“Was that really a yes?” – understanding sexual consent

sexual consent

Our understanding sexual consent, something Big Brother Nigeria has clearly shown, still needs work. So last night, an incident occurred that has once again brought up the subject of sexual consent. If you somehow missed the uproar, we’d advise that you log into Facebook or Twitter to catch up. From the reaction of many people online and offline, it appears that sadly consent is something that remains ill-understood. Now is as good a time as any to throw light on the topic.

Who Has The Legal Power To Say Yes?

Nigeria does not have a nationally recognised age of consent per se. The Child Rights Act of 2003 puts the age of consent at 18 years, but this law is only effective in 26 of the 36 states in Nigeria. It is not yet a national law. Notwithstanding, working on the premise of the Child Rights Act, if the person you intend to have sexual intercourse with is under 18 years, she or he does not have the power to say yes.

Furthermore, all other existing laws in Nigeria that touch on consent agree that consent obtained by force, threat, intimidation, or false and fraudulent representation does not hold in the court of law. The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, which as of present is only applicable in FCT, Abuja and does not yet apply in any of the 36 states, recognises that consent obtained in the event of the use of substances capable of taking away a person’s will is void. Such substances can include date rape drugs and/or alcohol.

In a nutshell, do not have proceed to have sexual activity with a person that is under-18, and/or is intoxicated or unconscious. While it may seem unromantic, asking a person for an identification to confirm his or her age helps protect you. You wouldn’t like getting into an unpleasant situation where you are accused of raping a minor.

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S/He Is An Adult, Am I Covered?

Now that you know for sure that your partner has the power to say yes, that ought to be enough, right? Erm, kind of.

Simply put, consent means that the people who are about to engage in a sexual activity have agreed to do so. The thing is, there isn’t one way to agree to the sexual activity – i.e. give consent. The general consensus is that everyone must SAY yes, but in reality it doesn’t always work out like that. Some people have no qualms verbally agreeing to sex. If you even ask them for written and signed consent, you’d get it, no problem. But for some other people, they will prefer not to. They find it awkward – weird.

So, should you then have to guess which is which? No. To be on the safe side, it is best if you can get your partner to understand that verbal agreement makes it easier for everyone. That, with a clearly communicated answer, everyone knows where everyone stands. You’re able to know the different sexual activities your partner is willing to explore, as well as know what s/he doesn’t like. This way, so you can respect the boundaries set and not make anyone do anything they don’t want to.

The Other Side Of The Story

Understandably, because we are not all raised the same way, it is not always so simple. For some people, their upbringing makes it such that it is uncomfortable being made to consent verbally to sex. To ask them to consent each and every time before sex is probably unthinkable. What do you do when confronted with situations like that?

Flirting Is Not Consent - sexual consent

Talk about it. It’s best to have a conversation about consent well ahead of time. An open and honest communication, preferably while clothes are still on, gives you the opportunity to know what your partner expects. This way, you get a glimpse of what s/he understands consent to be. You learn how s/he prefers to give consent (e.g. is she of the “talk your own” camp or of the ‘if I’m not saying no, then I’m saying yes” camp).

Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk!!!

One of the most important reason to talk it out before sex is that you learn if and when s/he prefers that you pause to get consent. For instance, some people don’t think it’s necessary to be asked for permission before ‘stealing a kiss’. They may therefore may become irritated if you insist on asking for permission all the time. Some think it’s fine not to ask before you kiss them, but if you are going to want to take off their clothes, you should most definitely ask if they are okay with that. One person may feel that since they have already had sex with you, you don’t need to ask the next time. While another wants to be asked each and every time.

feet entwined in bed
Photo Credit: JessicaWilliams.com

Yet another will only want you to ask if you want to introduce a new sexual position, e.g. if missionary style is something they are used to with you, the day you decide to try rear entry, they want you to ask them if they are fine with it before flipping them on their stomach. Bottom line, understand that people differ in their preferences, and a sure way to know what those preferences are is by talking about it.

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Consent Withdrawn

Something to bear in mind – and this cannot be emphasised any more strongly as it is extremely important – is that you and your partner have the right to change your mind. Just because you had agreed to sex or to a particular sexual activity does not mean you must see it through. Do not let anyone make you feel obligated to continue just because you’d agreed to it. You or your partner can and should withdraw consent at any point you feel uncomfortable or need more time to get comfortable. If you no longer wish to participate in a sexual activity, insist that your partner stops. And if someone says stop, please stop.

You may be wondering, so why say yes and then turn around to say no? It sucks, we know, but in as much as it’s frustrating to be at the receiving of a withdrawn consent, you must not force your partner to go back to their original agreement. If s/he has said no, please respect that. To do otherwise is rape. So, pull up your pants, and leave if you must. Tomorrow is another day, you’d find someone who wants you as much as you want them.

Sex In A Box - MerdroitsVisit slidesafe.ng for sexual health information, test kits, and sexual aids. Delivery in discreet packaging to your door in the Greater Lagos environs!

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  1. I know is because of the duo of kemen and Tboss that brought about the topic. Why won’t you guys leave kemen alone for goodness sake??? @bbn. BBN is a show known for promoting immorality,so why would kemen’s own be different??? I hate that show now ehn,,,until that whitewitch(Tboss) got evicted i won’t watch that show again. Arant Nonsense!

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