Affirmative Consent & Safe Sex
By: Ingrid Higgins, LMFT
Teens have been taught about safe sex practices for decades. Most teens are knowledgeable enough to know that you need to use protection to avoid an unwanted pregnancy or STD. However, in today’s day and age, that information is not enough to truly practice “safe sex.”
The issue of consent to engage in sexual activity as a college student is a topic that is now being addressed in a different way. Society has been forced to redefine “date rape”, and there is now the category of “nonconsensual sex” which is a way to define a “rape” that was not forced because the victim was incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.” (Oliver, Kelly, Americana (1553-8931), 15538931, Fall2015, Vol. 14, Issue 2).
College students are encouraged to not just get consent, but to get “Affirmative Consent”. Affirmative consent is defined as: the voluntary, mutual, and knowing decision among all parties to engage in sexual activity (Halley, 2016).
College students have to ask the questions, if you are incapacitated, can you honestly consent? Does remaining silent and not saying no mean that you are saying yes? Does shrugging your shoulders and saying “ok, I guess” mean yes? Is desire equal to consent?
Affirmative Consent is not a policy only for college Students. High school students can just as easily find themselves in a situation that could be considered “date rape” or “nonconsensual sex”. Rather then the traditional “no means no”, teens and young adults are asked to adhere to the concept that “yes means yes” instead. In order to avoid problems youth are encouraged to engage in a discussion about sexual activity, more then just a simple yes or nod of the head.
To increase awareness about this new concept, We-Consent™ has developed a set of three apps that can be used on a smart phone to protect the parties about to engage in sexual activity. We-Consent™ makes a recording of verbal affirmative consent, the What-About-No™ app provides a clear record of the answer of NO, and the Changed-Mind™ App can helps teens or young adults tell their partner “not now”, gently.
At CTFT, we believe that education is key. Parents or educators who teach teens about safe sex should be encouraged to cover the topic of affirmative consent. At CTFT we can help parents learn how to talk to teens about this difficult topic.
If your teen or young adult has been a victim of “nonconsensual sex”, there is help available. At CTFT our Therapists are trained to assess for rape and/or trauma associated with sexual assault. Our staff specializes in a technique called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to help the victims heal. Contact us today so that we may help you or your teen get on the road to recovery.