Many people now agree that sexual assault is a serious issue, but one thing we can't seem to agree on is what constitutes consent: Is it "no means no" or "yes means yes"? Can someone be too drunk to give consent? Can someone be too drunk to recognize consent? Should someone go to jail because one party can't remember giving consent?
It doesn't have to be this confusing. In a brilliant Medium post titled Consent, Explained, a self-proclaimed "square, married, living in the suburbs" woman provides a much-needed crash course. What makes her an expert? Well, when she isn't being "square," she runs sex parties out of her home, so she is very familiar with the concept—since every single one of her sex-guests has to give abundant consent.
In her post, she explains that our society has been looking at consent all wrong:
Everyone is asking the wrong question: 'If the woman doesn’t remember that evening, how do we know whether or not she consented to sex?' We’ll never know the answer to that question, but the answer to that question doesn’t actually matter. What matters is that she lost the ability to revoke consent. Even if she’d previously granted consent, if she lost the ability to revoke that consent, from that moment on, there was no consent.
In other words—consent isn't just about saying yes, it's also about having the agency to say no. As she explains in one spot-on sentence:
Consent is always conditional on participants’ ability to revoke their consent.
Yes, just like an Oreo needs both the cookie and the cream to be an Oreo, consent needs both the yes and the ability to say no to be consent.
This is the part some people have been ignoring—because even if consent is give at one point, or the so-called "appearance" of consent is given through dancing, kissing, hugging, or whatever, the moment the ability to say no disappears (you know, by blacking out or becoming unconscious), so does consent. A lesson some lawmakers still need to learn.
To make things even clearer, the writer includes this handy graphic to illustrate the concept:
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.