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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Can we talk about consent?

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Author Topic: Can we talk about consent?
CoatRack
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Consent has been in the news a lot lately with all the stuff about Julian Assange.

Like most people I know what I mean when I say consent. I mean "I'm checking in regularly, verbally asking is X is OK or if Y feels good. I'm not making assumptions. If I am with a new partner then I am making sure to learn their body and how they communicate."

I also know that I feel a little icky when some kind of consent isn't sought, even if my partner is doing something I am OK with.

Scarleteen has a poll up on how often you've actively sought consent in your sex life. But it got me thinking about actually talking with my partners about consent.

Yes, I actively seek consent in any sexual relationship. And yes, I expect my partners to. And by and large, with the people I have been sexually intimate with, they do seek consent just by virtue of where I meet my partners (when you meet most of the people you date through activist channels there tend to be at least some similarities).

But I'm not sure I've ever had a conversation with a partner about consent. What consent means to them. I've had tons of "what do you like in bed?" and "what are things you are uncomfy with?" and "I have an anaphylactic allergy to latex and my epi pen is kept in the front pocket of my shoulder bag." conversations.

But I really don't know if I've ever had a "how do you like to handle consent in the bedroom?" conversation.

So, have you?

How do you "handle" consent and making sure you're on the same page about consent?

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Pumpkin_Pie
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I'm a big communicator...to the point where I talk too much probably during sex and I like asking questions..so I suppose that's how I seek consent and that's how consent has been sought from me in the past.
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Saffron Raymie
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I tend to say what I DON'T want to do first, as soon as someone shows an interest in hugging me or kissing me, in case they make assumptions that because we're kissing it's a good idea to lift my shirt up to kiss my chest or something without asking first.

[ 01-05-2011, 01:33 PM: Message edited by: RaeRay2112 ]

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'Obtain the virgin's consent before you marry her' - Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)

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CoatRack
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But I guess my question was, do you talk with your partners about consent, specifically. Not "do yo seek consent" but do you have a conversation ABOUT consent?

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Stephanie_1
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I tend to be very open and honest with partners and ask that they do the same with me. (I was raped just before my 16th birthday, and and had a partner that was abusive where sex wasn't always consensual). This means some alone time and honest open communication prior to any kind of sex. I let partners know about my past (or parts about what's happened) and what boundaries I have - as well as the things that I've found to really trigger me in the past. We also talk about things like if one of us is sleeping and the other wants to have sex, making sure they're fully awake before making sure it's what they want, sex just isn't going to happen when one of us has been drinking, etc.

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breath
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Stephanie,
Can you commit a little bit on "sex isn't going to happen when one of us has been drinking" a bit more?

Thanks,
A

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breath
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I say this because I remember that the person who assault me always dranked and then we made out in the beginnings -where no consent was really sought (and i just went with it b.c i didn't know anybetter). I am interested in hearing your thoughts on alcohol and its side effects and etc esp. w.t.r. to sexual activities
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breath
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I say this because I remember that the person who assault me always dranked and then we made out in the beginnings -where no consent was really sought (and i just went with it b.c i didn't know anybetter). I am interested in hearing your thoughts on alcohol and its side effects and etc esp. w.t.r. to sexual activities
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CoatRack
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I am not Stephanie, but I will comment on the drinking thing for me.

I do not drink at all. I never have and it is not something that interests me. I will not sleep with somebody who has been drinking. There is no judgment, and they are welcome to drink (within reason - I don't tend to date people who get drunk, really) but it is understood that I do not consider somebody who is not in total mental control to have the capacity to give consent. *I* would not feel right about it.

That's not to say that if somebody had one drink at dinner time that I'd refuse to have sex at 10 that night, but if they'd been out drinking with a friend then... hey, glad you had fun, sweetheart. And maybe we'll play in the morning.

Regardless of anything else, I just think that sex is way more fun with all involved parties are totally mentally THERE. That awesome sex with you are just so in the moment? Yum!

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breath
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Yes I agree. But the drinking issue is different:

when the guy is drunk/drinking and the girl is more or less sober.
in that case, the guy is n't just into seeking consent...of course it can be other way around too but more common for me atleast with the guy drinking/drunk...

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Stephanie_1
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breath: I think CoatRack nailed a lot of it, but I’ll add some thoughts in here as well. The rule my fiancée and I have adopted (and did 6+ years ago when we first began dating) was that we both wanted to make sure we were looking out for the other and their best interests. When you’re in a relationship with someone, there should always be a level of trust present. We both decided when discussing boundaries and some things that had happened in both of our pasts that consent had to be in the front of our minds all the time (and really always should be with sex). We decided with one drink (for instance a glass of wine, a can of beer, or one mixed drink etc) we were still both perfectly able to make a decision on consent. Anything past that, and we just table sex for that night, because we didn’t want there to be a question of whether the other person would have really been okay with that. The same goes with if it’s the person that’s been drinking trying to initiate anything more than cuddling or kissing. (That’s something that’s only not been followed once, and something we’ve spent a LOT of time talking about since, even though we both knew the decisions we made and were okay with them afterwards).

I totally agree where CoatRack mentions everything being a lot more fun when everyone’s at their best. I also have a seizure condition, and when we were first dating it was out of control until we found a medication that worked. Anytime I had a seizure, my boyfriend knew I just wouldn’t be okay with sex that day at all – because as they tend to do it would often throw me really off and I’d not be able to focus, make decisions on my own, even speaking clearly/coherently sometimes. Obviously not the best time to be deciding to have sex.

I’m sorry to hear about what happened to you. I think in the case where the person drinking is initiating things (especially in excess drinking) it absolutely goes the same way, because if they’re not thinking clearly consent may not be a logical concept to them (for instance “no” may be ignored) or boundaries can be blurred and forgotten. Sometimes partners can be angry when you don’t want to have sex if they’ve been drinking, but if they really care they’ll be over it in the morning when they’re thinking clearly. But understand too, alcohol doesn’t excuse the decisions we make, so it’s not any less their fault for what they did to you.

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"Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side" ~Anon

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CoatRack
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quote:
Originally posted by breath:
Yes I agree. But the drinking issue is different:

when the guy is drunk/drinking and the girl is more or less sober.
in that case, the guy is n't just into seeking consent...of course it can be other way around too but more common for me atleast with the guy drinking/drunk...

Can you talk more about what your question is? Are you asking "what if they one person doesn't care about consent when they are drunk" or "how do you get somebody who has been drinking to ask for consent" or something else entirely?

In any case, I think that this is where prior discussions surrounding consent can really come into play.

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Stephanie_1
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CoatRack: I think where she's coming from is in your answer you spoke from the side of the person that was being asked to consent was drinking - and not in the direction of the person that had been drinking being in initiator. (In her case where the person drinking was not her but the abuser
quote:
Originally posted by breath:
Yes I agree. But the drinking issue is different:

when the guy is drunk/drinking and the girl is more or less sober.
in that case, the guy is n't just into seeking consent...of course it can be other way around too but more common for me atleast with the guy drinking/drunk...

)

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"Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side" ~Anon

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Saffron Raymie
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No, CoatRack, I've never actually had a discussion about consent before something's actually happened - usually something bad. If it happened with me, we talk about it if something's gone wrong with consent. If it's about someone else, I'll talk to them if I think that they haven't got consent right.

This is an excellent thread, and an excellent recognition that's brought me to the same page. From now on, I'm going to talk to lovers and partners about how they handle consent as soon as possible.

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'Obtain the virgin's consent before you marry her' - Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)

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breath
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Thanks all for the response and for this important key dialogue.

To clarify:
1) What to do if you met someone, they start drinking a lot and start kissing / touching your body? They do not stop and look for your reactions (Verbal, body language) as they are doing it. What is happening here and what should the person receiving this treatment do?

2) Is it true that the person who is sober (Regard less of gender) should not go with the drunk/drinking person's sexual moves because the drunk / drinking person is initiating sex/sexual activities does not mean that they have consented to it? And the next day, they disregard it...

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CoatRack
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I guess with the first situation you firmly say "no" and you walk away. I'd be really, really uncomfortable in a relationship with somebody who a) got drunk enough that they were unable to listen to my wants and needs or b) disregarded my wants and needs, no matter their current level of sobriety.

With the second one, yes, people who intoxicated (that is usually more than one drink) are generally considered unable to give fully informed consent.

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Heather
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I can add some to this.

I know that for a very long time in my life, it's pretty clear that I felt like because I was usually the sexual initiator, and was someone who identified as a woman, that the mere fact of that position in the world and that position in most sexual exchanges meant I didn't really have to talk about consent beyond making sure I had it at the time. In other words, because I was almost always the person asking (usually with very blunt directness) if people wanted to do a given thing, it seemed to me that I didn't need to have those kinds of conversations.

...which was foolish, really, and incredibly short-sighted. Because I was usually the initiator made it more my responsibility to have those kinds of conversations, not less.

Since then (and that was a long time ago), I'd say I do things very differently. It's been around six years or so since I was outside a long-term relationship and dating, but when I was dating, the way my first dates tended to go would involve conversations about consent and other things by the end of the night because sex was often on the table. In ongoing relationships, I tend to do a lot of all-around sexual checking in, just asking now and then how the other person is doing when it comes to our sex life, including with communication around consent and other areas. I'd say discussions about communication are where discussions about consenting come up.

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September
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I was molested for the first time when I was 14, and that really messed up my sense of what my own boundaries where and how I could articulate them. So for a few years after that, I really had no concept of how to give, or ask for, consent (or even that I could, or should). The result of that was that I would just go along with what the other person initiated.

At twenty, I entered a long-term relationship that ended up lasting for quite a while, with a guy who had incorporated some elements of BDSM in his previous relationships and who was very practiced in verbally negotiating consent. We did a lot of talking about things that I had never talked about in my life, and hadn't even known I could talk about. So for the first time in my life, I started having sex that I wanted to have, and that was a pretty mind-blowing experience.

With other partners since then, I've kept up that habit of discussing consent in depth. Ideally, I like to cover the basics before things progress to the bedroom, and then keep all channels of communication open throughout. That also involves disclosing my history, and also making sure that the person I'm with actually knows what they want and how to articulate their wants.

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Johanna
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breath
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Thanks Joey. Can you describe a "sample" topics or conversation topics that we ought to have with someone before or right around engaging with them?

When we try to have this communication and others areno't listening or just use sentences to shut us down, it is important that we don't give in to the temporary "pleasure" and just take time out to evaluate what's happening before delving further...

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September
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How that conversation starts and how it progresses is pretty unique to the situation and the individual I'm with. Sometimes, a related topic comes up naturally during the conversation (such as things we like sexually, or experiences we've had, or just how we like to communicate about sex), or if it doesn't, I'll simply say something like "I'd like to have a conversation about boundaries and consent before this goes further".

It would be a little difficult for me to give a sample conversation here, as how it goes and what is discussed really hinges a lot on what the other person brings to the table, such as specific boundaries/wants/needs they have.

But suffice it to say, if someone were to react to my initiating that conversation by pretending not to hear me, or trying to shut me up, then I would certainly not be willing to engage in any sexual activity with them at all.

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Johanna
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breath
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ThanKS Joey. i think it's important to remember that people have reactions and pretent to not hear us/shut us down--that are not "said in a malicious or evil or rude tone", people can say that even with a smile on their face and using words said with confidence....
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CoatRack
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If you (general you, not talking specifically to Breath here) are with a partner who is pretending not to hear you, or shutting you down then there are bigger things to talk about in the relationship. Things about respecting what the other person in this relationship has to say, and stuff like that. There should really never be a time in a relationship when one partner is ignoring what the other has to say or shutting them down because they don't want to hear it.

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Hey folks, my name is Andrew and I was a mod here for awhile a couple years ago. I'll be here for a couple weeks while Heather is out and the site is even more short-staffed than usual

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breath
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Yes. I am speaking from an not-usual experience/ 'fling' or whatever abusive thing it was I had with a guy while I was aboard and in a new setting, etc. I was also staying at his house first as a guest and then later, .....things weren't so clear and I was not respected.

i had a therapist in that country who unfortunately even wanted me to see "the positives " in this situation and led to me being unable to see it all. Anyways long story story --i have finally overcome the blame, etc and put blame /responsibility where it belonged.

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breath
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When ever I tried to talk to the therapist about it, she shut me down by saying " we are going to assume that he's fine/perfect..and focused on you"...you can imagine the effect it can have on a person's pysche...and outlook. There was emotional neglect etc, he was also an alcoholic and often alcoholism does not exist in isolation, has many other behavours to it, but I was young, unaware, in a new culture etc.

[ 01-08-2011, 01:38 PM: Message edited by: breath ]

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CoatRack
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Yuck, what a totally inappropriate and unhelpful thing for a therapist to say. You know that she was wrong in what she was saying, right?

And you know that none of this was your fault, right? When I started this topic I was really talking about how to have conversations about consent with other people who also wanted to have conversations about consent.

Somebody who forces or coerces or makes you do stuff is not interested in a conversation about consent. That is not their motive. And it is not your fault that that is not their motive and it is not their fault that they did things do you without your consent.

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Hey folks, my name is Andrew and I was a mod here for awhile a couple years ago. I'll be here for a couple weeks while Heather is out and the site is even more short-staffed than usual

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breath
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Thanks CoatRack. I am sorry for drifting this into another topic...but how does a conversation around consent goes in healthy sexual interactins is a topic *EVERYONE* including myself can learn from, so great topic!

Sometimes I want to have conversation about consent, but in the moment then the other person is not willing, interested (as shown by the above comments) and I think it's relevant to know because sometimes it can be hard to see or detect who is interested truly in a consent conversation until YOU ARE actually in the situation.

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