Consent: Yes or Maybe

As I sat in one of Uganda’s most prestigious universities with my multi-cultural co-workers trying to raise awareness about women’s reproductive health, I had the most cringe-worthy moment of my life. As we answered questions about how condoms and religion don’t agree with each other, a guy in his mid-20s told us we should talk to the women exclusively. When we asked why, he said, it’s their problem and men don’t have to deal with it. Before we could start talking about the importance of sexual health to both the partners, he proceeded to ask us to tell women to say yes to sex without him to try hard. Appalled at the statement, we raised the question of a woman’s want to engage in sex and not the requirement. He said women enjoy it and therefore them saying no, doesn’t mean anything.

My co-worker and I, genuinely worried at this point, started talking to him about consent, the importance of saying no, and sexual assault. He continued by giving us examples of how he’s been in situations where the girl said no, and he continued to touch her anyway when we noted that these acts, by definition and law in most countries around the world are rape and sexual assault. The second we said rape, he started to deny it and said: “I could never rape a girl, cause she always likes it.” My co-worker and I, logically, were baffled.

Consent, the Basics

The following is the content of a video made to convey the meaning of consent to kids. Since consent is a debated topic and some people claim it’s a hoax, I figured using a simple tale made for kids, might decrease the ambiguity surrounding it.

This is your body

And you get to decide what you do with your body

No one else is entitled to tell you what to do with your body

Not your friends, strangers, or adults you know

No one else is allowed to tell you what to do with your body

Except you

That’s called bodily autonomy

And that’s what consent is all about.

How do people know if they have consent?

They ask

If a person doesn’t say yes, then they haven’t given their consent.

If a person says yes to bribes or threats, that is not consent.

When someone offers you a chocolate

And you say No

They shouldn’t force it down your throat

Consent is the same

If you do not want the chocolate. You shouldn’t have to eat it.

If you say you want the chocolate, and after one bite, refuse the rest.

It is consent withdrawal. And they cannot continue to feed you chocolate.


In March 2013, new laws were passed that criminalized stalking, voyeurism, groping and assault with intent to disrobe. Rape was redefined as sex without unequivocal consent. The 2013 reforms did not outlaw spousal rape. Only in cases of separation does marital rape come in to play.

“Rape laws in India continue with the patriarchal mindset of considering women to be the property of men post marriage with no autonomy or agency over their bodies. International organizations have deemed marital rape illegal and a violation of human rights. Yet, India fails to acknowledge marital rape as an offence let alone illegal. Among the 106 countries, 32 consider it as a special criminal offence, and the remaining 74 include it in the general rape provisions.

Even though many countries around the world have taken such strong and progressive steps, India is one of the 36 countries where it is still not a criminal offence and is untouched by the lawmakers of our country”, wrote Better India.

Maybe: When Consent Is Not Valid

In the situations described below, the law doesn’t recognize the consent given. This is because specific factors, such as fear, cancel out the consent.

Fear is the reason behind consent: Someone agrees to take part in a sexual activity because of fear of violence if she refuses.

Force, threats or fraud are used to gain consent: Someone agrees to participate in a sexual activity because of a threat or because someone used violence to force this agreement. This is also the case when someone agrees to sexual activities if a condom is used to prevent pregnancy and the partner tampers with the birth control so it will not work.

Consent is given under the influence of someone in a position of authority: For example, a person agrees to sexual activity with his employer because she threatens to fire him if he refuses.

The person giving consent is not in a state to give consent: Someone who is unconscious, too drunk or has been drugged, for example, by a date rape drug, cannot consciously agree to sexual activity. This is also the case for people suffering from mental disabilities that make them unable to consent, and for people who aren’t old enough to consent to sexual activities. Consent isn’t valid for any sexual acts that take place after someone becomes unconscious.

Dick Picks

Quite literally (and as wiki puts it), a photograph of a penis. When you google dick pics instead of links to porn sites or Tumblr blogs made for pictures of penises, you see links to people talking about unwanted and unsolicited dick pics. “How to guarantee a guy won’t send you a dick pic”. Tinder once realized an article titled, “how to stop unwanted dick pics.” When did we get from consensual personal pictures to sending random strangers pictures of our genitalia?

If they did not ask for it, they do not want to see it. As common sense as this might seem to be for some people, this is the message we have to share. We should remind our communities day in, and day if they do not have express consent, it’s better to refrain.

Legal Fling

A controversial new app hopes to clear up the issue of consent between sexual partners, by creating legally binding contracts. The software hopes to help protect against STDs and ‘revenge porn,’ as well as making clear what each person is comfortable in the bedroom.

LegalFling is a consent seeking app. As well as sending your request for consensual sex to your contact of choice, the app also lets you set your sexual preferences, including your list of do’s and don’ts. While it may be of use for one night stands, its creators believe it could help to protect many different kinds of sexual activity, including in long-term relationships.

In a statement on the firm’s website, a spokesman said, “Sex should be fun and safe, but nowadays a lot of things can go wrong”.

I did not include a description of this app to advocate for the app or sexual contracts. I do not advocate for a Black Mirror kind of world or a society where sex is a transaction. While if that’s what some people prefer, it is up to them. I added this as a means to show how important the need for consent is in today’s society and patriarchal society.

We have been indulging the idea of sex as a man’s activity for so long that we forget, women enjoy it too. It should be a consensual pleasurable activity rather than a service to men. And let’s not forget women can orgasm multiple time as opposed to men!

About the Author

Vidhatri Pattapu is a feminist and sociology undergraduate student. She wants to work towards making this world a more equal and safe space for everyone.

Sources: Consent for kids, Blue Seat Studios


Picture Source: Disjointed thinking