The #WhatConsentMeansToMe Hashtag Shows The Importance Of Understanding Sexual Consent

Photographed by Lula Hyers
In the two weeks since the Harvey Weinstein allegations came to light, women and men have begun opening up about their own experiences with sexual harassment, assault, and rape. First, the #MeToo hashtag emerged and the sheer number of posts illustrated just how many lives have been impacted by sexual violence. Now, the social media conversation is shifting to the incredibly important topic of consent and #WhatConsentMeansToMe is trending on Twitter.
RAINN's definition of consent is "an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity." But what exactly constitutes "an agreement?"
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As the #WhatConsentMeansToMe tweets show, the issue is more complex than simply "no means no."
As these Twitter users point out, a person incapacitated by drugs or alcohol cannot give consent and the fact that he or she can't say "no" doesn't make sexual activity consensual. Furthermore, a person can withdraw consent during sexual activity and, if that request isn't respected, the sex becomes nonconsensual.
Furthermore, being in a relationship or marriage doesn't mean that a person is entitled to sex whenever they want it. Consenting to sex once, twice, or a hundred times doesn't mean that your "no" becomes invalid.
Statistics prove that this conversation is incredibly important. According to a poll conducted by The Washington Post, 18 percent of college students think someone has consented as long as they don't say "no". Twenty-two percent of the students in the same survey said that a person who "engages in foreplay such as kissing or touching" is consenting to further sexual activity.
Educating men and women of all ages is a critical step in preventing sexual assault — and it's also crucial when assault or rape cases go to trial. Last year a lawyer for New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose argued that he didn't understand the meaning of consent. In a civil trial, he was cleared of all counts.
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