Getting consent or permission has been a significant factor in life. At the workplace, taking permission of the boss for a certain decision or asking for doubt in school, etc. In formal decisions, people take it in any one or other form, but in a relationship, the perspective changes a bit. Many people think that It is not that important in a relationship as the person is their own but that is not the case. Even if you have a close loved one, they have individual choices and opinions towards themselves and the relationship. But what exactly is consent and why is it so important in a relationship?
What is consent?
In simple words, it is agreeing to something. Gupta (2023c) usually refers to the term consent in a sexual context in a relationship. Sexual consent, according to Willis et al. (2021), is a person’s willingness to engage in sexual activity with their partner. In a couple, one of the partners initiates and requests sexual behavior and the other partner responds to it on the basis of whether they are willing to engage in the sexual behavior (Willis et al., 2021). Sexual consent is crucial because without consent the sexual activity can be considered as sexual assault or rape. Consent is applicable to any type of physical activity which includes touching the partner, kissing them, or having any kind of intercourse (Gupta, 2023c).
Consent has three major aspects, which are:
- Feelings: One can conceptualize it by considering it as an internal state of willingness.
- Communication: Words and behaviors can communicate the willingness, either explicitly or implicitly.
- Perceptions: It is important to understand the communicative cue of another which can be based on context and that helps in determining the willingness of the other person (Willis et al., 2021).
Some Important aspects to keep in mind about consent:
- Consent is to be given freely: You must give it without exerting any type of pressure, manipulation, or intimidation. It’s taken in a forceful way or in a state where the person is lacking mental capacity to consent or even by a person stuck in a disadvantaged position is not valid.
- It should be specific: It should be taken for any and every activity. If a person gave consent for kissing that does not specify that they gave It for any other activity.
- Can be reserved at any point of time: Physical intimacy is a voluntary act that anyone can withdraw at any time. The partner should respect the feelings and willingness of their partner at any time when they revert. Considering the violation of consent as disrespecting or ignoring the reversal of consent.
- It should be informed: The person should specifically state what they are trying to ask consent for. It is necessary that before sexual activity the partners share about any STI (Sexually transmitted infections) related problems.
- It must be enthusiastic: Before engaging in any kind of sexual activity it is necessary that the partners have a continuous state of enthusiasm towards consent. This means that the consent given is a strong yes, not okay or any hesitation while saying yes. Enthusiastic consent includes smiling, nodding, maintaining eye contact and receptive facial expressions with respect to nonverbal cues (Gupta, 2023c).
Importance of consent:
There is a necessity of consent if you are engaging in an intimate activity with your partner, respecting each other’s boundaries and having the acknowledgment about each other is crucial. Both partners can check with each other for ongoing consent, see whether both of you are equally sharing the intimacy, and respect boundaries of each other (Gupta, 2023c).
In case you met a person, and you enthusiastically gave consent and engaged in an activity does not make you to consent others as well. Even the same person who you consented to before cannot consider that it will be given again without asking for it. Also, in case of a marriage or committed relationships, it is not automatic or implicit, that you enthusiastically say yes for every sexual interaction. Which is why it is necessary to clearly communicate your consent and the boundaries with your partner. Even think of what is working for you and not working regularly (Gupta, 2023c).
Gender and Relation with sexual consent:
As per the traditional sexual texts, men are the initiators of attempting sex and women on the other hand are one is who accept or reject the attempt to sex. Men generally receive sexual consent from women based on stereotypical gender roles. Gender may influence a person’s sexual consent sentiments, beliefs, and communication, according to findings by researchers.
Some relations of gender with sexual consent, which are:
- Internal consent depends on the feeling delivered in the question.
- Women tend to give It in an indirect way to engage in sexual activity
- People use cues to determine a person’s willingness, and these cues are connected to gender.
Recent news regarding sexual consent:
Considering greater protection of women and children. The Parliament of Japan passed a decision on the increasing the sexual consent age from 13 to 16 in the country on Friday, 16 June 2023. Japan had the lowest sexual consent in the world which was 13. The sexual consent age in India is 18 and in countries like Britain it is 16. In Germany and China it is 14 (Jaiswal, 2023).
Japan also approved on laws about raising awareness of the LGBTQ+ issues. Many activists critiqued the law for not considering and failing to provide equal laws for sexual minority people (Jaiswal, 2023).
Role of Consent in Healthy Relationships
Consent is an important component of a relationship because it enables one to agree to have sex with the other person. In a relationship, one partner initiates and requests sexual behavior, and the other responds by expressing their willingness to partake. Consent is absolutely necessary because engaging in sexual activity without consent can be construed as sexual assault or rape. Consent must be freely given, specific, and revocable at any time. It should be enthusiastic about the activity and aware of the person’s intentions. Men initiate sexual activity, and women either accept or reject it, thereby influencing sexual consent. Gender frequently influences people’s perceptions of consent, leading women to inadvertently give consent.