April as you might have read in one of my previous posts is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.. Take a minute to read about consent.
Rape is the most underreported crime in America, in 2019. 1 in 5 females between the ages of 18 and 24 attending a 4 year university, will be raped. The solution to sexual assault, is consent. Every 92 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted and these astonishing statistics are the result of a lack of consent . Sexual assault happens too often in our society, which makes people feel unsafe at work, in relationships, and possibly in all aspects of their life. Consent varies throughout societies and cultures, but fundamentally consent is determined by geographical location, the context of needing consent, and the word “yes”, whether this is sexually, professionally, or operationally.
Dictionary.com defines consent as “permission, approval, or agreement; compliance; acquiescence”. Planned Parenthood defines consent as “Actively agreeing to have sex with someone. Consent lets someone know that sex is wanted. Sexual activity without consent is rape or sexual assault.” They created the FRIES acronym for the simplicity that (sexual) consent entails, F- Freely Given R- Reversible I- Informed E- Enthusiastic S- Specific. Planned Parenthood is a key provider of sexual health information and a strong supporter of safe and consensual sex. Planned Parenthood supports people all over the world in making sure they are safe and supported.
It is surprising that something as simple as consent, geographically differs. Consent in California means something different than consent does in the other 49 states. Consent in California means “positive cooperation in act or attitude pursuant to the exercise of free will. The person must act freely and voluntarily and have knowledge of the nature of the act or transaction involved”. In Oregon, it isn’t direct what consent means, but what deems someone incapable of giving consent. This is popular throughout not only states, but cases where they define what consent is not and how someone couldn’t have provided adequate consent. To be incapable of giving consent, in Oregon, a person is “under age 18, mentally defective, and mentally incapacitated or physically helpless”. In Alabama and Hawaii, a young adult can consent to sex at 16 years old, while in Texas and Colorado it is 17 years old, and 18 in a lot of other states.
Throughout society, the question could be considered an argument of power and consent. Are people empowered to believe they don’t need consent, because they are more powerful than someone else? The podcast “Dear Sugars” did a three part segment on consent. They bring up sexual education courses needing to be reformed, because the first time you understand and learn about consent, shouldn’t be when someone is telling another their story of the time they got violated. This goes into the dominant and submissive sex culture and the idea that “I didn’t hear a no, so that means yes”. While common cases of this can occur everyday, between two mutually consenting adults and/or in relationships, the idea that someone else has this power over you shouldn’t be a reality. Sometimes people don’t intentionally ignore consent, they just assume that it is okay and mutual if someone isn’t saying no. Dear Sugars explains that we need someone of the same sex to explain consent to us, because it’s not the same for men and women. Consent one time, doesn’t mean consent every time you do that activity, and silence doesn’t mean yes. There is the idea that body language can assume consent, but unless you have boundaries and say “yes”, it isn’t consensual.
Are facial expressions consent? Kristen Jozkowski of Arkansas University, declares that nonverbal cues that are intended to determine consent, but leads to miscommunication and aren’t effective forms of consent. In her study, she found that men use and interpret nonverbal cues more often as consent, than women do. An interesting statistic to consider is that 1 in 5 women are raped in their lifetime, while 1 in 33 men are raped in their lifetime. These alarming statistics are no doubt a correlation to the consideration of the definition of consent. The factors of intoxication, nonverbal consent, physical helplessness, and the fact that 69% of rape happens to people 12-34 years old, are all evidence that consent is interpreted differently person by person.
In the Sierra College restrooms there are posters that define consent. They are friendly reminders that consent during sex and anything leading up to sex, needs both parties to say “yes!”. At every stage of intimacy, it should be “yes I like that” “yes that is okay”. At the root of consent in society means saying ”yes” to whatever is proposed. Just because this is considered a norm for consent, doesn’t mean that it is equally evaluated in all aspects of life. In rape and sexual assault cases all over the world, things like intoxication are considered. It poses the question, can someone rightfully and willingly consent if they are intoxicated? The answer to this is not black and white, as it is merely an opinion and changes within the law and court system as well. There are laws that state the implications of incapacitated sexual activity. It is scary to think that depending on the state someone resides in, sex or consent while intoxicated varies, as well as the entire understanding and applicability of the word ‘consent’.
Consent is practiced throughout our lives. Consent can range from signing papers at the doctor for surgery, privacy on the internet, and the more widely talked about subject of course, sex. Jill D. Weinberg mentions her perspective on consent, “These examples show that social relations create the terms of a consensual arrangement, and, in so doing, transforms impermissible to permissible conduct. In these cases, consent marks the difference between sharing personal information from invasion of privacy; surgery from medical battery; and sex from rape”.
Consent is a culturally subjective word and is commonly misused. A lack of understanding for the use of consent, causes detrimental events in our society, schools, homes, personal lives, and/or professional settings. As a society, we should work harder to protect others and stand up for victims of rape and sexual assault. In any context that consent is required, it is important to define and understand the implications where consent is necessary.
No amount of sexual assault is ever okay, yet it will happen to 1 in 5 women.. That means someone in your life has suffered. 1 in 100 is too many.
Let's talk.. Comment if you have any thoughts below. Not mentioned in my post, is the diversity of gender in this... I know women are not the only victims, but they are the majority.
If you or anyone you know have struggled with this feel free to reach out on Instagram @kennys.korner. You can also call the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673