I felt that ache again in my intimate areas and I felt unstable, I felt discomfort, extreme discomfort. Now this case is more complicated because this person definitely did not force me to do anything, and I suppose the line at which I wanted to be affectionate and beyond what stage of affection I was comfortable with- was a line I did not know.

THIS is where sexual consent matters. Sexual consent matters most in situations of physical intimacy where the boundaries are NOT chalked out, where your personal position with that human is not pre established. Both of those incidents, where incidents where I was aware, and I was not fully forced. But i wasn’t completely on board with what happened either, its an ambiguity that is not addressed enough especially with single women who are exploring their sexuality. More importantly after both of these incidents I felt violated, my body felt violated, and I felt uncomfortable. I felt obligated to reciprocate physical intimacy when a man was showing me affection, mostly because hey that’s validation right?

As women, we’re told to be aware of consent in bars, in remote alleys where shady men can cop a feel and cat call us. We’re told about rape, and assault, and being groped in a night club. We are not however, told about the situations where we have voluntarily chosen to be intimate with somebody but we are unsure about what level of intimacy we are comfortable with. That space, is a very vulnerable one. And maybe if we were more vocal about sexual consent in our everyday lives, we would be able to articulate it better, even as I write this out at this moment I feel like parts of this have been so vague, but that’s what it is- it arises in ambiguous circumstances where the outcomes can be uncertain.

I realized I did not fully consent to those sexual experiences through two ways;

1)because in the most simple way: it felt wrong. My body, my gut- told me I wasn’t up for it. It wasn’t rape, it was bordering on assault, so the basic fundamental underlying statement I can make is there was a definite lack of consent from my side.

2)because since then, when I HAVE been in situations where it felt right, my body has reacted accordingly. I have realized when I actively want intimacy, I respond accordingly, and I go in feeling good about it, I come out feeling good about it- THAT’s how it should be irregardless of who you are, and what your connection is to the person you are choosing to do things with. If they don’t make you feel 100, screw that, 300% comfortable and willing, stop. Stop despite it being awkward, stop despite probably making it official that it won’t work with them, stop and listen to how you feel, and what you are comfortable with.

I wish I knew about what it meant to fully give my sexual consent before, but I hope what I can write about and share will encourage discourse- and that someday women everywhere will explore their sexuality without shame and without pressure, in healthy ways to enjoy their experiences and not be haunted by them like I used to be.

Muchos pyaar, I’ve missed this space.

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