Seems like everyone is talking about sex right now – even our MLAs. The ACT Legislative Assembly are considering amending the laws so that it is clear that consent must be freely and voluntarily given, with an inquiry due to report by the end of October.
The current definition doesn’t say what consent is, it just gives examples of what consent isn’t. Examples of things that negate consent include being unconscious or threats of violence. The change being considered would define that consent must be a free and voluntary agreement. This means that not physically resisting assault cannot be considered consent.
Seems logical, doesn’t it? What we want is a definition of consent that says “yes means yes”, not just “no means no”. That if you’re initiating activity with someone, they need to clearly communicate to you, freely and voluntarily, that they are into it.
There are people who are worried that changing to an affirmative definition of consent will be too confusing for our community. But it’s actually not that complex.
If you wanted to play contact sports with someone, you’d ask first – and if they said no, you wouldn’t tackle them to the ground anyway, even if you’ve played on the same rugby team before.
If you wanted to have a coffee with someone, you’d ask first. And if they said they prefer tea, but you are macchiato or forget it, you wouldn’t try and force them to drink a dark roast with just a stain of milk.
Even kids can understand their rights and how consent works using an affirmative definition.
Let’s look at sex like going for a bike ride with a friend. It should be fun, and everyone involved should be happy that this is what they’re doing.
We cannot go on with women being the gatekeepers of sex in society, constantly having to be ready to defend themselves against assault. Laws that make it clear that “yes means yes” will be a step in the right direction. Because everyone wants sex to be a good time, for themselves and for their partner.
Wondering what to say if you have to say something about sexual violence? Check out What To Say by Women’s Centre for Health Matters.