Consent is not carte-blanche

***Content warning for discussions of sexual violence and physical violence***

When talking with people about consent, it becomes obvious that a lot of people still subscribe to the notion that there are a lot of grey areas and that because of such subtleties, a person can believe they've been raped when they haven't and someone can rape someone without realizing.

If you are unclear about consent and believe in these grey areas, allow me to help clarify things.

Consent is not a one-time, binding contract that gives a person unlimited access to their partner's body from the time of consent until the sun burns out of the sky. It's a constant, ongoing process in which all partners are responsible for ensuring their partners are ok with what's going on.

Here are some examples of other scenarios where we would not make the same assumptions about consent as we, culturally, do with sex.

If you go to a shop and ask to get your ears pierced, that doesn't mean you're consenting to being stabbed in the chest with an ice pick.

If you enjoy participating in extreme sports, like sky diving and bungee jumping, that doesn't mean you've consented to having your friend push you off a 10-story balcony at a party.

If you start drinking a glass of wine and decide you don't want to finish it, that doesn't mean someone can force you to drink it or waterboard you with it.

If you purchase a day-pass for Wonderland, that doesn't mean you can attend whenever you like from there on in. Even if you purchase a season's pass, you can't go in after-hours, you can't hop over the counter at a food truck and dunk your head in the candy flosser, and once you're in it doesn't mean the park staff can strap you into a rollercoaster and leave you on it for an hour.

It's really as simple as that. You agree to what you agree to until you don't agree to it any more, and your partner has the same right to do so.

Specifically, in regards to sexual contact, that can mean that you agree to kissing, but nothing else. That can mean you agree to sex, but no kissing. That can mean you agree to shaking hands on the first date, to kissing on the second date, and to marrying and earnestly attempting to procreate on the third date.

Let's say that your partner comes off as hot and cold and continually initiates and then stops sexual contact. If you are into it, and want to go as far as they're comfortable, awesome. If you're not into what they're initiating, you have the right to stop them. If there's no communication and you feel like they're starting and stopping just to be a jerk or play games, you have absolutely no obligation to put up with it and can pack up your toys and go home (so to speak).

If there's no communication going on and you feel like this is one of those "grey areas", then it's safer for all parties involved if it stops all together. If you or your partner feel like the one person's desire to continue is more important than ensuring the there's unambiguous consent, then this isn't actually a grey area, it's an excuse and that's why we're here now. Because I'm calling out these excuses for what they really are and I'm not gonna let rapists slide under the radar with this bullhockey.

Thanks for sticking in there with me. Here's some MST3K & lolcats.


  1. Well said. Thank you.

  2. "If you or your partner feel like the one person's desire to continue is more important than ensuring the there's unambiguous consent, then this isn't actually a grey area, it's an excuse and that's why we're here now. "

    This has put in to words something I have struggled with continually since my sexual assault. Because it was not violent, I often am doubted when I describe it as such, and constantly feel social pressure myself not to name it as "rape."

    After it happened, I went into denial for about a year and took responsibility on to myself for what happened. I thought things like, "I should have articulated "NO" more clearly, and more vehemently," and that "by letting that man into my room, I had given him a 'yes' signal that somehow trumped my vocalized "no." And that this was just an unpleasant byproduct of club culture and the concept of "hooking up."
    But the longer I thought about it, the more the argument crumbled.

    Because you are right, that is an excuse. It's an excuse for my rapist to ignore the consequences of his actions, and allows him to hide in a shelter of ignorance. It plays into the idea that rape prevention is the responsibility of the victim. It encourages the idea that sexual action is a right, that one party can demand from another.
    And it hurts people.

    So, thank you for talking about this. These things need to be said.

  3. And then along came alcohol, the most socially acceptable drug and the most common excuse to not know what you're doing it was all a blur so not guilty, guyz!1

  4. On the other hand, not wanting to do something and NOT saying anything about it requires your partner to be psychic. When you are into something and your partner is not but not protesting--and it happens-- do you assume consent or not consent? Seems like very gray to me and I'm a woman who has been assaulted! Sex is complicated and pretending it is not does no one any favors.

    1. You're right, that people aren't psychic. If you aren't sure if your partner is into something, stop and ask. Don't assume anything. Sex really isn't that complicated, but the messages we get about sex and consent are.

      Bottom line, if you don't know, stop. If you don't feel like your partner is as into something as you are, stop. If they're not actively protesting, but are just quiet and not engaging and just "letting" you do things without participating, stop.

    2. "is this what you want? Do you like this? does it feel good?" these are questions i ask and i also appreciate being asked... but if in doubt, no matter what the answer, then just stop.


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