Musings about consent

*** Trigger warning ***

Over at Shakesville, Melissa asked the question, “In what ways has the idea of sexual assault and/or street harassment affected your daily movements?” The comments made me cry and made me furious. The one comment that really stuck out for me, amongst all the stories of rape and assault, was someone adding, as a footnote almost, the times that she has said yes to sex when she didn’t really want to.

I have not been raped where I never consented to sexual contact.

But have I been raped if I said yes when I wanted to say no? Because I’ve done that. Have you been there too? When it just becomes easier to say yes and get it over with so the man (usually your partner, in this type of situation) will stop bothering you trying to get you in the mood, rather than continuing to say no and have to come up with justifications? Or maybe you haven’t wanted to in awhile and you worry that if you keep saying no, the relationship might suffer, so you say yes?

Because I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I can remember crying after sex, silently because I did not want him to know, because I felt ashamed. I never got so far in my thought process to think that he should be the one who was ashamed, that he had guilted / coerced / pressured me into having sex that I did not want to have. I never stopped to think that every time I did this, I perpetuated the cycle within my relationship because I had then rewarded his tactics with exactly what it was that he wanted.

I never thought of it as rape.

But now … now I think it is. It’s not the same kind of rape as someone forcibly pinning you down and violating you, but it is a rape nonetheless. It is a rape that is performed by our society – women are put in such a position that saying no to sex can have negative implications that sometimes outweigh our right to an un-violated body.

I am now looking at this from a completely different angle. In future, if a man wants to have sex with me and I do not, and he does not accept that ‘no’ as the final word, I am going to view him as a possible future rapist. My body belongs to me and someone who cannot respect that I know what I want and I know what is best for me is not someone I want to be intimate with. It just does not seem like such a large step to go from unrelentingly begging / cajoling / coaxing / etc to simply taking what he wants. He is already showing a lack of concern for me – how long before the leap in “logic” occurs to him?

Originally published at idle musings. You can comment here or there.

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