“It might not make sense, it might not seem consistent, but that was something I just wasn’t ready for. I had expressed as much many, many times. I would cry and try my utmost to stop him, to no avail. But after all, hadn’t I invited him in myself, wanting him to sexually dominate me? Surely I should have expected precisely this kind of treatment? This is what I believed for a very, very long time: that the second I’d let him in, I should’ve known what was coming…It took me a long time to understand that I did not bring those unpleasant experiences on myself” (linked above).
One rape myth which continues to maintain popularity with the general public is that, once two people are in (or once were in) a consensual sexual relationship, rape is not possible. In other words, many people believe that past or present consent is a free pass for any future sexual actions. Many people believe that, once “I do” has been uttered, husband and wife lose the ability to say “no” to one another – and gain the ability to ignore each others boundaries or preferences.
Previous consent does not mean future consent. It does not mean that, once you’re in bed together, “no” suddenly means “yes”. Each individual has the right to stop when they feel the need and to set boundaries. Sensitivity to one’s partner means you respect those boundaries and see them as uncrossable, not “blurred lines”. Despite what society may portray, it’s never attractive to force someone to do or receive something they do not want or are uncomfortable with.
The danger in this myth, like most, is that it promotes victim blaming. It allows the person who said “no” to feel as if they did something wrong or that they should have known their lack of consent was insufficient to stop the other person’s actions. It’s just not true. It also removes the legitimacy from the violent act. It paints over the fact that rape is a dehumanizing crime.
Now, so far in this post the examples have included an individual verbalizing their consent (or lack there of). But consent does not have to be verbal. Just because someone is not saying “no” or actively fighting advances, does not mean they are a willing participant.
Short skirts are not consent.
Having a beer together is not consent.
Dating is not consent.
Being alone together is not consent.
Flirting is not consent.
Consensual sexual encounters in the past are not consent.
Consent to one act is not consent to all acts.
Wedding vows are not consent.
“Taking it” is not consent.
Silence is not consent.
Don’t assume. Ask for consent and respect the answer.
Consent is not just sexy. It’s required.