SERIES: Make consent: mandatory

Photo courtesy of Griffith University | A&E Editor Riley Head continues her series on consent, focusing on the mandatory requirement.

Everyone is introduced to Xavier’s definition of consent during Manresa: “Consent must be informed and freely given. Consent is invalidated when it is forced, coerced or when a person is physically and/or mentally incapable of giving consent.”

This definition seems to be beat into your head at so many orientations, meetings, etc. and I thought it was very clear. But recently, in one of my classes, someone said something along the lines of: “Well consent is hard to define because it’s all so situational.”

If you’ve hooked up with someone before, is that consent?

If you’ve both been sending “signals” all night, is that consent?

If you’ve been dating for two years, is that consent?

In all of these situations the answer is no. Consent is never implied. It cannot be turned into a hot button issue that is debated back and forth. It is not a “cutesy” issue that can be made “sexy.” Consent is MANDATORY in every situation, every single time. It is nothing less than a clear and excited “Yes!”

Allowing these gray areas to seep into our mindsets and conversations opens the door for sexual assault and victim blaming. When we say consent is “situational,” we give perpetrators a way out.

Shifting our image of consent to an explicitly stated question — “Do you want to (fill in the sexual activity here)” — and an explicitly stated answer — “Yes!” — allows a clear path for positive sexual interactions to occur where both individuals are equally in control of the situation.

When we have an explicit question and answer in mind, we can start to discuss what consent is and, more importantly, what consent is not.

Consent is not a certain “look” across a bar. It is not a skirt length, a level of comfort with someone or something that can be pressured. There are no shortcuts to consent. You either have an explicitly stated question and answer, or you don’t.

For the next four weeks, Newswire will be continuing this series on all of the components of consent in sexual relationships. Next week’s component is “necessary.”

Riley Head is a sophomore Philosophy, Politics and the Public major. She is the Arts and Entertainment Editor for the Newswire from Louisville, Ky.