By Loydie Burmah |Opinions Editor|
Consent does not always concern sexual matters alone. Consent is a part of everyday living.
Typically, when people hear the phrase “no means no” people are quick to think about unwanted sexual advances.
However, people frequently underestimate the power and assurance associated with saying yes or no in situations outside consensual sex or rape.
For instance, I am not a big fan of receiving too much physical contact, such as hugs, whether it is meant with affection or not.
In fact, I still cannot give a proper hug to this day. It always comes off as an awkward attempt to consume another person whole.
So, when I do receive overzealous hugs from friends and family, I instantly become overwhelmed.
Out of courtesy, sometimes fear, I feel obligated to return those extra long, tight hugs that leave traces of lint in my hair and my face distorted.
However, there are those rare days when I do feel courageous enough to say with my shaky voice, “No, in fact, I do not want to be hugged today!”
I enjoy giving hugs when it feels genuine to me, not because of obligation. It is not about being rude or cold, I just prefer my personal space. As a person who feels their space is constantly violated, remaining at comfortable distances from others is essential.
But what exactly is it about saying no to someone that makes me or others with similar issues to mine feel uneasy?
Fear of hurting another? Fear of asserting myself in a way that others may find offensive or standoffish? Wanting to please others?
I think it is a mixture of all three, including a few insecurities that linger within.
Sometimes, it is easier to yield to the needs of people or things we have in our lives rather than tend to our own needs or ignore the annoying voice in our heads that tells us, “No, I do not want to drink.”
Learning to respect and accept others’ right to say no or yes in everyday situations is an unconsidered, overlooked issue, in my opinion.
“I think part of the reason we have trouble drawing the line ‘it’s not okay to force someone into sexual activity’ is that in many ways, forcing people to do things is part of our culture in general,” stated blogger Cliff Pervocracy, whose real name is not disclosed.
In his post, Cliff critically examines and discusses why it is important to think of other forms of consent apart from wanted or unwanted sexual advances alone.
Cliff also discusses the notion of developing a “consent culture” in which the rights and needs of people to say no or yes are considered, respected, and appreciated.
“A consent culture is one in which the prevailing narrative of sex–in fact, of human interaction–is centered around mutual consent,” stated Cliff.
“It is a culture with an abhorrence of forcing anyone into anything, a respect for the absolute necessity of bodily autonomy, a culture that believes that a person is always the best judge of their own wants and needs,” continued Cliff.
Many of us are familiar with that one person or people, who constantly ask probing questions to get us to change our minds, or make us feel guilty when we refuse.
“If someone doesn’t want to go to a party, try a new food, get up and dance, make small talk at the lunch table–that’s their right. Stop the ‘aww c’mon’ and ‘just this once’ and the games where you playfully force someone to play along. Accept that no means no–all the time,” stated Cliff.
I agree that forcing people to do things they do not want to do is a prevalent detriment within our society.
Coercing someone into what can be considered as “participation” or encouragement to be a “team player” is a form of harassment (and ultimately annoying).
I shouldn’t have to explain or even lie about why I do not want to participate in certain events or engage with others, but often times, I do –“No, I do not want to because of: [insert formulated, automated reason and response].”
Consent to me is considering the needs and interests of every and anyone you know, learning the difference between being domineering and caring, and making sure to communicate effectively with others so there is clear understanding.
Most importantly, consent to me is knowing my boundaries, and learning the difference between being assertive and being disrespectful, and affirming the thoughts and emotions that concern me are valid.
Respecting the consent of others simply starts with asking the right questions, listening, and responding accordingly–“Do you like hugs? Is it okay if I hug you?”
In my opinion, keeping consent in mind with daily interactions can lead to healthier communication, build strong self-esteem and autonomy.
Exercise your right to say yes or no and do so with confidence at your convenience. Consent should be an earned gem, not a forceful obligation.