Over the years working with people I have found that saying “No” can be a real challenge for many of us. To become aware of being able to say “no” is essential for a healthy life because it is the awareness of the “no” to give greater emphasis and conviction to our “yes”.
I understand that it may sound paradoxical but it is not. Let’s see why.
As social creatures we need to be accepted and loved; is essential. But sometimes we can be so focused on wanting to please the other person, to act in such a way that we neglect ourselves. We do this very often simply because we don’t want to hurt or disappoint the other. But, if we bypass ourselves, our will, for the benefit of the other we could even get the opposite effect or disappoint the other case because we are not up to the thing to which we have consented, while damaging ourselves Through an overcommitment. What a vicious circle!
When we aim to please the other through a “yes” (instead of feeling inside us a “no”) we are ignoring ourselves, our own needs. At this point, what is the most enduring relationship, the most important of our lives, the one with ourselves or with the other? Who and for whom do we really want to commit ourselves?
How many times have you consented to one thing only to not displease the person who asked you or to “not be rude”?
Let’s take as an example a herbal tea. When a person comes to see me in my studio I usually offer a cup of herbal tea. Some people politely refuse, but most agree. When then speaking of consensus I ask the person who consented, because he did so, not always the answer is “I consented, because I had desire to drink it.” I often replied “I agreed because I did not want to say no, I did not even think, but now that you ask me actually did not want, but I said yes for education.”
In This case we are talking about a simple herbal tea, but how would things change if we talked about sex?
Very little. Indeed. The communication of sexual consensus tends to create an even greater discomfort. This is due to the “stigma” that has been given by society to sexual intercourse, but also to the lack of skills in setting boundaries in romantic and sexual relationships.
So what is really consensus?
Consensus is the real ability to choose, it is a continuous process in making choices.
It’s based on your personal intimate feelings. To practice consensus you should be in connection with them. Be able to know and feel what you want and what not, have enough information to decide and know how to communicate it to your partner.
It is based on verbal communication and not. It is also not just about asking for a permit, but also about hearing the answer.
To be able to say “yes” to one thing and “no” to another, but also to be able to change their mind at any time.
Communicating these choices does not mean ignoring the feelings of the other. It means being able to affirm what you want, as well as the other has the same right on itself.
This is often confused with selfishness. In Reality, what the other person desires has the same importance as your wishes, but cannot be prevaricable.
On the other hand it’s about paying attention to how the other person feels. Ask, listen and respect the answer. No guesses can be made about what the other feels. The only way to know for sure is to ask and pay attention if you have been given an affirmative answer. If there is any doubt it means that we do not have consent.
The consensus must be clear. It is not just the absence of a NO, but it should be an enthusiastic one. If it is unclear, said reluctantly or forcibly, it is not consent.
Practicing consensus means communicating and it also requires that a lot of attention be paid to the imbalances of power. This is because the boundary between consensus and coercion becomes much less clear and net when there are power differences between the people involved.
It is therefore important for everyone to learn what consensus is since we are young, because knowing how to give and receive consensus is one of the most practical and immediate tools in preventing sexual violence and challenging the culture of rape.
Still until recently the absence of a no meant the consensus (let’s think about the “who is silent!). Now sexual consensus HAS TO go further. It is not simply a matter of lack of disagreement (who is silent!), but a voluntary agreement.
As mentioned above, it cannot be a lack of a NO or worse than a silence interpreted as a si, but of a convinced and enthusiastic.
This change in some epochal way allows a further step forward or to teach consensus in a “sex positive” perspective.
Stimulating young people to discover, decide and communicate what they want (positive pole) in a sexual relationship and not just what they do not want (negative pole).
Teaching consensus from the positive perspective of sex not only stimulates but makes it stronger in avoiding unwanted sexual experiences or worse coercion. You make informed decisions about your own body and the really desired experiences.
Sex education can promote a culture in which we learn to respect all forms of “no” but also and above all to enjoy all forms of “yes”. A revolution.