EDIT: See the video at the end of this post 🙂
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.
Also since I noticed that my How to write Realistic Sex Scenes articles (here and here) 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 not just about saying yes – it is a statement of shared intentions, of understanding a situation and being in agreement.
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, then you tread over the line of legal and ethical sexual activity.
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 offense.
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.
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.
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.
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 physically happens that 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.
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 into BDSM – consent will be a strong cornerstone in the affect 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 beaten and then has sex with their dominant, which is extremely roug, would be not be considered abuse or rape if consent between the two parties was given with an understanding of what it would entail.
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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