Let’s Talk About Consent
Consent is a word you may have heard when talking about sex and relationships. In South Africa, the legal age of consent is 16.
Consent is when someone says yes to something clearly and happily, and is not under any pressure with their answer. Consent is something that you need to ask for, and receive, every time you have any kind of sexual activity. Sex without consent is sexual abuse or rape.
Consent is important because it’s about how we communicate and check each other’s feelings, and it helps us only do things that are comfortable for us and for the other person. Consent is an ongoing conversation. If someone asks for your consent that is a good thing - be confident and say how you feel. If you’re asking for someone else’s consent, always respect their answer if they say ‘no’. Remember that ‘no’ means ‘no’; don’t try to persuade them!
Someone who is silent, just smiles or sounds unsure and like they’re trying to please you is not giving their consent. If someone agrees to sex because they’re under pressure of intimidation, threat or violence, or under the influence of alcohol – they haven’t given consent freely.
- A choice you’re free to make without pressure or force.
- An enthusiastic ‘yes’ and cannot be given when you are drunk, have taken drugs or are asleep.
- Given when someone has all the information and knows the full story. For example, if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, there isn’t full consent.
- Talked about at every stage and giving consent for one thing does not mean you have given consent for everything.
- When you only do things you actually want to do, not things that you feel you’re expected to do.
- Temporary. A person can change their mind about having sex and withdraw their consent at any point, even if they’ve had sex with that person before, and even if they’re already naked or in bed with someone.
If you haven’t given your consent and have experienced sexual harassment or sexual violence including rape, this isn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter whether you were alone with someone, or out at night, and it makes no difference what you were wearing. You are not to blame. Call the Rape Crisis Centre at 021 447 9762 to get the help and support you need. There is also a WhatsApp support line available at 083 222 5164 .