The concept of consensual sexual activities is so confusing to us as a society because so many of us grow up being told things like “don’t get pregnant” or “don’t catch an STD.” While all of that is important, teaching us that the decision to have sex with someone should be as enthusiastic, sober and ongoing as it should be informed and protected is often omitted.
Why is this important to talk about? What could happen if something goes wrong?
The effects of unwanted contact can last a lifetime. In children and teenagers, 93% of the survivors are victimized by someone they know. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 84% of victims who were violated by an intimate partner are likely to experience professional or emotional issues, four times more likely to resort to drug abuse to deal with the shame, confusion, flashbacks and other symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and three times more likely to develop major depression as an adult.
Something that “only lasted a few minutes anyway” therefore has the potential to mentally, physically and sexually scar an individual for life.
According to RAINN, one in every six American women have experienced attempted or completed rape, and girls between the ages of 16-19 are four times more likely to experience sexual assault.
But something that is constantly overlooked is the similar struggles that many men, transgender or non-conforming individuals go through as well. Patriarchy makes us believe that men are always the predator, and it is almost impossible for a man to talk about being a victim of any sort of abuse without getting backlash and shame.
The truth is that one out of every ten rape victims are men, and many go through different other forms of physical, mental, emotional, and sexual harassment/unwanted attention as well according to RAINN.
Growing up, boys need to be taught that they are not biologically created to be aggressive and abusive individuals, and that they can unfortunately be victims as well. Boys need to be taught that they are not obligated to say “yes” just because society and their peers view them as the sex with the higher libido.
According to a Psychology Today study, research actually shows that in heterosexual relationships, 60 percent of women have reported to have the higher sex drive among the two partners.
After everything, it’s a necessity to discuss how to say “no” or how to accept “no” as an answer no matter one’s sex, sexuality and gender identity.
Resisting sex should really be as simple as saying “no,” showing discomfort, or even just not saying “yes.” But this isn’t always the case. Even the concept of saying no can bring up feelings of guilt, self-hatred, doubt and fear.
Sexual, physical and emotional interactions are all about consent. Under no condition is it acceptable to not take “no” for an answer. It is acceptable, however, at any point to stop and say “no” regardless of the situation you are in, how long it has been, etc.
One must first and foremost be confident (although the partner should still take hesitation as an absence of consent). You don’t owe anyone anything, and it might help to assert your feelings for the other person or to look them in the eyes and clarify that you are serious. It could also be helpful to discuss boundaries and what you are comfortable with. It’s important to know that if someone says “no,” he, she or they mean “no” to the act, not you.