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It is unfortunate, but I feel “No means No” has proven to be an insufficient indication of consent. The theory of “No means No” implies that there is approval in the absence of denial. Unfortunately, there can be multiple reasons a “No”, or objection cannot be expressed. For example, someone may feel threatened or too afraid to say “No.” They may also be incapable of protesting due to alcohol, the most common “date rape” drug. Finally, they may be victims of odorless, tasteless drugs like Rohypnol or GHB; dropped into a drink. Unfortunately, and, in my opinion, disgustingly, most people seem unaware that it is illegal to have sex with someone who is “under the influence” and unable to provide legal consent. “No means No” puts the responsibility to end the interaction on an intoxicated or unconscious person, who for obvious reasons is incapable of verbalizing their unwillingness.
Affirmative Consent, or “Yes means Yes,” requires confirmation of approval. Detractors of Affirmative Consent say it is impractical and unnatural during human sexual interaction to pause and request and reaffirm permission and consent during the entire encounter. However, it does not mandate both parties must ask each other verbally for consent at every step of the interaction. Expressly, Affirmative Consent is not limited to only words. One’s actions may be enough to clearly affirm knowing, voluntary consent to engage in sexual activity. Either way, “Yes means Yes” removes previously held assumptions that only when someone says “No” is it non-consensual. No longer does silence or lack of resistance imply consent. Although I was not raised to believe that way, sadly, too many people appear to have that mindset. Affirmative Consent, or “Yes means Yes,” is meant for those people to grasp a concept that should be inherently understood.
My personal position on Affirmative Consent is that “yes means yes” and “no means no.” The visual is helpful, but I really found that the video “Tea and Consent” further explores the topic in a way that should leave no room for argument. The affirmative consent is necessary AND “no means no” are equally important. One thing that I enjoy about social media is the openness with which people are now opening up and expressing things that used to be seen as taboo. The topic of consent being one such topic. As such, there has been very spirited debates about coercion, fear, misuse of power, influence, and any other number of elements that go into any encounters.
Spelling out the clear cut parameter for consent “yes means yes,” but also including the fact that consent can be revoked at any point in time and while it may be frustrating, respecting the other person and their right to choose what they want to do with their own bodies and selves. Also of note, a coerced yes is not consent and does not qualify as affirmative consent. While it is said that if a yes wasn’t communicated explicitly, then its rape, but for many victims that idea is not so cut and dry. Current and unfortunate cultural norms will question clothing, were drinks and/or drugs included, location, number of persons where they were, etc. without taking in the elements of sexual assault and abuse. Look at the case of Brock Turner. He was very clearly assaulting an unconscious, read: unable to consent woman and the victim was blamed for her level of inebriation and accused of trying to ruin a young athletes life. That’s just one gross instance of people trying to shade in the gray lines around consent and what they “think” consent and refusal look like.
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