Monday, September 21, 2009

Let's talk about consent

I haven't figured out the balance between personal and educational with this blog yet-- e.g. I was thinking about whether or not I wanted to write a post called "Let's talk about PTSD" in order to explain the definition of PTSD, common misconceptions, my personal experience with it, etc. While I was thinking about that, I decided to write a post about something both personal and educational: consent.

Sounds simple, right? No. If everyone held identical conceptions of what equals consent, then rape victims wouldn't feel so lost in their search for validation. Guilt and self-blame are two of the many horrible feelings that plague rape victims. I struggled for months trying to find something that felt concrete that would tell me for sure that it was really rape; I felt so alone, thinking that my experiences "didn't really count."

Finally, one day, I found it. I was practically blubbering with joy and relief when I came across this page.

What is not consent:
If your partner has sex with you under any of the following circumstances, it is rape/sexual assault:

  • Physical violence (e.g. hitting, choking)
  • Threats with weapons
  • Continuing sexual activity after you have indicated you wish to stop. (It doesn't matter if you initially consented; people change their minds for a number of reasons all the time. Your wishes should be respected.)
  • Overpowering you with physical strength, pinning you down
  • Threats to harm you or a third person
  • Threats to your property/pets
  • Threats to rape you if you don't give in -- that basically says "let me rape you or I'll rape you" - sex gained under such a threat is rape.
  • Depriving you of liberty until you acquiesce to a sexual demand-- e.g. "you don't leave this room until I get what I want."
  • Having sexual intercourse with you while you are sleeping or incapacitated by drugs/alcohol to the extent that you cannot give or withdraw consent
  • Refusal to allow you to sleep until you give in to sexual demands (note: sleep deprivation is a recognized form of torture)
  • Sexual activity after continuous pressure on you to have sex before you are ready, to perform acts you have stated you don't like, or just going ahead and doing it.
  • Putting you in a position where you must engage in one form of sexual activity to prevent something "worse" from happening i.e. you have to engage in oral sex in order to avoid anal rape.
It is important that you realize you do not have to have physically fought or even said "no" for an act to be regarded as sexual assault. Tears or other expression of discomfort are more than reasonable indicators that you do not want the sexual activity. Often, sexually violent partners do not actually seek consent, or if you do say no, it is not taken any notice of. Remember that submission is not the same as consent.

Some of these seem obvious, but others not so much. All of the above manifestations of rape can lead to PTSD.

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