***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.