The Carrier’s editorial opinion represents the views of the senior members of the Camous Carrier and Viking Fusions’ staff.
Whether you’re celebrating 50 years together or just entering the honeymoon phase, open lines of communication are vital parts of a healthy relationship. Consent is a conversation – verbal or non-verbal – between all parties involved. It remains relevant even after you’re Facebook official.
At this point in your college career, “Can I Kiss You?” may be a distant memory. It may have become a punch line. Hey, maybe you still have your wristband. At any rate, the sentiment is still true. Even if you’ve fallen into routines with your special someone, simple acts like kissing or handholding can turn sour if you don’t take into account body language and verbal cues. If you have an inkling of doubt that your partner isn’t interested, take a step back and ask.
Sex Ed often falls in the extremes. Either teachers drill students on anatomy or make them sign abstinence cards. Either way there is as awful lot of time spent staring at uncomfortable images of STDs and not much talk of consent. So teenagers turn to other teachers. Peggy Orenstein explores the role of porn in self-sex education.
“The statistics on sexual assault may have forced a national dialogue on consent,” she wrote in the New York Times. “But honest conversations between adults and teenagers about what happens after yes — discussions about ethics, respect, decision making, sensuality, reciprocity, relationship building, the ability to assert desires and set limits — remain rare.”
An initial yes opens the door to so much else, and exploring each other’s preferences, relationship goals, previous experiences, etc. early on can save a lot of heartache. You and your partner are likely changing and growing, so these things can change over time. Have check-ins. See where your wants and needs meet up, and where there are disconnects. Share what you know, and listen to all they have to share with you.
According to Project Respect, consent is a “whole body experience.” Even a verbal yes can be non-consensual if other telling signs point to a no. Be aware of your partner’s body language and the situation you are in. Do they feel pressured to agree? Have either of you been drinking?
You have the right to say no. Always. Even if they are your crush, your boyfriend or your wife. Your body is your own, and its instincts are pretty sound. If you’re uncomfortable, say so. If you like the direction you’re headed, but want to slow down, let them know. If you said yes to more earlier, but now just want to cuddle and re-watch “Legend of Korra,” grab the popcorn and have that conversation.
Physical and verbal consent should evolve with your actions. Project Respect maintains that consent should be enthusiastic and mutual. Even if you were the one who instigated the affection, you too are allowed to call timeout.
You’re allowed to say no to an action and yes to the person. I want to be intimate with you, but I’m not ready right now. I’m not in the mood for that right now, but what about this? These statements open the door to some important discussions. Talking honestly about the state of your relationship and how comfortable you are with physical intimacy can strengthen your emotional bond.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, some folks may be tempted to rush a relationship without checking in first. Remember that communication is a revolving door. The most romantic gesture can sometimes be a conversation.