Consent is known as voluntarily agreeing to an act or a proposal made by another party. In order for the consent to be considered valid, it needs to be given freely and genuinely. Numerous elements must be found to be considered as such:
1. Expressed Consent
The consent has to be given affirmatively, clearly, and enthusiastically. The person must express its consent while using words and/or overt actions, indicating their agreement for sexual acts. If you have doubts, it is your responsibility to seek affirmation. There’s nothing such as ‘implied consent’, which is an assumption of permission due to some behaviors from the other part. Only yes means yes; silence and fear mean no.
2. Valid Consent
In order for the consent to be considered as valid, it has to be freely & genuinely given. If the person agreed to engage in sexual acts due to pressure or being induced by fraud, coercion, violence, or threat of violence, the consent is not considered as valid.
The relationship between the victim and the perpetrator plays a key role, if there is a power disbalance or financial dependency, making it harder for the victim to refuse engaging sexually, the consent is invalid. The lack of verbal or physical resistance and/or submission from the victim does not establish consent. In order to be ‘capable to consent’ you need to be ‘free to consent’.
Consent can seem valid at the beginning, but can end up being legally void. Omissions and lies can retroactively transform the nature of consent. If your partner’s consent was based on an underlying condition that you lied about or you omitted information that would affect them then this consent is invalid, even if they discover it years later.
For example, your partner would only engage sexually with you under certain conditions (a vasectomy, the fact that you’re taking birth control pills, or other underlying conditions), and you lie about their existence in order to sleep with them, then the consent- that was at that time given- is actually invalid and void.
Understanding consent and its extent is important. In fact, the famous case of Jason Lawrence in the UK illustrated these miss-conceptions. The defense of Lawrence was that ‘agreeing’ to sex is enough. Lawrence was convicted for several assaults, one of them was due to the fact that he lied to his wife about having a vasectomy, leading to his partner’s pregnancy. The Court considered this as rape as Lawrence knew that in these conditions, his wife would have not consented to have sex with him. Lawrence was convicted two times for rape, as he slept with his wife twice while lying to her. This example does not only show that marital rape does exist but also that consent is more than a simple yes to have sex, it’s a larger notion.
3. Capacity to Consent
The person has the legal ability & capacity to consent; this includes the age of the partner and their mental & physical state. If the person is intoxicated, incapable due to drugs or alcohol intake, sleeping or mentally unstable, they cannot give consent, therefore their consent would be invalid. Moreover, every State has laws and regulations concerning the legal sexual majority age and regulates the age difference for minors engaging in sexual activities.
We often talk about the fact that if the person is sleeping, drunk or under any chemical influences, it will be considered as rape. While this is completely true, what we also omit to tackle, is that in a lot of States, legally, if the person has medical conditions or mental health issues, their capacity to consent can be compromised.
For example, if they just went through a recent traumatic experience, or are feeling particularly vulnerable, their consent would not be considered as enthusiastic. This applies particularly to ‘virgins’ or people you’re sexually engaging with for the first time. It’s your responsibility to make sure that they want to do this and that you’re not taking advantage of their vulnerability.
4. Specific Consent
There’s nothing such as ‘overall consent’. It’s not because you have been making out, that your partner is consenting for more. You have to agree with your partner about the nature and extent of your sexual engagement. Anything that you might not have discussed, or that was not in your ‘agreement’, needs to be explicitly given consent to. For example, if you agreed to wear condoms, you cannot remove it, suddenly. If you never talked about anal sex, you cannot force your partner to do so. If you agreed on oral sex, or fingering, you cannot assume that your partner would be also in for penetration.
5. ‘Every Time’ Consent
Consent is not only important the first time before you sexually engage with someone, but it is fundamental every time before you engage, even if it’s with the same person. Nothing you’ve already done gives you the right to do it again.
6. Consent can also be revoked.
Past consent does not imply future ongoing consent. Being in a relationship does not give you a life-time guarantee of consent. In fact, once consent has been established, a person can change their mind during the sexual act. They have to communicate it by using words or overt actions. You can’t say “they agreed to it before”. Your partner can change their opinion and their preferences and it’s okay, you have to respect it. If you force them to engage, it will be considered as sexual assault.
7. Understanding the limits of their consent
It’s not just about being ready to engage, but to what extent you feel comfortable engaging. What are the limits of your engagements? It’s also about preferences. There’s something that you might not like to do in bed, and it’s okay, you cannot force her/him because you’ve engaged in other acts. Have a conversation to know and understand your limits. Listen to your partner during your sexual encounter in case they change their preferences.
Examples of the non-existence of consent: pushing you, omission, holding their arms tightly around their bodies, looking/ turning away, hiding their faces, stress, sweat, not being able to breathe, not kissing you back, not responding to your touches, crying, losing their breath, “can we please slow down”, being in pain, etc. Kissing & making out doesn’t imply consent to sex. Fingering & other sexual acts do not always give the green light – “the okay” for penetration.
The Importance of Consent in the Arab World
For many countries, such as in Africa and in the Arab world, consent is seen very differently when it comes to engaging in sexual behavior. “Marrying so young is the most difficult thing any girl can go through. When you force a girl to marry you’ve given a man the right to rape her every single day,” says Jaha Dukureh, Regional UN Women Ambassador for Africa.
It’s important to note that when we stress about consent, it matters because the absence of it may mean domestic violence, rape, or sexual assault—crimes that are punishable by law. There still remains to be a high-level degree of shame and stigma around sexual assault in the Middle East.
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A 23-year-old from Egypt’s elite class, who chose to stay anonymous, was raped by the sexual predator Ahmed Bassam Zaki. When her family found out, she was sent to a psychiatric clinic to deal with the aftermath in confidence. The family didn’t act against the crime due to the shame it brought to them.
Understanding consent allows us to separate victim blaming and shaming, from criminal activities, so that when survivors do speak out – we are able to clearly understand. In doing so, we avoid jumping to conclusions that violate the human rights and dignities of survivors by attributing shame to sexual violence.
Instead, through clearly understanding consent, from a human right’s perspective, we can start tackling the hidden taboo around rape culture and sexual volience as criminal act, that of which can happen in marriages, relationships, and everything in between.
“Stealthing is the act of non-consensual condom removal,” says Wendasha Jenkins Hall, PhD, an independent sexuality researcher and educator with expertise in women’s sexual and reproductive health. Basically, it’s when a male counterpart purposely removes a condom during sex without consent from their sexual partner.
For many Middle Eastern’s, sexual education isn’t one we’re taught at school hence the importance of learning one’s rights when engaging in sexual activity.
Looking at the quality of experience towards both partners engaging in intercourse, any misconceptions such as stealthing can cause an abrupt change in the dynamic of the experience, due lack of education, misconceptions or misunderstandings.
Stealthing and Consent
When we give any type of consent during sex, we imply that we are interested in a certain action under specific conditions. If our partner changes one of these conditions, it is no longer the sex that we consented to.
When it comes to stealthing, the sex that we consented to is sex with a condom on. If our partner removes a condom without our permission, ie. without obtaining our consent for this new condomless sex, this engagement of intercourse becomes non-consensual sex.
And non-consensual sex is sexual assault/rape.
The Consequences of Stealthing
Stealthing can have serious ramifications. The act of removing or damaging a condom during intercourse exposes both partners to the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. For women, stealthing can lead to undesired and unwanted pregnancies.
As physically violating is stealthing is, it can also have serious mental health ramifications. The violation of trust, autonomy, and dignity, experienced by a victim could have long-term psychological impact.
Hence, in summary, non-consensual condom removal, or “stealthing”, during sex is not just deceptive and invasive—it’s assault/rape.
Any sexual act that did not meet the criteria expressed in the article, would be considered as sexual assault, and can even amount to rape. There are a great number of miss-conceptions about sexual crimes. It’s not because you didn’t force a penetration, that you didn’t rape her or that it won’t be qualified as sexual assault. The degree of your punishment might vary depending on your act, but the outcome and qualification remain the same.
If you have intimidated, lied, forced, causing the other person’s intoxication or incapacitation (through the use of drugs or alcohol), them in order to ‘get your consent’, it will be considered as rape. Rape is not only when you penetrate them, a sexual act could be considered as rape, if you still put your genitals in another part of their body, or if you use any objects to penetrate them, or to forcing them to perform or receive oral sex.
Never forget that rape is not always violent as decripted by movies and can be something you discover retroactively, as was illustrated by Lawrence case. Most survivors do not fight, either they try to befriend the perpetrator, or they already knew them, making their resistance more difficult.
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