What Does Consent Mean?

A healthy relationship will make you feel safe. Your partner will respect your boundaries and understand the importance of consent. Encouraging open communication in your relationships can help you both work toward more apparent consent and boundaries. 

What Is Consent? 

Consent means that you have given permission for a specific action to occur, and this permission can be removed at any time and for any reason. Usually, we talk about consent when discussing intimate relationships. In healthy relationships, you and your partner both receive consent from the other before performing intimate actions. 

Consent is usually black or white – you either consent or you don’t. If your partner’s answer is not an excited and clear yes, then you should not automatically assume that they are consenting. Staying silent, looking unsure, or not giving a clear answer can all be signs that someone is not willing to consent to something. You can ask questions to clarify how your partner may be feeling, like: 

  • Are you still okay with this? 

  • Do you want to stop? 

  • How are you feeling? 

  • Do you need us to slow down? 

Asking these questions can help you and your partner reach a clear understanding of consent. 

Reacting to Consent

In a healthy relationship, consent should always be respected and honored, even if someone changes their mind. For example, if you agree to participate in an intimate act in your relationship but then realize you are not ready for it, you can speak up and be honest about your feelings. If your partner responds negatively, telling you that you promised to do this or that you can’t change your mind, then they are not a healthy partner for you. A healthy partner will accept your response and do whatever you need to feel comfortable, no matter what it is. 

You are allowed to remove consent at any time and for any reason. If you feel uncomfortable, triggered, or simply not ready, open communication with your partner can help ensure that you are both on the same page and have the same expectations. If someone refuses to respect your consent and they go through with the action anyway, that is assault. It is not your fault, even if you gave consent previously. Consent in the present moment matters most. 

Words Are Best

Ultimately, words are the best way to communicate that you and your partner consent to a specific action. 

Consent is not: 

  • Provocative clothing

  • Flirting

  • Accepting gifts

  • Being intimidated into saying yes

  • Saying yes because you feel like you have no other choice

  • You being unable to say no

Consent is: 

  • Enthusiastic, excited, and clear

  • Saying yes

  • Nodding

Consent needs to be obvious and without room for interpretation. If you have any questions or doubts about whether your partner is consenting, take a minute to slow down and communicate. On the other hand, tell your partner if you are having a hard time saying yes.

Unhealthy Relationships

In unhealthy relationships, you might be afraid to tell your partner no to anything, including intimate acts. This is not right. You should be able to say no to your partner without being afraid of any consequences that might occur. If you say no, your partner should not call you names, hit you, berate you, intimidate you, or blackmail you. They should not guilt you into saying yes or try to change your mind for any reason. A healthy partner will accept your response and not try to change your mind. 

Consent in Committed Relationships

While it may seem that consent is more relevant in short-term relationships or casual encounters, it is essential to continually clarify what you and your partner have consented to in a long-term, committed relationship. Sexual assault can still occur in long-term relationships and even in marriages. 

Being committed or married does not mean that your partner can now ignore consent or your feelings. If you are in a long-term relationship or marriage, you should still have open conversations about consent. Your preferences may change with time, and you are allowed to say no whenever you need to. 

Practicing Saying No

Sometimes, we can be socially conditioned to say yes to most things. We might find it hard to say no in small or big situations. Practicing saying no and setting boundaries in our regular, everyday lives can help us practice saying no during emotionally heightened, intimate situations. 

If you have an incredibly hard time saying no, you might need a professional to help you understand why. If we were punished for saying no as children or if our boundaries were never respected, we might have a challenging time understanding that we deserve to have our limits respected.

Consent in intimate situations is critical in healthy relationships. Consent should always be provided through clear, open communication that is definite and obvious. Your consent should always be respected, and you are allowed to change your mind at any time and for any reason. In healthy relationships, your consent or non-consent should be accepted. No partner should ever disrespect your consent or try to change your mind. Not respecting someone’s consent is categorized as assault. If you have a hard time saying no to intimate partners or situations, you can practice setting boundaries and saying no in everyday life. At SokyaHealth, we understand that saying no can be challenging. Our licensed, compassionate therapists can help you learn more about the importance of consent, how to communicate consent, and what to do if you are with someone who disrespects your consent. Call SokyaHealth today at (877) 840-6956 for more information on how we can help you.

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