[The Sexuality Blog] Back To Basics: Let’s talk about consent

While we’ve always known Nigeria has a big, big problem with sex. We misunderstand it as a concept and misappropriate it as an activity, and then we wonder why we can’t seem to get it right. The events of last weekend and this week has shined a light on how badly Nigerians need to be re-educated on the most basic concepts around sex. We know nothing about sex, about consent, about rape culture or even how sex works. If we don’t understand these basic concepts how can we expect anyone to grasp complex concepts like sexuality and gender equality?

So we at the Sexuality Blog are going to return to the basics, and as best we can, explain the concepts of sex, consent and the different aspects of rape culture with analogies that are specific to Nigerians. We will also try to answer a number of questions that revolve around rape culture and how our current beliefs and practices help to foster a culture where rapists are excused their bad behaviour, never punished for their actions and victims are blamed for rape.

Let’s start with this:

What is consent?

Consent in sex refers to the presence of present and continuous agreement between parties engaged in sexual activity. This means at every point in time when you are having sex with someone, or even engaging in sexual activity with another person (or persons) everyone involved is enthusiastically agreeing to whatever is going on. Sometimes this agreement might be non-verbal, but it is ideal that the person/persons you are engaging in sexual activity with tell you they are enjoying what you are doing and want you to continue.

For example if you are kissing a girl and she is very receptive and you reach down to cup one of her breasts through her shirt and she stops kissing you; it is time for you to stop and ask her if she wants you to cup her breasts. If you ask and she doesn’t say yes, stop.

The rule of thumb in consent is simple; if the person cannot answer ‘yes’ to a direct question, then it is time for you to stop whatever you are doing.

A person who is asleep cannot say ‘yes’ to sexual activity. A person who cannot operate heavy machinery or drive thanks to medication, or alcohol or drugs, cannot say ‘yes’ to sexual activity. If a person cannot speak to you for whatever reason, they cannot consent and you need to stop whatever you are doing.

It is not enough that the person got ‘wet’ when you were performing a sexual act on them, or that their penis grew hard. These are biological responses to stimuli, much like how you blink when something flies too close to your eyes or you recoil from something hot. They are not examples of consent to sexual activity.

It might be annoying, but whenever you are unsure that your partner is in agreement with what you are doing, ask them a direct question. One that they have to answer as ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

These are the basics of consent.

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