Today we’re gonna address this super fun topic called consent. Basically, consent is what needs to be given before you can continue a sexual act, whether intercourse or otherwise. Consent is vital, because if you do not have consent, then what you are doing can be classified and prosecuted as rape. No one wants to go there! Our culture tends to avoid talking about consent, so here’s what both men and women alike need to know:
In the United States, every single state has different age of consent laws. Age of consent refers to the age that you are legally able to consent to sex. If sex is had before that age, it could be prosecuted as rape if charges are pressed. You should know where your state stands on the age of consent! Many young men and women find themselves on sex offender registry lists for having sex with a minor, even with their verbal consent. Even with this verbal consent given from both participating parties, it is still illegal if one of them is under their states age of consent. If parents decide to press charges, they can. Few states will consider the age gap between the two participating parties within a couple of years, but generally an age gap over 2 or 3 years will still be considered statutory rape. In absolutely no state is the age of consent under the age of 16. For a deeper look at your states particular age of consent laws, click right here.
Now, what about alcohol and consent? This is where things can become a little murkier, since we aren’t always taught when two people are able to consent to sex. A great rule of thumb is that if the person you wish to have sex with has had more than one alcoholic drink, you should probably wait to have sex until you’re both in an environment free from intoxication, and where you can both talk about your boundaries, what you’re comfortable, etc. The fact is that we don’t know other peoples limits. A 300 pound, 6’4″ football player will more likely than not have a higher tolerance than someone that weighs 150 pounds and stands at an average height. Different people metabolize alcohol differently, so no two people have exactly the same tolerance level. If a person is passed out drunk, is slurring their words, can’t walk in a straight line, throwing up, or showing any other signs of extreme intoxication, having sex with them is considered rape, and would be prosecuted as such.
Another important thing to note is that consent can be retracted at any time, by any participating party. If you feel unsafe, you have the right to speak up and stop what you’re doing. If your partner(s) do not respect those wishes, they’re getting into sexual assault territory. You have the right to say no when you’re uncomfortable. It is not teasing, and you do not owe anyone sex! Draw the line when you’re no longer comfortable or feel safe. Sexual coercion is never okay. Just because you’ve done it before does not mean that you have to do it again. Just because you’ve started does not mean that you have to “finish”. When you’re uncomfortable, let it be known. Consent can always, always, always, be retracted.
For some more excellent information on consent, brought to you by the lovely Laci Green, go ahead and skip to :30.
I know, I’m using bold face for everything today. It’s an important topic! If you get nothing else out of this blog, then please understand consent, what it looks like, and what is rape and what isn’t. We consistently teach women not to get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape. Why it’s this way, I may never understand. But we have the power to change that. Many rape cases can be entirely avoided just by providing accurate information about laws to young men and women, and when a person can consent to sex and when they can’t.
If you ever need clarification on what rape constitutes, look no further. The new definition of rape, provided by the United States Department of Justice Attorney General, is “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” This is the actual definition of rape. This is what the United States recognizes as their legal definition of rape, and is what rape cases will be tried based off of.
Rape happens most often between two people who know, and even trust each other. These kinds of violation of trust happen to too many men and women. RAINN (the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) estimates that 2/3 of rapes are perpetrated by someone the survivor knows, and 1 in 6 women have been raped during their lifetime, and 1 in 33 men. In general terms of sexual assault, which ranges from molestation, indecent exposure, rape, attempted rape, and so on, the numbers come closer to 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men.
Consent is so extremely important, ya’ll. Without proper consent, you get sexual assault. If you’re unsure, just ask! With consent comes safety and trust, all important to the equation of having safe and informed sex. If you have any more question, please, please, please ask me! I’ve provided a little light reading on consent, just so you have access to those resources!