Things to consider about Sexual Consent

So I thought about writing this after reading a few stories where it seemed there was a (worryingly) blurred idea of consent when it came to sex.

EDIT: See the video at the end of this post 🙂

Banner things to consider about sexual consent, image of several hands some putting thumbs up and some with thumbs down

Also since I noticed that my How to write Realistic Sex Scenes articles (Part 1 and Part 2) have been getting more views it might be good to add this to the set.  To drive the point home as it were (excuse the unintentional innuendo).

This article on consent is in regards to sexual activity.  So if you are writing sex scenes in your story do keep in mind the concept of consent.

What is consent?

Consent is a statement of shared intentions, of understanding a situation and being in agreement.  It is not just about saying yes (think coercion).

I know that sounds so dull and almost legalese, but whether it’s stories I’ve read or disturbing news articles, I think it’s important to be clear about the subject.

When it comes to sex between characters who are meant to be consenting, then they both need to know and understand the situation.  Saying yes to sexual contact only to find out it will involve something you hadn’t agreed on, does not constitute consent.

So whether it is agreeing to a kiss and suddenly being groped, or agreeing to sex and suddenly being confronted with whips and chains, it does not matter the degree – unless both parties agree fully, then you tread over the line of legal and ethical sexual activity.

Non-verbal cues

Let me give you an example: If one of your characters is completely drunk or high, even if they are all over the other character tearing off clothes, they cannot give “consent”.

This intoxication means they are not in their right mind to give legal consent to a sexual act.

Scene or no scene

Does this mean you should not write the scene?  No, if this is what you want to write then fine – however, be aware that your readers may see it differently from you.

This is not a loving scene of two characters being intimate, it is a risky scene that could potentially end with one character accusing the other of a sexual offence.

Even if you write it that everything works out fine, the overall sense of the scene to the readers may have been that it could have gone either way.  And they may then view one of the characters as more of an antagonist than a protagonist.

Let’s also not keep muddying the waters with scenes like this.  Already we have young people (and even full adults) who are unaware of the legality and ethical issues with such things.

Legal Age

There is a reason many countries have adopted legal ages for sex.  Because it is believed that at these ages the person is more mentally, emotionally and physically ready for such activity (though that is not always the case) and thus are able to give true consent and be of sound mind to do so.

In many countries, however, the legal age does not include the mental or emotional readiness for sex (or for raising children should an accident occur) but more they are at the legal age to WORK thus support a child that may occur from the union.

A legal age does not make something ethical.

Pressure and Shame

Any form of pressure either from a partner, family member, friend etc that makes a person feel they “ought to” engage in sexual activity before they are ready is considered as not truly consensual.

This is coercion.  If your character is showing all the signs of not being into it or having to be “persuaded” then it’s coercion.

Women especially are often coerced into things due to the threat that comes with rejection.  You can read the news about just how often women are assaulted, tortured and murdered for rejecting an advance.

Discuss

Should your characters discuss their wants?  That is up to you, it may ruin the flow of a sexually charged scene.

Then again, if you have two characters you want to become intimate in a consensual way, the build-up of chemistry between them equally will help to create this.

You could even have it built up where before anything physical happens. one character just tentatively asks if this is what the other truly wants.

To make add a sense of apprehension – this seems to work well in more romance novels where we know at least one character is completely besotted with another and is almost shocked that the other character feels the same.

This can move the scene nicely rather than bog it down with a sense of “let’s discuss if we should have sex” moment.

Abuse

Any form of sex act that is undertaken without consent is abuse – it is illegal and unethical.  Whether it is full intercourse to any kissing, groping or sexual activity.

Abuse is not just when some stranger gropes someone in a bar.  It can occur within a relationship.

Whether it is a married couple, a pair of teenagers or a dominant and submissive to BDSM – consent will be a strong cornerstone in the effect of the relationship.

Example:  A gentle sex act between a married couple can still be seen as rape if there was no consent, such as if one of the parties was, say, unconscious or extremely drunk – just because they are married, just because they have had sex before… none of this means that at THIS time, the sex was consensual.

In the same vein a submissive who is whipped and then has sex with their dominant, which is extremely rough, would be not be considered abuse or rape if consent between the two parties was given with an understanding of what it would entail.

Please note though that NOT all BDSM is the same, there is a large culture that is very abusive.  Just as there are healthy and supportive BDSM relationships. 

Just something to think about when writing consensual sex scenes within a story.

EDIT: Just came across this Youtube video made by the British police who have made an animation using a Tea Analogy to explain consent. Since I am British and love tea… I think this works 🙂

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Happy writing

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5 thoughts on “Things to consider about Sexual Consent

  1. Pingback: How to write realistic Sex Scenes (pt.1) | Ari Meghlen – Writer | Blogger | Bad card player

  2. Pingback: How to avoid Male Stereotypes in your novel | Ari Meghlen – Writer | Blogger | Bad card player

  3. Pingback: How to write realistic Sex Scenes (pt.1) | The official site of Ari Meghlen

  4. I agree; consent is definitely a cornerstone not only in writing but also between people in our waking world as you have outlined. Thanks for putting this out there!

    • Hi Kiri, thank you for your comment. Yes it really is! I think it is so easy for people to be influenced by media whether thats movies, tv shows, books, magazines etc so the idea of driving home the point about consent and hoping more writers think carefully about it when writing such scenes that those who will read it will also be influenced by realising that how important it is.

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