Sexual consent isn’t just a topic for people we’re having sex with – it should also be something you can talk about with your friends!
Sexual consent is at the heart of our sex lives.
Listening to someone consenting – or not consenting – to sexual activity is the difference between causing someone pain or giving them pleasure.
That’s one crucial difference!
But what about bringing this subject up with people we’re not sexually intimate with?
Why would we do that?
It can feel tricky enough to talk about sexual consent with the people we’re having sex with, let alone people we’re not being intimate with.
However, it may still feel necessary.
Perhaps you worry that a friend doesn’t understand the importance of sexual consent, and is pushing their partner into sex.
Perhaps you feel that a friend’s rights are being disregarded, or that they don’t feel able to say no to their partner.
Neither of these situations are okay. As their friend, you may want to say something. So let’s talk about how you can bring this up.
What if my friend is pushing other people into sex?
If you suspect a friend is pushing someone else into sex, this is really something you should call out. That’s because any sort of sexual contact without consent is illegal, whatever the age of the people involved. But this doesn’t always mean leaping in with guns blazing and accusations flying.
Unfortunately, it’s understandable that people aren’t savvy to the importance and meaning of sexual consent. Sex education often doesn’t do enough to highlight sexual consent. Sex scenes within TV shows and films doesn’t represent consent well. Our culture keeps sex behind closed doors and out of open conversation.
However, that’s no excuse. Understanding sexual consent is essential.
So, if you think you have a friend who does not understand – or properly respect – the concept of consent, it’s important to speak to them about it firmly, yet without accusing or pointing fingers.
Here are some handy examples of things you can say in various situations:
If they were both drunk:
“Seriously though, you’ve got to be careful. If they’re really out of it, that’s against the law. You could get in real trouble.”
If their partner was conscious but unresponsive
“Did you ask if they were OK? You should check in next time. Maybe they weren’t into it but couldn’t say.”
If you see something that doesn’t feel okay.
If you feel able to step in, you could say something like: “Are you sure she/he is okay?,” ask the person themselves how they are feeling, or directly intervene with a statement like “you can see she/he is too drunk, let’s get her a cab.”
What if my friend is the one being pushed into sex?
Not understanding sexual consent can go the other way too.
Perhaps you worry that your friend doesn’t understand their own rights to say ‘no’
Whether that’s out in a club or bar, whether you’re in the bedroom, whether you’ve started fumbling and you’ve changed your mind, whether you’re having sex and you change your mind.
You can explain this to your friend and there are more handy examples of things you can say here.
Taking some tips from or showing them this great video, which compares some aspects of sexual consent to tea, may feel easier.
It may feel frustrating to hear about a friend having sex when they don’t want to, especially when it’s someone you care about a lot.
But it’s important to be there for them, without accusations or judgement.
Check in with them regularly, tell them that they’re safe talking to you, and listen to them.
Be as patient as possible, reassure them that it’s okay, and that they are not alone.
There are organisations that can help people whose partner is controlling or pressures them into doing things, such as Rape Crisis and Survivors UK. They can give more further support to you or anyone you know in these situations.
This year, the topic of Sexual Health Week 2018 is all about consent. There’s loads more great information on the FPA Website.