Being in a relationship can cause a person to feel various feelings, including nervousness and excitement. Since it requires being physically, sexually, or emotionally intimate with the other, these emotions can occasionally confuse understanding one’s partner and making decisions on moving forward in the relationship.
Another problem in a relationship is how partners often feel uneasy discussing their feelings. However, communication is essential as consent can be provided based on the level of intimacy desired by people in the relationship. Mutual respect, communication, and honesty are the foundation of a healthy partnership; both partners are responsible for making the other feel safe and at ease.
Many couples overlook consent, and frequently it is assumed based on the level of affection or comfortability in the relationship. The question is, what happens when a relationship loses the concept of consent?
Abuse and Sexual Assault
Now that sex is less taboo among young adults; it is crucial to remember that everyone has bodily autonomy, meaning they have the right to choose what to do with their bodies. It should not represent one’s desire as consent should be clearly stated, whether verbal or non-verbal, before any sexual activity or intimacy happens. The lack of response or resistance does not automatically mean that one grants access for sexual behavior to commence.
Valuing consent in a relationship helps partners communicate their respective concerns, as it allows parties to convey their emotions and uphold their autonomy. Its absence endangers relationships to be manipulative, which could force individuals into uncomfortable scenarios.
When there is a power imbalance, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other side to reject or oppose the other out of fear. This is why consent should be one of the foundational pillars a relationship is built on to develop trust, care, and love.
Consent extends beyond sexual activities, such as holding hands, kissing, or touching; however, the sexual aspect of relationships elicits a high level of stress and tension in a person. It is not uncommon that partners find themselves unable to control their actions during passionate moments.
A study shows that when the degree of intimacy in a relationship increases, several aspects such as perceptions of consent, acceptability, and clarity also increase. However, how each respective partner perceives these aspects is subjective. The same study found that men often perceived scenarios as more consensual, acceptable, and clear than women, leading to confusion.
So how exactly does sexual coercion take place? Both sides in a relationship should have complete and total power over how they engage with their partners. However, if consent is not obtained, one may be subjected to coercion.
Sexual coercion can be defined as unwanted sexual activity that happens when you are pressured, tricked, threatened, or forced in a non-physical way. It is important to understand that continuous attempts to pressure someone into sexual activities fall into this definition; it is not a one-time thing.
Sexual coercion is a spectrum; it varies from person to person, it could be verbal, non-verbal, emotional, or even psychological. The bottom line is that these are outright wrong and unreasonable.
Making someone feel like they owe sex, dishonest compliments intended to pressure someone into sex, physical or verbal harassment, and the use of drugs or alcohol are just some examples of sexual coercion. If one is willing and able, reporting these to the respective institutions is valid as this is ultimately a form of assault.
It is not difficult to see how a relationship becomes increasingly toxic with the lack of consent. It results in one partner dominating and overwhelming the other. This may ultimately spill over into other aspects of the relationship.
Communication and Consent
The level of communication and consent a partner presents in a relationship is crucial as it enables partners to express their needs and feel connected in a relationship. This eliminates the chance of misunderstandings and helps develop respect for each other.
The concept of consent can be defined as permission or agreement to do something, with both options of “yes” and “no” being viable and present. It is a discussion about what is acceptable and what is not; it is negotiated before activities and is open to change at any given time.
However, some people experience difficulties defining whether or not consent was given, especially since other people communicate their consent through non-verbal cues. One must always ensure that all individuals involved are sober, mutual, clear, and specific. When a victim fails to resist the physical actions, this is not consent. And one should never see the concept of consent as implied or assumed; it must always be communicated.
A relationship is a union of people that necessitates the engagement and involvement of all parties concerned. As a result, one should strive for “affirmative consent.” It should be as transparent, conscious, and mutual as possible.
So when one finds themselves in a relationship or a situation that necessitates consent, it is a good rule of thumb to gain a clear, unambiguous, verbal, or nonverbal “yes” from your partner. Communication is a crucial component of every relationship, and it should be used frequently to build trust, compassion, and love.
Sex and, more broadly, relationships should always be a mutual, courteous, and equal exchange between partners. It encourages the usage of open talks in which one’s views and emotions are appropriately conveyed. Once consent is lost, so is a healthy, loving relationship.