In this article, we decided to talk about nonconsensual sex; what consent means – what it is and what it is not. We also present the concerning results of a recent study done on Men’s Perception of Women’s Sexual Desire and Consent to Sex.
What is nonconsensual sex?
Nonconsensual sex is any sexual gesture or sexual act done without the consent of a person, whether one is in a conscious state or not, regardless of gender, age or other circumstances.
Consent is the first step before any intimate activity and means that both people have given their explicit consent to engage in sexual intercourse. In his absence, nonconsensual sex is considered sexual assault or rape.
First things first. What does consent mean?
It means that before engaging in sexual intercourse you must have the consent of the person you intend to do this with, in other words, you both want the same thing.
It is also important to tell your partner what you want, what you are willing to do during intercourse and what not.
Asking for consent aims to set personal limits and means that you are willing to respect those of your partner.
What does consent mean?
In more detail, the consent is:
- without coercion: consent is a choice a person makes without being pressured by friends or partner and without being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- reversible: if you have given your consent once, this does not mean that you agree to have sex with that person the following times; it’s your choice if you don’t want to do this next time.
- informed: you can only give your consent if you have the complete picture. For example, if the man says he will use a condom and does not do so during intercourse, then it is not considered complete consent.
- exciting: when it comes to sex, you should only do things that are comfortable for you and not be pressured in any way to do something you don’t want
Consent is never considered implicit in behaviour, whether current or past, attire or frequented places.
It must always be clearly communicated, without any doubt. Silence never takes the place of consent.
It is also important not only the first time you have sex; couples who have had sex before or even those who have been together for a long time must absolutely consent every time they have sex.
It is important to tell your partner what kind of consent works for you.
Are you the kind of person who prefers to start sexual intercourse gradually, to be asked before what is comfortable for him before moving on to the actual physical intercourse?
Then mention this in advance, especially if you are having sex for the first time or have a new partner.
There is also the option in which you can figure out along the way whether or not you are willing to do certain things, so you could tell him “you can touch me wherever you want and I will tell you when it will be the case if I feel uncomfortable.”
What form can consent take? How do you ask for it?
The question can be: “is it ok to kiss you / touch you / take off your blouse” etc or “do you want to go to the bedroom to continue there?”, “Is it ok or do you want to take it slower?“.
Although the best consent is a verbal one, there are situations in which the two can negotiate a non-verbal consent (in a long-term relationship, for example), but which requires experience and is built gradually. It consists of small mutual gestures (a touch, a kiss) that lead to the subsequent intimate act.
There are laws that stipulate who can consent to sexual intercourse and who cannot.
The consent of people who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs will not be taken into account. Minors are protected by law if they are pressured to have sex with adults.
The agreement for legal consent means at what age a person is considered capable of having, knowingly, sexual intercourse.
If it is not yet clear what this term refers to, better clarify it. “Sexual consent” means actively agreeing to perform acts of a sexual nature with a person.
This tells the other that we want to have sex. Sexual activity without consent is rape or sexual assault.
It is clearly expressing that both want to participate in the same “game” every time they go to play. This includes oral sex, stroking or touching the genitals, and vaginal or anal penetration.
If one of the two does not agree to play, the rules or is not conscious to do so, then there is no consensual sex, there is sexual assault.
What is and is not a sign?
It is freely given. Consent is an option you take without pressure, without manipulation, or without the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Saying yes to something (like kissing in the bedroom) doesn’t mean you agree to do other things (like having sex).
It is provided being informed. For example, if someone says they will use a condom and then does not, there was no full consent.
It is reversible. Even if they’ve done it before and they’re both naked in bed.
Remember that you only deserve to receive the sexual experience that you decide.
Even with your partner, you don’t always have to agree to have sex. You have the last word.
Studies about nonconsensual sex
The figures on sexual harassment, abuse and rape should not surprise us after knowing that many men have no idea what “consensual sex” is.
This was proven by a new study from the Faculty of Psychology at Binghamton University, New York, which looked at how men interpret sexual interactions.
This much-needed study today was titled “Situational and Dispositional Determinants of College Men’s Perception of Women’s Sexual Desire and Consent to Sex: A Factorial Vignette Analysis” and analyzed 145 male, straight students, with an average age of 20 years attending a large university in the southeastern United States.
(A sample with very limited age and a small number of respondents compared to the size of the world problem, but which produces very interesting figures. It must be said.)
The terrible reality
Upon learning the results, the social scientists were a little surprised but genuinely alarmed.
One of the first red light bulbs is that there is great confusion between what sexual desire is and consenting to a sexual relationship.
That is, they assumed that, if they thought that the woman wanted to promote sexual interaction, that counted as consent. When it is not the same.
There are women who may want a sexual relationship with someone, but that does not mean that it is just at that moment and when the subject wants.
Another fact is that men better understand consent or lack thereof when women verbally communicate it.
Still, the average verbal rejection was 2.34, which means that when the woman on stage vocalized her refusal to sexually advance, it was not immediately understood that she was not consenting to advance.
It is dangerous the fact that many were not clear that if a woman advances in a sexual interaction is equal to consensual sex, it happened the same if the woman did not say anything, they assumed that she wanted to have a sexual relationship with them (something that happens to some women who freeze out of fear).
This happened even to men with “progressive and respectful of women” profiles, as they can misinterpret consent or lack thereof and, consequently, commit a sexual assault.
The most important
These types of studies are not always conclusive, but they do shed light on where the problem of many sexual cases of abuse comes from.
It shows that non-verbal language can be easily confused and that the best way to make something known that we don’t want to happen is to say it.
This is summarized by the researchers in their conclusions.
They explain that the study highlights the usefulness of risk reduction programs, that women openly communicate their sexual desires and are clear.
It also reinforces the importance of men knowing the affirmative and non-affirmative behaviour of women, so that they do not infer responses from women who, for some reason, cannot be clear on what they want.
The final idea that the study leaves us is that poor communication can lead to problems of a sexual violence type.
If you are a victim of abuse or aggression
Abuse or aggression may involve any of the following, which have been forcibly imposed (against their will):
– Be forced to watch or listen to pornographic material
– Be forced to witness sexual acts
– To be touched in a sexual manner
– To have their genitals touched or to be forced to touch their genitals
– Oral sex, or be forced to have oral sex
– If penetration of the rectum or vagina with the finger, an object or the penis, this act is called rape
All forms of sexual abuse and sexual assault can have profound and lasting effects on a person, especially when experienced in childhood. The effects may include some or all of the following:
– Difficulties in relationships, especially sexual intercourse
– Sleep disorders, nightmares, memories of the event
– “Thinking of abuse all the time.”
– Drug abuse or other addictions to try to alleviate the pain
– Feelings of intense anger, pain, or shame
– Suicidal or self-flagellate thoughts.
There are many myths about nonconsensual sex, sexual violence and sexual assault that could prevent survivors from seeking help.
Part of our aim with this article is to educate the public about these myths.
For example, a popular myth is that the abused person must have done something to attract the abuser, e.g. the way they were dressed or how they behaved.
The truth is that the way someone dresses or behaves does not give anyone the right to assault them.
Another myth is that the person who has been abused or raped is ‘destroyed’ and will never recover.
This is not true either, because we have seen survivors who have managed to improve their quality of life through support and become even stronger and happier than they were before the aggression.
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
It is not a shame to have been the victim of abuse but it is a shame to abuse.
Please contact the emergency services or the free helplines if you have been the victim of sexual abuse or assault and would like help on how this has affected your life.
There are trained people out there to listen to you and to support you.
If you are in the UK and Northern Ireland, here is a list of services that can guide you:
- Supportline UK
- Mind for Better Mental Health
- The Survivors Trust
- Rape Crisis Scotland
- The Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre for Northern Irelan
- National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans* (LGBT) Domestic Violence Helpline
What we recommend for Relationship issues
If you are suffering from relationship issues then ongoing professional relationship counselling could be what you need. Relationship Counselling can be done individually or with one or more partners.
Relationship counselling helps you regain the amazing elements of your relationship and provides you with the techniques needed to avoid conflicts, misunderstandings and the most common issues most relationships struggle with.
Abbey, A., McAuslan, P., Ross, L. T. (1998). Sexual assault perpetration by college men: The role of alcohol, misperception of sexual intent, and sexual beliefs and experiences. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 17, 167-195.
Baxter, D. J., Marshall, W. L., Barbaree, H. E., Davidson, P. R., Malcolm, P. B. (1984). Deviant sexual behaviour: Differentiating sex offenders by criminal and personal history, psychometric measures, and sexual response. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 11, 477-501.
Lofgreen, A. M., Mattson, R. E., Wagner, S. A., Ortiz, E. G., & Johnson, M. D. (2017). Situational and Dispositional Determinants of College Men’s Perception of Women’s Sexual Desire and Consent to Sex: A Factorial Vignette Analysis. Journal of Interpersonal