So, my last article was about sex and romance and hooking up, and it was really nice to get that all out in the open. But this time, I want to talk about consent.
When I came back to school this semester, I was overjoyed to see the Let’s Get Consensual campaign that had been kickstarted. It has been such a great way for there to be an open dialogue about consent on a college campus, and there have been topics on consent that I had never even heard of before. When there was a focus on consent with contraception, for instance, I felt like there was a whole layer of consent that I had never really thought about. Having an open dialogue is a huge part of a healthy, consensual relationship, and it is so important to building a better culture of consent.
Everyone’s definition of consent may differ a little bit, but it should center around “FRIES,” the easy-to-remember acronym that reminds me of Sadler on a good day. Consent is freely given, revocable, informed, enthusiastic and specific. Fries.
Consent differs from situation to situation but should always follow these five key points. Open communication between partners is
the most important part of sex, and it’s so important to make sure that your partner feels safe and cared for. Whether it’s a one-night stand, or someone you’ve been on 16 dates with, or your partner of 50 years, sex is a serious matter when it comes to consent.
Having sex can be fun and exciting, but it’s up to those participating to make it that way. Communication is key.
Talk to your partner (or partners, no judgement) before engaging in any physical activity. I used to have issues with people touching me in any way, even a friendly pat on the arm, but it meant the world to me when I was asked consent before they would touch me or hug me or hold my hand. While most people aren’t as extreme in their physical boundaries, it is still important to be aware of these boundaries. If someone is edging away from your touch, or flinching when you reach towards them, don’t touch them. And if it’s hard for you to read body language, ask.
If you’re not sure, ask. That’s the bottom line of consent, in my opinion. Just ask — it’s better to be a little embarrassed on the chance they say no than to make someone uncomfortable beyond relief.
And before you say, “asking consent kills the mood,” it doesn’t. Asking to kiss someone does not kill the mood. It literally makes it better. One time a girl asked before if she could go down on me and it made it that much better. I promise that if you can’t read body language, then asking will not hurt. It will do one of two things: stop you before you hurt someone else, or make things that much more exciting.
I hate to say it, but I hear these qualms about “asking killing the mood” from guys. Every girl I’ve ever talked to about consent has agreed that asking for consent makes it sexier, or more exciting, but that it in no way is a showstopper. I have only heard this as an “issue” from guys, who usually claim that asking a girl if they can kiss them is a turn off. Of course, not every guy is like this, but more often than not I hear this point of view from men.
More concerning is the gender disparity within the Let’s Get Consensual campaign as a whole. There are many more women involved, or even aware of it, than there are men. It’s important for everyone to be aware of consent. Men make up a little less than half of our campus, and if only half of our campus is aware and on board with the idea of consent, then there is a lot of room for there to be non-consensual relations.
Consent should be a normalized topic, because if it isn’t, there is the perpetuation of rape culture. A culture where it’s okay for people to be sexually abused and traumatized is not a culture anyone wants to be a part of, and the first step in making sure that this is not our continuing reality is by practicing and spreading the message of consent.
Don’t say consent “ruins the mood.” It doesn’t. Ask anyone if it kills the mood. Make a survey and post it in Swampy Memes. I bet you’ll find that it does not kill the mood.
Don’t pretend consent is dubious. If you’ve read this article you now know the acronym of FRIES, and that’s enough to know that if you’re not sure, and you don’t ask, it’s not consensual. Read body language, listen to your partner, ask. This is not a difficult concept to grasp. No tea, no shade, but my nine-year-old brother understands consent better than some people I’ve met on this campus.
Consent is such an important thing to learn about and practice, and the Let’s Get Consensual campaign is such an amazing way for our campus to be better educated on the topics of consent. It’s something that every student at the College of William and Mary can practice, and I think everyone should at least be aware and educated on the sexy idea of consent.
Veronica M. is a Flat Hat writer who wants everyone to start calling the left side of Swem The Annex.