Amy, our Wellbeing Practitioner talks about the importance of knowing more about sexual consent and how it might affect you…
Checking for consent should be an ongoing process in any sexual relationship or encounter as both parties should have the freedom and capacity to choose to participate. The consequences of not getting consent can be devastating for students so we want to make sure this is as clear as it can be.
Would you like a cup of tea?
For anyone struggling to get their heads round sexual consent we would encourage you to take a look at a fantastic post by blogger Emmeline May. Her headline is “imagine instead of initiating sex, you’re making them a cup of tea”. Or for an even quicker summary take a look at this Video.
That’s basically all there is to it!
Asking for Consent
If you want to be sure that someone has consented to any kind of sexual activity with you then it is helpful to know how to ask.
- How is this? How does that feel?
- What do you like? What would you like me to do?
- Does that feel good or shall I slow it down?
- Are you happy if I do this?
- Do you want this?
It doesn’t have to be a stage by stage awkward question of ‘would you mind if I could possibly take off a specific item of clothing now?’ You can keep it snappy and to the point and make it part of the enjoyment!
Communication is often non-verbal…
Someone saying nothing does not mean the answer is yes.
It is also quite common for people to communicate in a passive way. Most of us do not like to cause offence in social situations and therefore are careful about what we say or do. This is why it is important to hear a YES. Absence of a no does not automatically mean it is a yes.
Signs that it might be a no…
- They are unresponsive to you / your touch
- They are extremely quiet
- They hold a defensive posture (arms in the way, turning to face away from you, crossing their arms, turning their face away)
- Their muscles go tense
- They saying, ‘I’m tired’, ‘Can we leave it for now’, ‘I have to get up early’, ‘I’m sleepy’
- They are too intoxicated to speak properly
- They are ambiguously nodding or non-verbal about whether they are enjoying things
Getting a Definite YES!!!
It is perhaps not surprising that good sex is a product of two people being up for it. If one party is not as keen, or not feeling great, or feeling quite tense it is not likely to be the best experience. If the time is right and the people involved are whole-heartedly up for it then it is more likely to be a better experience and something that is enjoyable and consensual.
If you want to be 100% sure someone is consenting to sexual contact whole-heartedly, eagerly, enthusiastically and genuinely then you need to be sure the yes is a YES!
Signs that it is a verbal ‘yes’ but really a no:
- Yeah, whatever you want
- I suppose
- Yeah, I guess
- Go on then
- Yeah, can do
- Hmm, yeah
Signs that it is a genuine yes:
- Yes, definitely, don’t stop
- Yes, right now
- Yes please
Imagine consent on a continuum… Where are you happy to be?
Set your Boundaries
Why stop thinking about it after a yes? Why not set what you are happy to do and not do.
Part of knowing whether someone is up for it is also about knowing what they like, what they don’t like and knowing what they are comfortable with. Thinking about what someone else wants from the sexual contact can ensure it is an enjoyable experience. If you are in it for yourself then you may not get the same level of participation from the other person. Also, if you are in it for yourself there are things you can do alone that will probably suffice!
It is ok to be unsure about something, it does not mean you have to go along with it. Could you ask yourself some of the following to help you decide?
- Do I really want this?
- Am I in the right place to think about this clearly?
- How would I feel about it tomorrow?
- Do I really have to go along with something that I am not sure about?
- Am I feeling pressured in to this… if so it is probably not the best plan
- Are there other things I am more comfortable with?
- Do I want a one-night stand?
- Am I doing this for another reason? E.g. to feel good about myself… will that feeling last?
Slowing things down
- Can we slow it down please?
- I would prefer not to do that right now
- I would prefer to… ‘stay like this’
- Can I just have a minute please
- I am not quite ready for that now
Everyone has the right to say no to sex or any kind of sexual or intimate contact. This is regardless of whether you said yes to the contact yesterday, or 2 minutes ago and regardless of whether you have shown interest before. We can all change our mind about things so it is good to be sure of how you might communicate it:
- I do not want to do this
- I don’t want to go any further
- I would like this to stop now
- This doesn’t feel right
- I am not ready for this
- I need to go to the toilet
- I am going to be sick
- I am not ok with this
Telling a little lie in this instance is certainly something that you can do if it helps give you a moment to think about what you want and to get out of the situation.
Drunk or High?
It is not as simple as having a drink drive limit where we know how many units someone has to have consumed to be over the limit… or could it be? If you wouldn’t be willing to get in a car with someone who was over the limit then is that a good guideline for having sex too? Is sex that enjoyable with someone who is that drunk or high? Or maybe the best question is can you be sure that they are consenting whole-heartedly and that it isn’t a result of making a decision that is influenced by a substance. This brings us back to the question of what makes good sex, which is about two people participating and being sober enough to communicate their consent, their boundaries and what they want.
Currently our culture has a certain stereotype of gender that is unequal. Males can have sex as much as they like, which makes them a real lad. Females who sleep around are easy and should behave more appropriately. This is not the view of all students but it does contribute towards some of the following views:
- ‘They are a slag and were asking for it’
- ‘They were dressed like that so what do they expect’
- ‘They were all over them, of course they were up for it’
Should someone’s sexual history, what they wear, or whether they were flirty or not really help us decide whether they are a victim or whether ‘deserved’ to be raped? Whatever the gender, how someone expresses themselves sexually is not an invitation to rape.
GOV.UK offers advice on what to do if you have been raped or sexually assaulted, and suggests you immediately contact the police on 999 or your local Sexual Assault Referral Centre (if in Cardiff, Ynys Saff SARC on 029 2033 5795). If you are not quite clear on the law then take a look at this useful factsheet.
If you are the victim of any sort of sexual harassment while at university you can contact Cardiff University Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service or talk to your Personal Tutor under the University’s Zero Tolerance Policy and they will take your complaint seriously.
Contacting Counselling Health & Wellbeing
We have friendly and approachable staff who are able to listen to you non-judgmentally, in a safe and confidential space. Please access our drop-in from Monday-Friday 3-3:45pm for a 10-15 non-bookable appointment to have an initial chat with us or, alternatively, please refer into our service by completing our referral questionnaire. If you are worried that you are experiencing physical symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have GP please contact Park Place Surgery.
Amy, Wellbeing Practitioner
Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Team
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