You know I had to title this with a bible verse cos I plan to preach!
The topic of sexual consent raged on the Nigerian twittosphere for most of last week because of the disqualification of a Big Brother Nigeria housemate, Kemen from the house due to Sexual assault.
The level of ignorance around the topic was as painful as the sorry excuse of an apology and interview he has since released. That full grown men struggled with the idea showed how much work there is in our society. Worse still, that there are some women who thought it was OK what Kemen did was shocking but someone explained it rather clearly:
A lot of women cannot agree that Kemen’s behaviour was assault because then they will have to reexamine things that have happened to them
— Arit Okpo (@menoword) March 5, 2017
I came up with theories from my interactions with menfolk both online and offline afterwards behind it.
In this Kemen talk I realized something, consent is alien to Nigerian men, either cos we don’t understand it or believe women are our right
— Nwakibeya (@Dikachim) March 9, 2017
For the purpose of this post though, I’ll just address the first, understanding consent. What is sexual consent?
Consent according to University of Michigan SAPAC is when someone agrees, gives permission, or says “yes” to sexual activity with other persons. Consent is always freely given and all people in a sexual situation must feel that they are able to say “yes” or “no” or stop the sexual activity at any point.
In simple terms, consent is when your father drops 50,000 naira on the table and he says yes when you ask for it or he takes it in his hand and nudges you to collect.
Sticking with the money analogy, what happens when you collect the 50,000 naira without your father’s permission? It’s stealing! This is a crime.
Now back to sexual consent, what happens when you conduct the sexual activity without the person’s consent? It’s broadly sexual assault (rape is a type of sexual assault that involves penetration). This is a crime!
At this point I want to reiterate yet again, sexual consent is the visa required to be accepted into any legal sexual activity.
Now, what could get confusing about sexual consent?
Does consent mean I have consent every time and can do any and everything? Can consent be withdrawn?
University of Michigan Policy & Procedures on Student Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence defines consent as “a clear and unambiguous agreement, expressed outwardly through mutually understandable words or actions, to engage in a particular activity.”
I’d like to add to this definition, “to engage in a particular activity at a particular time”. Because if you get your father’s consent to collect the fifty thousand naira today doesn’t mean you always have the permission to collect any 50,000 naira he keeps.
So, yes, consent can be withdrawn at any stage, consent is for a particular activity and consent is for a particular time.
Do I always have to verbally ask? Can’t I just lean in for a kiss and see how that goes?
Again, look at that definition of consent, “a clear and unambiguous agreement, expressed outwardly through mutually understandable words or actions, to engage in a particular activity.”
If you notice, consent can be given non-verbally.
To avoid the ambiguity that may arise from verbal vs non-verbal consent, I’ll give you a general rule:
The only time consent doesn’t have to be verbal is when you’re in a defined sexual relationship with someone. Boyfriend, Girlfriend, Wife e.t.c. You don’t have to ask every time. You can lean in for a kiss and go from there. This is because there’s been a prior understanding of the nature of your sexual relationship. Even then, at the first sign of resistance, STOP! Yes, even your wife, stop!
For every other time, get verbal consent.
What you should never imagine is that:
- Just because she invited you to her house means she wants it
- Just because she’s wearing a short gown when visiting means anything
- Just because you’re already in a relationship means you can never get a no
- Getting permission for kissing means you got permission for everything
- Just because he looked at you a certain way means he want to have sex
And this goes without saying, if a person is sleeping, underage, incapacitated in any way, they cannot give consent! Hence stay away!
You might have made mistakes with this in the past but we’re all here to learn and get better so please make the world a better place for everyone by seeking consent before any sexual activity with anyone.
P.S: You don’t need consent to watch porn and masturbate quietly when you’re turned down. You only need a data plan and a strong right hand. Xoxo
Update: found this great video that explains consent using tea. The non-verbal consent isn’t there but the analogy still works perfectly so I’ll explain it here: you can only go for non-verbal if you have a defined relationship e.g your wife likes tea first thing every morning or your husband starts pacing around in the kitchen when he wants tea, then you don’t necessarily ask, you just make them the tea. but if they turn it down because they’re not particularly in the mood that day, you put it away immediately. It’s really simple. Please understand this.