The Key to Consent

I said yes. I said yes when I should have said no. I said yes when I should have stopped and thought to myself, is this actually something I want? But I didn’t stop. She asked, and I said yes.

Consent has been a buzzword for the last couple of years. “Never do anything without getting consent” and “silence does not equal consent” echo through high school auditoriums and lecture halls everywhere. Countless campaigns have been started around the importance of consent, and rightly so. Consent is of paramount importance when engaging in any kind of sexual activity. I believe that completely. As a woman who has been the victim of unwanted sexual advances, I know how much it matters.

Only yes means yes.

But, I said yes. And when I woke up the next morning, I felt terrible. I felt violated. I had wanted to say no, so why didn’t I?

As a chronic endurer of things, it is in my nature to push through until I get to the other side. I know lots of other people like me. It might not be something we want, but we ride out the storm. This mentality isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to life experiences — everyone has a lecture they want to say no to, a job they want to quit but we persevere and eventually it all turns into a good experience. But when it comes to sex, enduring isn’t okay.

When we look at consent, it is usually focused on obtaining it from the other person. There aren’t a lot of articles about the act of giving consent, and how much thought should be given to it. Saying yes to sex is a lot more than saying yes to a second helping of pie. To consent to sex fully, you need to feel completely secure in the situation. You must be completely aware of what is going to happen, and actively want it. And, most importantly, you have to be able to say no.

A lot of people feel pressure to have sex for various reasons. Perhaps she’s afraid he’ll leave her, or maybe he’s afraid his mates will laugh at him. Maybe, like me, she just wants her partner to be happy, and isn’t really thinking about herself. Whatever the pressure, you should feel complete liberty when it comes to saying no to be able to say yes.

In my situation, I could hardly blame my partner for the way I was feeling. She said and did everything right. She checked in constantly, made sure I was okay with everything that was happening, and I was reassuring her back. The problem was not with my partner. But it wasn’t with me either. I don’t blame myself for feeling the way I did. I also don’t blame myself for acting the way I did. But waking up the next morning with a sick feeling in my stomach was a wakeup call for me. Something had to change.

I mulled over whether or not to tell my partner about how I was feeling for quite some time. I didn’t want her to feel hurt or make her feel like she hurt me. I kept my distance, as I didn’t want something similar to happen again. Eventually, I did tell her. I told her everything. Things weren’t going to get better unless I was honest about the way I was feeling. She was mortified at first, thinking that she was the problem. This had never been the case; the problem was our lack of communication outside the bedroom that was leading me to feel like I couldn’t communicate inside. Once we took the time to mend what was broken, things got better in every aspect of our relationship: between the sheets and otherwise.

Not everyone will have had the same experience as me. Some people feel no pressure at all when it comes to sex. They can say no without hesitation. But for those who do hesitate, it is crucial to figure out why, and to overcome that feeling. If you can’t say no, you can’t say yes. Consent is not something to be given lightly.

If consent is given in earnest, trust me, it feels amazing.

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