Conversations about the importance of consent have had a bit of a renaissance lately, but for unfortunate reasons. The increased publicity of sexual assault cases–involving high school students, college co-eds, celebrities, etc–has increased everyone’s awareness to some troubling facts. One, many people–regardless of gender, race, sexual preference, education, or age–don’t really understand the entire scope of consent; two, there are people out there who don’t really care what it means to consent, as long as they get what they want in the end. Yeah, both are grim prospects, but we have to acknowledge them.
Luckily, here at Gurl, we understand that understanding consent is absolutely essential to having a healthy sex life. We also understand that consent isn’t as black and white as it might seem; it’s actually somewhat nuanced. But you need to understand all the gray areas before claiming to have an understanding of it at all. From legal definitions to common effing courtesy, check out these eight things that actually aren’t consensual sex, even if it might seem like it.
SilenceWhile it means well, the idea that "no means no" and "yes means yes" makes it seem as if consent comes down to whether or not one literally says "yes, I would like to have sex" or "no, I don't have to have sex." While that kind of verbal consent is very useful, that's not where consent begins and ends. For example, people need to learn to pay attention to other signals, like body language, too. But let's talk about verbal cues for a second, because I need to make this clear: Silence isn't consent. Your sexual partner not saying anything doesn't automatically default to "they consented to have sex." Some people are too scared to speak out, and they could very well be in a situation in which they don't consent to sex even if they didn't flat out say "no." Skins
Having Sex With An Adult If You're UnderageEvery state and country varies when it comes to its laws regarding age of consent, but know this: If you're underage and have sex with an adult, the sex wasn't consensual. In this case, the state doesn't care about whether you said you wanted to have sex or not, your age alone means that you are legally unable to consent to sex, which means that your partner could be charged with rape. Some jurisdictions make exceptions for teenagers who are only a couple of years younger than their partner--say, a 16-year-old and a 18-year-old. But if you're 15 and having sex with a 20-year-old, your partner could get into serious legal trouble. If your parents find out, for example, and they want to press charges, that 20-year-old could be charged with statutory rape and be treated as a sex offender by the state. Look, at Gurl, we really urge you to not get involved in sexual relationships with adults for a lot of reasons, so let this be just another reason why it just isn't worth it. Secret Diary of a Teenage Girl
Being Incredibly WastedIf you're so wasted that you are pretty much incapacitated, you cannot consent to sex. Yes, even if you take off all your clothes and say that you would, in fact, love to have sex...you cannot legally consent to sex. The specificities vary from state to state, country to country, and it can be incredibly tricky to deal with: How drunk is too drunk? How do you prove that you were too out of your mind to consent to sex at the time? Those are nitty gritty details, but the fact remains that if you're too drunk, you can't agree to having sex. "What if my partner is also super drunk?" If they're in a similar incapacitated state, then they also can't legally consent to sex. Again, this gets really tricky and subjective, which really sucks, but that's the law. My So-Called Life
Not Being Truthful About Your Sexual History, STDs, Birth Control, Protection, EtcIf you and your boyfriend agree to use a condom, but your boyfriend secretly slips it off while you guys are having sex, then that's non-consensual sex. If your partner tells you that they don't have an STD before you guys have sex, but they did have an STD and just didn't tell you...then that's non-consensual sex. Honesty is the best policy, especially if dishonesty can get you in legal trouble. American Pie
Changing Your MindYou're allowed to tell someone that you want to have sex and then decide that you don't actually want to have sex at all. It's a free country, after all. That means that your partner can't go, "Well, you agreed to have sex initially so...we're going to have sex." Yeah, no, that's absolutely non-consensual and is straight up sexual assault. Fresh Meat
Coercion Or PressureYour partner begging you over and over again to give them a blowjob, have sex, make out, etc, might just seem like little annoyances that get on your nerves. But it's worth knowing that when this kind of intense pressure leads to you getting worn down and letting them have their way, this is straight up coercion, and it's not exactly all that consensual. Can someone go to jail for peer pressuring you into having sex? For the most part, no. But it is definitely defined as abusive sexual conduct, especially if it is an everyday feature of your relationship. If your partner threatens to leave you unless you perform sexual favors, that's abuse, period. And grudgingly giving into someone's sexual demands--whether out of fear or frustration--isn't what we'd call consensual. Some Girls
Purposefully Getting Someone Wasted Or HighThis isn't just creepy, it's commonly considered a criminal offense. And, no, this doesn't just come in the form of spiking someone's drink with a "date rape" drug. If someone's coaxing you to to get incredibly drunk or high--to the point in which you have very little understanding that you should stop drinking, smoking, whatever--and they get you to have sex with them while you're in a vulnerable state, that's sexual assault. Dazed and Confused
Just Being In A RelationshipYeah, so being in a relationship doesn't mean that you automatically consent to sex no matter what. It's not like you signed some sort of sex contract. For the record, we live in a world in which some states didn't think a husband could technically rape his wife. Yes, really: Marital rape only became outlawed in every state in the union in 1993. So it's not hard to believe that there are monsters out there who think that being in a relationship entitles them to sex whether their partner wants it or not, but...no. "But I thought you were my girlfriend" isn't a defense for sexual aggression. Submarine