The Happy Trail

Consent Basics: Pre-101


When condoms became more mainstream as an effective method to prevent both unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, one of the main pushbacks against using them was that they were awkward. People of all genders cited reasons such as not wanting to stop sexual activity in order to put on a condom. After all, it makes sense. Applying a condom involves walking across the room (assuming one is there), going back and putting it on, and then proceeding with one’s activities. It’s awkward and requires both parties to begin the experience with an understanding that using a condom is more important than the slight awkwardness of the pause in activity.

Fast forward to 2015, and most people agree that using a condom is necessary and desirable—regardless of the specific type of condom. It’s a topic that is pretty uncontroversial. So if we as a society can come to this fundamentally basic understanding of condoms and sexual activity, then why are we so hesitant to also prioritize other basic practices necessary for creating a consent culture? This specifically concerns people who neglect to clearly ask for consent verbally before touching someone. It is in regards to asking if it is okay to kiss someone before just going for it, or asking if it is okay to hug someone who isn’t a close acquaintance. It’s about asking someone’s permission to touch their body before presuming to have that right, because a person never has the right to touch another human being unless that person has explicitly told them it is okay.

Yes, it can be awkward. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to break that already awkward moment when the kiss seems right around the corner, but it hasn’t happened yet, and talking could completely ruin the moment. Yes, it’s difficult to break that silence to ask someone permission to kiss or touch them, but it’s absolutely necessary.

In the same way that stopping sexual activity to put on a condom is awkward but necessary, asking someone’s permission before touching them is mandatory. Everyone must just embrace the idea that sex is frequently graceless and always ask for consent. If people can begin to enter physical relationships with the understanding that sex is often clumsy, then society can begin to change and move from a rape culture to a consent culture.

To be honest, sex is already clumsy: it’s a human being literally throwing their naked body against another human being’s naked body. So, just take that one step further and ask for consent before continuing.