*Trigger warning for discussion of circumstances of rape**
The enthusiastic consent model makes the person who initiates physical contact responsible, regardless of gender, for fighting against the culture of victim blaming. Under this model, the person initiating contact is required to take account of and not exploit a relationship, the other person’s intoxicated state, or the power of peer pressure or social conditioning. No matter what the type of contact, the initiating party must get genuine consent.
This article talks about Enthusiastic Consent as a way of fighting rape culture in similar fashion to Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti’s “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape”. The idea behind enthusiastic consent is that it is not just giving in, it is not just consent for the sake of pleasing others. It is an active expression of intention to engage in sexual activity that is totally unambiguous.
FACT 1: **THE OPPOSITE OF NO IS ENTHUSIASTIC YES**. It is estimated that 1 in 3 women have given consent to sex that they didn’t want. Why would this be? Researchers from the University of Buffalo asked women their reasons, which included feeling obliged to satisfy their partner, having already given implicit consent by physical contact, or actually being pressured into it.
There is no such thing as implicit consent by being in a certain place, by wearing certain clothes, by taking certain actions. Consent is not given unless it is clear.
In order to defeat rape culture, in a similar way to “Yes Means Yes”, female sexual agency must be restored and sex should not be the result of a grounding down of defences but of enthusiastic, willing participation.
FACT 2: **CONSENT CAN BE WITHDRAWN**. Perhaps most relevant to the Assange accusations, it is possible for consent to be removed at any time. Since we have started from a position of enthusiastic consent, it is a fact that consent was given beforehand. However, for any reason a person can have a change of heart. They do not need a ‘good reason’, to prove their thought process, or to justify themselves. When consent is withdrawn, sexual contact must cease immediately.
This is where it’s very important. Continuing when consent has been withdrawn, either because the withdrawal isn’t believed or it is assumed consent can be regained. From that point it becomes rape. There is no mitigation of that fact. When consent is no longer given, it is rape. Therefore, withdrawal of consent should be taken absolutely seriously.
FACT 3: **CONSENT CANNOT ALWAYS BE GIVEN**. An intoxicated person can act like they consent to sex, they may even verbally express this intention. However, due to their inability to make decisions with full control of their mental faculties, they cannot give INFORMED CONSENT. This is also the reason why sex with people under the age of consent is illegal. Though it could be said that some individuals are capable of making decisions before this time, it provides a rough guide to protect those who cannot. The same goes, of course, for people with mental disabilities that prevent informed decision-making.
As was made clear in the opening quote, it should be up to the initiator of sexual contact to ensure all parties are ENTHUSIASTIC on a CONTINUOUS BASIS and are ABLE TO MAKE THAT CHOICE.
Consent really isn’t much more complicated than that.