There is a wonderful video online that neatly explains what consent truly means using tea as a metaphor. For someone like me, it hits the mark completely and needs to be shared as wide as it possibly can. Because it is seen as such a simple concept of someone saying either yes or no people assume then that its application would be as simple.
I have the anecdotes to prove why it isn’t that easy.
A child, as I was when the abuse started, cannot consent. They have no understanding of what is happening to them and cannot tell the difference between what is affection and what is taking advantage. Their nature is to trust first and obey the authority figures in their lives.
As a child, I never said no to him because I never knew what he was doing was wrong. Telling me to lay in bed with him and let him touch me where he wanted. Treating me like a sexual object in ways I’m not ready to go into detail on to the entire world. But does the lack of saying no mean that I consented to how he used me?
The obvious answer is no. No rational person would blame a child for what an adult chooses to do to them. But I did. Actually until this very revelation which inspired this post I believed I held a large part of the blame because I never came out and told him no. Even he after the last big event, when I finally got the courage to confront him and expose what he had been doing to me my whole childhood, tried to tell me I could have stopped him.
But that isn’t how it works. And let me tell you why.
I fought him you know. Not about the actual abuse, not until the end at least. But every seemingly inane thing where I could contradict him I jumped on in a heartbeat.
I once boldly denied, after he asked me if the song I was playing was Aerosmith, that the band wasn’t them. There was no reason to fight it, it was an innocent question after all. Yet I made it escalate into an argument none the less. The song was Press Play, and it was Aerosmith. In spite of being so glaringly wrong, I had to take the offensive to claim just one bit of power over him.
There were many other instances like this one. In another, I was sitting by the window in the kitchen when he comes over and wants to see what I have written on my knee. I was wearing a pair of PJ bottoms that I had scribbled on when I was hanging out with friend, and he was insisting on reading what I wrote.
I flat out denied him, and he still came at me. I covered the spot with my hands and he still tried to pry them away. I held firm and didn’t budge. When he finally gave up he shoved me back hard and stormed out to smoke in his truck. I have always questioned why I said no in the first place. There wasn’t anything to hide in the scribble, and him seeing it would have caused zero harm to me or anything else. I considered it a fault of mine, that I was just being a rotten teen and I should have let it go.
Nothing he ever did to me caused me physical harm. Too often because I walked away with no scars or bruises I did not consider what he did to me abuse. For all the damage it caused me, the messes I now have to clean up in my life from learning to cope, it couldn’t have been anything but.
The truth is, upon reflection, it wasn’t my fault at all. I had asked for a reasonable boundary and told him no in no uncertain terms. But he persisted, and in so doing disrespected me, my privacy, and my autonomy. Because he could see no wrong in it, and it was something he wanted, my simple no wasn’t enough. Even my mother told me I should have let him look, and could not understand why I made such a fuss.
Few realize how powerful and important bodily autonomy is to a person. Having power enough to say no to anyone using my body but me and have that be acknowledged is a right we should all have. In theory, we do, but it isn’t one that is enforced readily or well respected.
Even children today are told by their parents to go up and hug a stranger to them. It doesn’t matter if it’s their parents best friend in the world, that child’s wishes need to be taken into consideration. For reference, when introduced to the man who would torment my childhood I had to be bodily removed from my bed posts and dragged into the kitchen kicking and screaming with big fat tears coming down my face.
No needs to be no, and it needs to be the final word. There shouldn’t be any qualifiers or exceptions to it. I could expand on why it needs to be so, especially in date rape cases, but I think this video can sum that up better than I could. Because I write only what I know and have experienced myself. Frankly, my advice if there is ever any question, err on the side of caution and just assume that the answer is no. Certainly no if the other person is incapable in any way of saying it.
Of course, I am writing this at the end of a long day, late at night in the dark, so I can only hope my point comes across. I only want to show that consent is more than yes or no, and why it needs to be absolutely respected. Let me know if I hit the mark or not if you would be so kind. I look forward to your comments and additional thoughts!