There’s been a big to-do lately about the difference between consensual sex and non-consensual sex (short version: “non-consensual sex” isn’t a real thing; that’s called rape). However, what happens if you consent to the sexual activities only to find out that you’re not actually comfortable with what that entails?
Consent is on a case-by-case basis.
As far as consent goes, there’s no rule that says that you always have to consent to having sex with someone just because you consented once. Think about your body as if it were anything else you own. (Yes, you own your body – no one else does, even if you have “promised” yourself to them.)
If you allowed someone to borrow your car, would that entitle them to use your car any time they felt like it?
What if they damaged your car the last time they used it (such as physically hurting you during consensual sex) – would you be forced to let them use it again?
No, of course you wouldn’t! Why would you treat your body with less respect than you treat your possessions? If you no longer feel comfortable with the idea of having sex with them, it is your right to deny them sex in the future. You shouldn’t use this as a “bargaining tactic” to get the things you want, although it’s certainly done – but there is no such thing as “implied consent”.
Just because you give consent doesn’t mean you have to follow through.
People may get up in arms because you’ve given your consent to them, but you don’t want to go through with it in the end. Let’s return to our car analogy for a second.
You offer to let someone use your car, but later you find out that they want to change the interior or that they will reprogram all your radio stations. OK, so it’s a silly analogy – but bear with me. Just because you gave your consent for them to drive your car (in other words, have sex with you) doesn’t mean you have to let them do everything they want with it.
In the heat of the moment, we may provide consent to our partners – but then they begin to do things that we don’t actually want. This might mean anal play, it might mean a fetish we didn’t intend to participate in, it may mean that we changed our mind and we don’t want to have sex after all.
Those on the receiving end of the rescinded consent may feel frustrated at this implication, but it doesn’t mean that they have rights over your body. If you change your mind, speak up! Even if you have promised them something, there’s no contractual obligation for you to let them do it, as long as you revoke the consent before it’s done.
Communication is your responsibility.
The only time that you can’t withdraw your consent is after the deed is done. If you let someone borrow your car and after you get it back, you decide that you don’t like what they did with it – can you say that they stole it from you? No, because you gave your permission – just because you changed your mind after the fact doesn’t mean that they stole it, it means you regret giving it to them.
It’s the same thing with sex. It’s not “rape” if you don’t enjoy it after you wanted it. Those who would accuse someone of rape when they really mean “bad sex” are a good portion of the reason that real rape victims aren’t taken seriously.
If you have ever accused someone of sexual misconduct after you regretted an encounter with them, I urge you to stop. It’s damaging to all of us as women if you do this.
If you’re not happy – speak up!
You can’t reasonably expect someone to know what you like and don’t like if you don’t tell them. It’s the same as if you let someone borrow your car. You gave them permission to drive it, but you didn’t want them to take it on the freeway or to go through mud puddles – you need to tell them this. They might not listen, and they might continue to do those things anyway – but if you don’t speak up, it’s indirectly your fault as well.
I’m aware that this might come across as victim-blaming, so allow me to explain. If you are raped, it is not your fault. But if you don’t say no when you mean to say no, and instead let things happen that you do not like – it’s not the other person’s fault, either.
Instead of allowing ourselves to feel used, we should speak up when a partner requests something that isn’t in line with our plans for ourselves. If you don’t like it, your partner cannot read your mind. Even the most in-sync partners need to communicate verbally.
A quick example from my own life: I had a sexual experience that was going very well, and then my partner went for some anal play. I’m not into that, at all. I spoke up – and she hasn’t attempted it since. If I hadn’t spoken up, she would have probably continued doing it, and I would be miserable with it, but it would have been my fault for not speaking up.
You’re allowed to set limits on your consent.
In the movie/book “50 Shades of Grey”, there are numerous flaws when it comes to the execution of a bondage lifestyle – but one thing they did get right is “hard no” and “soft no”. It’s important that you make yourself clear where the lines in your own relationship are drawn.
If you enjoy sex with your partner and want it to continue, but you do not want to participate in a certain fetish she has, for example – it’s up to you to let her know that this isn’t something you consent to. If you’re not sure if you’ll enjoy it or not, this is your responsibility to let her know, too.
If we were talking about your car, it might translate as follows: You allow someone to use your car, but you don’t want anyone else driving it. You’re willing to let them extend it to certain people who you trust to drive it – so this is a “soft no” on the extra drivers.
However, you don’t want them to take it through glass because it’ll ruin the tires. You’re responsible for the upkeep of the car, after all, and if they damage it, you’re the one who has to suffer to make it right. This is a “hard no” and if they refuse to honor this, you have every right to take back your permission.
Consent is only yours – your partner cannot demand it.
If you don’t consent to something, even if your partner feels entitled to it, she has no right to demand it. It might lead to some sexual frustrations on her part, but your own emotional well-being should be more important to you than her sexual satisfaction. (Not that you shouldn’t try to accommodate your partner’s needs as well, but you should be more focused on your own.)
Often we may allow our partners to take control of a part of our lives that we probably shouldn’t. As a rape survivor, I often deny requests from my partner for things to do in the bedroom. It’s not that I don’t love her or trust her; it’s because I need to have comfort with what I’m doing to ensure that I don’t return to the place of the victim. It frustrates her to no end sometimes – but she respects me enough to honor even my most unreasonable rules. (To my girlfriend, if you’re reading this right now, thank you for this – I can’t even explain how much it means.)
If your partner feels the need to demand anything from you, you’ll need to evaluate the respect she has for you. It may seem as if she loves you, but as mentioned in a previous post, just because you love someone doesn’t mean the situation is right. Respect for your partner is mandatory. Even in situations where there is a “dominant” partner and a “submissive” partner, if there isn’t respect between the two, it’ll never work.