“How to not get raped.” A message too familiar in what we are taught today.
“Make sure you get a cab home with someone else!”
“Don’t stay out too late.”
“Don’t drink that fourth tequila.”
Why is it we teach individuals that by acting in a certain way, they are creating ‘dangerous situations’ which could lead to a sexual assault? In a time where we are empowered to be unafraid about who we are and what we do, we are also taught to live in fear over being free in case we bring rape and sexual assault on ourselves. We cannot control whether we are raped or sexually assaulted, otherwise, no-one ever would be.
Suggestion: instead of teaching people how to not get raped, why don’t we more effectively teach people how to not rape? Shocking concept, I know! Here, in 5 easy steps, we’re going to try and accomplish this mission.
- To know what rape and sexual violence is.
Possibly the key and most important item on our list is to know the meanings of sexual assault and rape. By definition, the World Health Organisation explains sexual violence as:
“any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.”
A key phrasing there which I would like to flag is the idea of unwanted sexual acts. If the person does not want you to put *that* in *there*, then that is rape. Is the person incapable of providing informed consent but you do it anyway? Rape. Does the person not say yes, but doesn’t say no? Rape.
- Look for the yes, not for the no.
Too often is it suggested that the absence of a no, means yes.
Scenario: You are speeding down a road. The lights are not red, but they are not green either. Do you:
- Speed up, there’s nothing saying stop.
- Slow down and assess the situation. Is it safe to go? Should I check that everyone affected by my actions is safe and understands what is happening and then decide?
- I should not go, it is clearly unsafe for everyone involved.
For those of you answering anything other than ‘2’ or ‘3’, please refer back to point 1 of this blog.
If someone has given you the green light to engage in sexual acts but has since exercised their right to change their mind, you have no longer received consent to continue, and you must respect this. Similarly, if someone has given you the red light, and you continue to try to drive your car up this road, beeping, speeding or using guilt to suggest ideas like leaving the person unless they let you drive, then this is coercion, you are not receiving informed consent, and you must respect this. Park your car.
Whatever it is you are wanting to do, with whoever, for how long, and wherever, the most important thing is that you are both consenting to the activity… with whoever, for how long and wherever, each time. If the person you are suggesting this activity to is able to make a rational, lucid decision of wanting to engage, then you have consent. If the person you are suggesting this activity to responds with any of the following: “no”, “no thanks”, “not now”, silence, changing the subject, or leaving (you get the point), then you have not received consent, and you should not continue to ask.
As the late Aretha Franklin would say, show a little respect. Show someone that you appreciate them and their feelings by respecting their decision. Even if the person has wanted sexual activity before. Even if they end up enjoying the sexual activity. The only thing that matters for good sex to occur, is by making sure the other person wanted to have it in the first place.
- Consent to this, doesn’t consent to that.
Does everyone involved in the sexual activity know what they have consented to? If they have consented to just kissing, then kissing it shall be. Has the person agreed to engaging in sexual activity, only if a condom is worn? Then wrap it up! The circumstances for sex can change every time, for different partners, different amounts of partners and so on. However, the most important condition that can be carried through to all situations is that if one (or more) person(s) change their mind during sex, then the sex should stop. Period. If you do not, this is no longer sex. This is rape.
- Does this feel good?
You can say “How are you?” in the streets, so why can’t you in the sheets?
Scenario: You have cooked an incredible meal for someone special. Candles and everything. During the meal, the other person is silent, frowning and not really engaging with you or the meal. What do you do?
- Get angry. Why are they not enjoying this amazing meal?
- Put some other food on their plate. They must be hungry. They were hungry earlier?
- Ask them “is everything ok with the food?” If not, do not force them to eat the food.
For those of you answering anything other than ‘3’, then please refer back to point 1 again.
Rarely, if ever, do we ask someone “Hello, do you, yes you, consent to having sexual intercourse with me?” Instead, we use non-verbal communication and reciprocation to ascertain if the other person is consenting. If someone, on the other hand, looks sad, silent, scared or shows any signs of negative emotions or withdrawal, then stop. Ask them “is everything ok?” If not, do not force them to carry on. If at any point, any individual involved is unsure whether they or their partner wants to engage in sexual activity, then ask and make it known. Communicate before continuing!
- Be your own ringleader.
Well done troopers, you have made it our final point. You are now experts in how to not rape. Practise those last steps and you are destined for some great sex in the future.
Now, for some homework. Talk to your friends and loved ones, tell them what you now know. Share your experiences and be someone who can break the idea of taboo surrounding sexual violence. If you do not know how to open the conversation, here are some ideas:
“Hey [x], I just read this blog about consent. What do you think the definition of consent is?”
“Howdy [x], you should read this blog and let me know what you think!”
“Yo [x], do you think consent is given if someone says “Yes” but then changes their mind to “No”? Do you think consent is given if someone says “No” but then says “Yes” after persuasion?”
Far too often do we shy away from these talks out of fear of judgement or saying the wrong thing. Trust me, I know, I just wrote a public blog. But by talking about this, and through providing a space to talk about consent and sexual violence, you may be helping those most in need. Be the ringleader that provides the circus to talk about sexual violence.