Consent in Intimate Relationships – Sexting edition

Clear Communication

Consent is communication. Communication and comprehension are interlinked. Communicating effectively and clearly is the key to setting up healthy boundaries in every form of interaction. It is essential to “speak” in order to establish your boundaries and limitations. 

Consent is a cup of tea. It is not about how much you agree to share of yourself, but, of what is ‘not’ included. Consent covers a broad scope of situations. We must not only limit it to relationships. Today, we’ll focus on consent in intimate relationships. 

I belong to a generation which grew up as technology penetrated deep into our everyday lives. Consent in online spaces can get tricky. Especially for a generation that brags of being constantly on the ‘go’ and connected. There is a sort of an alienation that comes in foray. Alienation of judging the inherent meaning of the texts we send each other. There can be gross misinterpretation in comprehending messages. Which is why it is essential to communicate boundaries. The onus of consent lies on the individuals/ all partners in an intimate relationship. 

India’s Changing Landscape

Ever since 2018 – ‘Right to Privacy’ became a fundamental right for Indian citizens and the scope of the word “privacy” increased. What happens when one is indulging in an explicitly intimate conversion in an online space – more popularly termed as “sexting” by the millennial generation. 

Consent is (a few examples and not limited to) :

  • Enthusiastic
  • A clear yes
  • Freely given
  • Active and not assumed

What is not ‘consent’ :

  • Pressurizing an individual
  • An individual who is not in state of sobriety, i.e – they are drunk
  • An individual is underage
  • One individual is in a position of authority over the other/s

Always remember, consent is not a one-time ‘contract’, but is ongoing during the entire length of any relationship, whether personal or professional.

Consent in Cyber Space: Sexting

To make the context more specific – this section will deal with the consent in cyber spaces while sexting. 

To begin with, consent means agreeing to an action based on complete knowledge of what that action involves. Including full disclosure of intentions. There is always scope of saying ‘no’ if one is not comfortable with any act, at any point of time.

In India we lack sex-education at homes. In school’s curriculum it’s missing and we consider it a taboo topic. Parents seldom have the ‘talk’ with their children. Forgetting that, they will one day eventually “discover” this knowledge. In that case, there will be a lack of control over the nature of information – correct or incorrect – that their children might consume and from what sources. 

There is no glorification in abstinence or shaming, or talks of high ‘moral’ obligations. The key lies in being well-informed

Consent is King

ASK for consent before sending any sexually explicit message. Communicate well in advance with the party/ies involved about ‘what’ the nature of that particular interaction would be like. Would it involve photos, and or videos? What body parts will be exposed, and whether or not the parties involved are consenting to it? 

Clearly communicate the medium of sending/receiving texts. In 2021, with a strong focus on end to end encryption and privacy there are alot of apps in the offering. A few that boast of being self-destructive in nature are – Dust, Confine, Snapchat and also the latest of Instagram’s “Vanish mode” in DMs. Choice of medium also depends on ‘consent’. Research well, folks!

Although nothing is too safe, but in matters of intimacy and healthy boundaries – intentions need to be set aside and abided by. Like they say #ConsentIsSexy. 

Language and Affirmations

Language also plays an important role, it shouldn’t be derogatory. Again, ask your partner. Does this sound like too much? Well, that is how it should be – detailed and well-informed. One can choose to hide their faces, turning off their location and cloud settings. 

Ensure you trust the person. Consent is king! Do not forward or save/screenshot with the permission of your partner to whom the photo belongs. Just because it is being sent to ‘you’ doesn’t give you the right to ‘own’ it. 

Sayfty’s Campaign: ConsentMatters

“No is a complete sentence” in itself. Most often, we associate it with ‘consent’. Understanding and respecting boundaries is as important as drawing them. Clearly communicating is one aspect of consent. Do you think consent is limited only to sexual relationships? Share with us your understanding of  – consent.

Based on your understanding of consent, complete the prompt 
“CONSENT IS ______”.

It could vary from your personal experiences, some anecdotes, or your opinions.

  1. Take a selfie to write your responses 
  2. Or,  you can use the template on Sayfty’s Instagram account – 
  3. Post it on your social media page, tag @sayfty using the hashtags – #SayftyEducates #ConsentMatters
  4. We will choose select entries to feature on Sayfty’s Instagram page’s stories and/or the website.

Join the discussion! Click on this link

About The Author

Ayushi Mehta (She/Her) is a masters student of Gender Studies at Ambedkar University, Delhi. She is an intersectional feminist and is passionate about women’s rights, gender, & policy related research. A trained Bharatanatyam dancer, who swears by Faiz’s couplets. Here is another blog by Ayushi that you might enjoy. Follow her on Twitter

Image Source: Intimina