Yes means Yes!’ Redefining sexual consent for the modern age!
In these times, the notion of what constitutes consent has become fraught with tension, leaving many men anxious about the difficult ground of seduction, and the extent to which they can assert themselves, and many women gaining more confidence and a sense of autonomy about their bodies.
Over all this hangs the spectre of the #MeToo movement and the ever-complex territory about power-relations and coercion.
When it comes to sex, consent is just like learning the alphabet. It’s the most fundamental part, but why do we not spend any time talking about it?
It’s not surprising. Many people are only taught to use the phrase “no means no”. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a good lesson, of course. When your partner says “stop” or “no”, you’ve got to adhere to and respect their decision. No questions asked. But the use of “no means no” erases some of the crucial dynamics of consent, especially some of the potential for affirmation and encouragement.
Hence, the phrase “no means no” has been replaced with “yes means yes”. This phrase has become a slogan for a movement that is focused on understanding how sexual consent works, so that people are aware of what is acceptable and what is not. The philosophy of “yes means yes” conveys that the only consent that’s valid and acceptable when it comes to sex is an enthusiastic consent,aka enthusiastic yes!
Enthusiastic consent is just what it sounds like. It means that you or someone else is excited to engage in sexual activity. You’re sober enough to know what’s happening around you; you don’t feel coerced into doing something; and you’re able to let the other person know that you’re interested.
The traditional usage of the “no means no” mindset has seen a shift to “yes means yes”, where two people are required to communicate and affirm any kind of sexual activity before it even begins.
The idea behind the enthusiastic ‘yes’ is to make consent clear, emphatic, and leave no room for doubt as opposed to a passive yes, which may sometimes wrongly be deduced by actions that can involve undressing, for example. An enthusiastic yes is a declaration that the person wants to engage in sexual activity or is enjoying the sexual engagement. It leaves no room for doubt, confusion, or (mis)interpretation.
That said, enthusiastic consent can get confusing for many people as stereotypes play a massive role in society. For instance, stereotype largely dictates that women are not upfront when it comes to communicating their desires, interests, and willingness to have sex. This doesn’t, however, necessarily mean that men are proactive when it comes to talking about their desires either. So, you may never know whether your partner or someone you’re hooking up with, is keen to have any form of sexual intercourse with you.
Because with consent, ‘yes’ might just mean ‘they didn’t say no, so what’s the big deal?’, especially when it involves the other person being drunk, or being too scared to say anything.
So, how can one be sure that their partner is equally interested, and as enthusiastically consensual? Often, after two people have engaged in sex, they will ask “did you enjoy it?” Instead, they should communicate things with each other before and during sex. Before you hop into bed with someone, have a conversation regarding things you like and the boundaries that work for you. Interestingly, when you communicate what you like, it can act as a huge turn on, which in turn leads to a hot foreplay session. Also, along with communication, look for enthusiasm (and horniness) as they can’t be misinterpreted for anything else.
If you’re still confused about where the interest lies for the other person, or if they’re even interested, try considering these points:
- During sexual intercourse, it’s crucial to check in with your partner whether they’re comfortable or if they’re feeling good, especially while trying out a new position or experimenting with something new (read: anal sex). It’s also important to notice your partner’s body language; if they’re suddenly uncomfortable or they tense up, it’s good to stop and ask what’s up, before moving on.
- If you or your partner have consented before, it doesn’t mean that the ‘yes’ is going to apply forever. Times change, and people keep evolving; and people are allowed to change with time, which includes changing their minds about any decision they’ve taken. They could change their minds either a month down the line, or even during sex – there’s no telling. Hence, it all comes down to communication and enthusiastic consent.
It’s always better to learn and understand if your partner is as equally willing and interested as you are when it comes to getting down and dirty. After all, it only gets super intense, erotic, and sexy when you’re hooking up with someone as excited about you.