Consent: A Relationship Minefield

By Giulia Boggio

Jump back into the past: I’m nineteen, I am with a guy and I really like him. Sex is decent, a solid B-, but I am still in the learning process of how my body works and I think something must be wrong if I don’t come very often, especially when penetration is involved. In general, I feel like I want it less than he does. Sometimes I fake it. Now he will expect me to come every time, and he won’t stop until I do. Guys are stubborn and take our pleasure  r e a l l y  personally. Oh no, it’s not because they want to make us happy, god forbid, it’s because of their ego.

The worst comes when I say I’m not really into it, or I don’t want to. He pushes for it and insist, until I give up and say OK. After years of talking to men, and dating them, I still struggle to understand how come they could possibly enjoy intercourse after having to beg &/or force you into it.

Apparently, it’s impossible for him to believe that I don’t want to have sex, he says that I am just playing and that “I will like it eventually”. I discover how some men can’t really take a no for an answer, no matter how much they say they care about you, there’s something that they can’t let you hurt, and that’s their ego. So big, so fragile.

This is how I learnt that consent, for most girls in their teens and twenties: it’s a blurry concept, and not entirely in our hands. The sense of entitlement from guys is so pressuring, that they seem to think consent is a universal agreement – desire is mandatory. Therefore, if I don’t want to have sex with you, I am wrong, you are gonna play the victim and blame me, until you’ll put me in the position of never expressing my feelings again and letting you do. And mostly, if I enjoy sex once, I have to always want to have sex. Consent, for most girls, is something you agree to once, and then it’s valid forever.

We know that if we say no, we have at least to justify why, bring solid evidence, have reasonable excuses. It’s a weird feeling, having to excuse yourself for something so natural as desire, it feels wrong. Our desire is scrutinised, we have to prove that what we’re saying is genuine, that it has nothing to do with how much we love/like them, that there’s nothing wrong. I found myself explaining basic concepts to so many men it’s exhausting. I realised there’s something broken in the concept of relationships we’re given: the concepts of possession, entitlement, the normalisation of abuse and emotional blackmailing, the sense of duty. Love is not a key for all the locks, but it’s often used as a pass to force partners into things they’re not completely into. I see a lot of women broken by this idea of relationship and it’s heartbreaking.

What can we do to help this? Firstly, it’s important to fight for sex-ed in schools, to have programs and to have working ones. We don’t have to stop at the basic How To Not Getting Pregnant or How To Slip A Banana Into A Condom. We need to teach boys and girls consent, respect, boundaries within and outside relationships. There has been a program in Nairobi teaching “consent classes” to kids: the program led, in just few years, to “an average 51% decrease of rape, and the percentage of boys who intervened in a situation of harassment increased from 26% to 74%.” The numbers speak, and underline another important point: speaking out. We need intervene when we see something bad happening, we have to use out voice and our actions to stop it when we can. And I’m not even thinking about a superhero-me in a cape spanking abusive boyfriends (even though…), but just telling douche bags that they’re being douche bags would be a good start. After the #metoo campaign it’s pretty clear that we all know someone who have been harassed, therefore we must know someone who, at different levels, harassed. It’s vital to state clearly that we don’t want to be their accomplices anymore.

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About the Author

Giulia Boggio is a graphic designer and photographer from Italy. Her interests move from art to gender politics. She worked as a freelance writer for different magazines and is passionate about poetry.

 

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Intersectional Feminist digital magazine

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