I have identified myself as a feminist since the moment I grasped a concept of feminism. As a feminist, I have always been all for consent. However, my understanding of consent and what consent looks like in any relationship drastically changed when I met my ex partner.
Sex and consent were two topics my ex and I discussed fairly often in our relationship. Until our relationship my idea of consent was simply that somebody had to ask something along the lines of “Do you want to have sex?” and their counterpart responding with “Yes.”
I now realize that consent is so much more than just sex. I soon found myself asking for consent for everything. At first it was things like placing my hand on another person’s thigh. A year ago I figured that if I and a person are sitting down, there is obvious sexual tension, and from what I perceive by the person’s body language they “want it”, then there is a green light for my hand to grab their thigh.
This is not okay. An individual’s clothing, body language and nonverbals do not provide consent. I am now a junior here at Chico State, and because of my change in perception of consent I find myself the odd one out. I have been with other people after my ex, and I ask consent for everything. Once I was actually told it was “weird” that I had asked for consent to put my hand on the person’s inner thigh, simply because we were already openly attracted to each other.
Consent is so much more than just sex. The definition of consent is to give permission for something to happen or be done. However, the concept of consent and how and when to use it is ambiguous. The definition does not specifically say when consent should be used. In my opinion, consent is very simple. Consent should be applied in any interaction with another human being where there is reason to believe that there is a chance that what you are about to do or say next will make the person uncomfortable in any shape or form.
For example, I now ask my counterparts “Do you mind if I bring this up?” if I believe I might be bringing up a touchy subject. I have received response of confusion, because most people do not ask for consent in a conversation. I have also received very positive responses, such as “Thank you for asking first, it is kind of hard to talk about sometimes”.
Think about when a good friend and their long-term partner break up. For the next few weeks of that person’s life they are usually asked on a daily basis “Why did you break up?” Nobody says, “Hey, do you mind if I bring up the break up?” Even though many of us know how painful break ups could be, and how painful they could be to talk about directly after happening.
Another example is when asking a friend who identifies in the LGBTQ+ community, “How does your family feel about it?”. Even if you are great friends with this person, you should always ask for consent for that particular conversation. The person may be have been kicked out of their home, abused, or even cut off completely by family members because of their identity. Asking this question without permission might be a severe trigger for this person.
As human beings we are curious. As friends, we care. However, the next time you are wanting to ask someone about something that may be a touchy subject, ask for consent. It does no harm, and almost always the person will appreciate you asking. Whether it is regarding sex, asking for the reason a person did something, or anything at all that could possibly lead to a person’s discomfort, ask for consent.
By: Brina Covarrubias