The basic rule about sex is that as long as the act/action is Safe, Sane, and Consensual, enjoy it at your hearts content. How do we define sexual consent? Generally, consent is when two (or more) individuals agree on a specific sex act. The consent given is only for the particular encounter. If your partner consents to kissing, it does not mean that he or she consented to intercourse.
Sometimes, consent is not a simple “yes you may.” You cannot say yes, if you cannot say no. If you do not feel comfortable saying no to sex or a specific sex act, your yes, is not a yes.
Here are some questions to ponder: If a student has sex with her professor, is that consent? Or, if a 19 year- old girl has sex with her 50 year-old neighbor, is that consent? Can consent be given if the partners are not equal in their levels of sexual maturity?
How about, if one partner is not emotionally stable? For example, you are aware that the boy you are pursuing recently had a trauma in his life. Or, the girl you are pursuing is struggling with an addiction or a mental illness. Are these individuals truly consenting?
Most importantly, is it consent if one partner is intoxicated? Perhaps you are a little tipsy but your partner is surely drunk, is it okay to make out with him or her? Who is the one responsible in this situation?
And then there is the encounter where consent is not explicitly spoken about. “But he or she did not say no!” If they did not say no, does it mean they said yes?
These are complex questions that test our ethical boundaries. Always remember to watch for the other persons’ body language, facial expression, and listen to what they are saying. Rather err on the side of less sex, than err on the side of having non-consensual sex.
What do you think?
Sara Schapiro-Halberstam, LMHC,CASAC