50 Shades of No: The Importance of Sexual Consent

“When you’re in here, you are completely mine… To do with as I see fit. Do you understand?” —Christian Grey, from E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey

Critics are rallying on the number of red flags on the book (and the movie based on it). The abusive relationship between the protagonists are raising not just ire and eyebrows, but campaigns and awareness against the lack of consent in sexual intercourse and romantic relationships.

We’re not going to do a critique of the book or movie here, but we are going to talk about some important things every woman should know about sexual consent. Scroll down and keep reading.

Fifty Shades Of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey from Universal Pictures

What is consent?

Sexual consent is an enthusiastic, preferably verbal, manifestation of “yes” to sexual relations of any sort. Sexual consent is not just the absence of denial, and that “yes” only counts if the person saying it has full control of his or her faculties and is of legal age to do so. Being in a relationship, no matter the length or legal status, does not remove the necessity for sexual consent, and neither does being in love.

People involved in romantic relationships may belittle the role that consent plays in their dynamics as a couple. Ladies, being in a relationship does not and should never equate to unwilling submission. Physical intimacy is many things at once. It means being comfortable in your own skin, with your skin touching his, with saying yes to the things you both want to do, but more importantly, it means being comfortable enough to say no, to trust that he’ll stop if you say stop. This trust is an essential aspect of being in a healthy sexual relationship.

What happens without consent?

Any sexual activity without consent is considered rape. It’s estimated that one in 10 women in the Philippines between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced sexual violence and/or abuse. A recent study revealed that nine cases of rape happen daily, and nine out of 10 rapes go unreported.

Our culture is experiencing an incredibly gradual, but radical shift of ideals in terms of gender roles and empowerment. People are becoming more critical in the reception of culture and information that used to be accepted as okay. The statistics and numbers of rape cases do not only present us with horrifying news, but an opportunity to correct the wrong and help victims and survivors.

Why is this important?

The novel Fifty Shades of Grey sold in excess of 40 million copies globally, and two copies were sold every second during its peak. It became a worldwide bestseller because the Internet made it accessible and because it featured themes that were, until this point, widely considered taboo in commercial fiction. It has a huge online following and a base of fans who profess their love for the two protagonists.

It can be dangerous when impressionable young women aspire to be with someone like Christian Grey, who seems to have everything—particularly looks and money—and whose emotional baggage may appeal to a false notion that love redeems and forgives all faults. But in truth, Christian Grey lacks one vital thing: the true consent of his partner.

We worry that romanticizing rape and blurring the lines of consent may lead women into bad situations, which is why we believe it’s so important to understand what is consent and what isn’t.

To make it clearer, it’s rape if:

  • You’re under the influence of drugs or narcotics
  • You’re a minor who is unable to legally consent to the act — or when your partner is
  • You say no; it doesn’t matter if he thinks you don’t mean it or you didn’t fight back
  • You are unwilling but are forced to participate in the act, whether it’s under threat or other forms of intimidation
  • Your partner is abusing his authority or has presented himself fraudulently
  • You changed your mind in the middle of a sexual activity, but your partner refused to stop

Consent is pivotal in any romantic and sexual relationship. Without it, sex will be unhealthy and painful. And everybody knows it shouldn’t be.

How to stay informed about this issue

You can learn more about rape via the following websites. We encourage you to read up on the issue as well as to speak to authorities and therapists who can help you if you have experienced anything that constitutes rape.

If you need immediate assistance, here are a few places to call:

  • Women’s Crisis Center Manila: (0928) 420-0859; (0999) 577-9631
  • DSWD Crisis Intervention Unit: (02) 734-8635; (02) 488-3199
  • PNP Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC): (02) 410-3213
  • NBI Violence Against Women and Children Desk (VAWCD): (02) 523-8231 to 38; (02) 525-6028

About The Author

Isabelle Sierra is a small lady working in a big city. She likes making references to popular culture, cutting her own hair and dreaming about alternate universes.

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One Response

  1. Darling

    Shelters and graveyards are full of women who met their own Christian Grey.

    Do not give this pro-abuse propaganda your money. Do not see it, even as a joke. Read about and examine why these stories are abusive, and talk about it.

    There’s a reason romance stories with abusive men are popular; this narrative of control as love is horrifyingly common. We need to change the narrative. Possessiveness, objectification, and disregard for someone’s right to make her own choices aren’t a sign of love, they’re a sign of abuse. Real love starts with respect.

    Do NOT see that movie this weekend. Talk to your friends about why you’re not going. And maybe donate to a women’s shelter or an advocacy group for abuse survivors.

    Reply

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