SIUE Sociology and Women’s Studies Alum Destiny Green is Prevention Educator and Girls Group Facilitator at Safe Connections in St. Louis, MO. The title of this piece comes from one of her colleagues who mentioned that students often will say “I didn’t know that consent has that many layers.” Here, Green boils down the core elements that go into healthy sexual relationships and consent negotiations.
I LOVE my job. Because it’s necessary.
I talk to pre-teens and teens about healthy sexual encounters, consent, and coercion and I’ve gotten good at laying out the basics that are important for healthy fun sex that is a good time for everybody.
Consent is an 100% enthusiastic “Hell yes” as it pertains to inviting someone else to your space/body. NOT a “uhh idk” “if you want to” “maybe”…it has to be BEYOND THE SHADOW OF A DOUBT that I want whatever you are offering. Period.
A person that is sleep, intoxicated, or underage canNOT give consent—even if they say/have said “yes.”
Consent is fluid. It can be reneged. It can be revoked. You have to KEEP asking for it.
Just because someone consented to something last Saturday, does NOT mean its cool this Tuesday.
STILL gotta ask for consent if you’re in a relationship. STILL gotta ask for consent if you’re married—Simply because YOUR BODY DOES NOT STOP BEING YOUR BODY when your relationship status changes.
If a person is not allowed to say “no,” it is NOT a consensual interaction. Which brings me to coercion…
Coercion is a very important concept to understand. It is a type of “yes” that comes from manipulation, pressuring someone, guilt tripping someone, etc.—which are all things that usually comes after someone says “no, I’m good/I don’t want to/I changed my mind.”
Unfortunately, THIS is how most sex is had.
This is also how people (particularly women) get in situations that they didn’t want to be in, i.e. “I just gave him my number/fake number/your number, because he wouldn’t quit asking me EVEN after I said that ‘I’m not interested’.” Because coercion is the “game” your uncles and older cousins taught y’all. Coercion is doing/saying whatever it is that you have to do and say to get them to say “yes.”
Marinate on these concepts.
If you’ve been a survivor of any of these scenarios, know that it is NOT YOUR FAULT.
If you’ve done any of these things, ACCEPT IT, OWN IT, and DO BETTER from this day forth.
And it doesn’t matter if you agree or not. These are things that you MUST be aware of so that sexual encounters can be happy and healthy, and so that no one feels taken advantage of!
Either do this, or catch a case.
I know that it sounds like a lot. But it only seems like a hassle because no one sat us (millennials and older) down and educated us on this. We are not informed.
And it shows.
And I’m sad.
For additional resources, see:
- Rebecca Kukla. 2019. “Sex talks: the language of sexual negotiation must go far beyond ‘consent’ and ‘refusal’ if we are to foster ethical, autonomous sex.” Aeon.
- Zhana Vrangalova. 2016. “Everything You Need to Know About Consent That You Never Learned in Sex Ed: What it looks like, what it sounds like, how to give it, and how to get it.” Teen Vogue.
- Lisa Rose. 2018. “Sexual consent is a worldwide conversation.” CNN.com.