Man on his knee holding flowers is rejected by woman

Consent: does no always means no?

Dennis and Joyce have been together for 2 years. They are having hot sex. Midway, Joyce asks Dennis to stop. Several times. She no longer wants to continue. Dennis doesn’t stop.

Ever heard that phrase that women mean yes when they say no? This is Dennis’ assumption.

Just like many, he’s wrong!

Taking a NO seriously is important for ensuring a safe community for women, men, young people, and sexual and gender minority persons.

Consent is simply defined as giving permission, accepting, allowing, or approving something to happen. In matters of sexual and reproductive rights, consent has been defined as the ongoing and freely given specific and informed decision by an individual. This means that one is entitled to the right of changing their mind at any time.

However, consent has continued to be a debated issue and is often not easily determined. Consent involves perceptions, feelings, reactions, interpretations and many times is a societal reflection of attitudes, values, policies, and the existing gender power relations.

The most undermined aspect while talking of consent is of one saying NO. This is because of our societal perception of what NO means.

Many times you will hear a phrase: ‘When she says NO, she means YES.’ This negatively preconceived idea has led to increased human rights violations and abuses which accelerate sexual and gender-based violence.

Yes, is the only consent, although it’s equally important to understand that NO means NO at any given point.

Some words and phrases used to mean NO include:

  • Stop
  • I don’t want to
  • Leave me alone
  • Push you away
  • I am not ready
  • I am not sure
  • I do not feel like it
  • Get away from me
  • Scream or cry
  • Simply, saying DON’T

All these means NO and should be respected.

Remember! Silence DOES NOT mean consent! Don’t assume that it’s a yes because they didn’t say no.  

It’s good to be aware of other people’s feelings and well-being. The power to freely give consent where each person’s needs, wants, and desires are respected, protected, and appreciated is an integral value and aspect of all human interactions. Whenever they say NO, respect and protect them as you would also want them to accept your NO.

Consent is not forced,

Consent is voluntary,

NO means NO regardless

Silence is NOT consent

How do you understand consent? Have you been a position where someone did not respect your wishes? 

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