[FEATURE] All You Gotta Do is Say No – The Power of Consent in the Fight for the Rights to Our Bodies
By Paulina O’Kieffe | @paulina_okieffe
“This poem is for the pretty girls
With pretty complexes which are pretty complex pulled into mix up
Pretty fast and before they knew it became known as being pretty and fast
A poem for all the girls who are prejudged with assumptions because of their ass by assholes who pretend they didn’t just pre cum at the sight of her but can’t even ejaculate a pretty decent greeting besides pssssssstttttt Really though? Like whatever happened to good evening?” – The Tribute
Starting in high school, as early as grade 9 from what I recall, the above-mentioned pretty girl was I. These lines perfectly describe my downward descent in what was to be a very rocky ride along relationship road (thank God I drove 4x4s and always wore my seat belt!) Much of the “mix up” I was constantly pulled into had to do with my relationships (both sexual and those that were not but were perceived to be sexual) with men; boys really when I think of them now. And when I reflect back to this time in my life, a time when my self-esteem was taking a nasty nosedive and I was starting to go through real depressive episodes (although back then I didn’t know I had depression) I realized that the one thing I had absolutely no idea about was consent.
When I say I had no idea about it, I really mean I had no idea about the many layers and forms consent in regards to my body came in. The only obvious form of consent that I knew of was if I said no to sex when asked than that should be respected (otherwise he was about to catch a case). But I didn’t realize how much power I had in practicing consent. I was a girl who wanted to be liked, (needed to be liked really), by the opposite sex. And so from as early as grade 9 I learned to sacrifice my power of consent in exchange for what I thought was love from boys.
For me letting go of consent didn’t just happen the first time I had sex, even though I didn’t really want to and knew I wasn’t ready. It started way before that. I let go of consent when boys who were only interested in my body would feel on my legs in the chapel at school (Catholic schools and kilts are a bad combo). I let go of consent when boys demanded my number and I gave it freely, even when I didn’t want to, for fear of being labeled a bitch or undesirable. I let go of consent even in the way I allowed boys to speak to me and speak about me.
As women, we lose consent to our bodies constantly. The ability to control how we are perceived, looked at, admired, talked to and approached is very limited sometimes. And there are examples of times where exercising our right to consent is dangerous, even deadly as was the case of Mary Spears from Detroit, who was shot and killed because she rejected a mans advances. But I write this article to encourage, particularly the young girls and the girls who struggle to see their true worth, to take back the power over our bodies. Here are few ways we can do so.
1. Say No…If you don’t want to be touched
Your body is your property, no one else’s. No one has the right to touch you in any way you deem as an invasion of your personal space. This includes even the little things like when a guy grabs your hand in the party, or someone wants to touch your hair because your curls are just so damn “exotic.” (As someone with curls this is a personal pet peeve).
2. Say No…at any point during sexual intimacy
You can say no at any point you don’t feel comfortable. This means before sex (including foreplay) and anytime during sex. Even if he slid it in just once and in your head your just like oh hell nah…he needs to respect that decision because a case of blue balls never outweighs a case of rape.
3. Say No…to any advances that make you feel uncomfortable
I had so much trouble with this as a younger woman, so I empathize with those who still do. You do not, I repeat, you do not, have to give anyone your phone number, Facebook profile, Twitter handle, Instagram account, or any other piece of personal information just because they ask. If they keep on pressuring you once you’ve made it clear that you are not interested, just know that kind of persistence is not cute nor is it romantic; its just controlling, scary and a red flag should pop up immediately. I know how it is as a young girl looking for love, but as they say there are plenty of fish in the sea, so beware of these sharks pressin’ you for your information.
This one also includes street harassment. You have a right to ignore any unwanted advances that make you feel uncomfortable when you are on road. Everything from “Good Morning” to one of my personal favorites… pssssssst! (insert kiss teet here)
Consent is just another word for permission. I want you to think about the things you would and would not permit in regards to the way in which people interact with you and your body and really try to start implementing that in your every day life. Saying no, especially when you have low self-esteem, is really hard. But practice makes perfect so take every opportunity to assert the power of consent when possible.
Of all the people we Ride or Die for on a regular, we need to put ourselves on the top of that list. So if you’re to down to start taking off earrings and getting ready to Vaseline up when you see some lame getting in your homegirls personal space, be ready to exercise that same fighting spirit when it comes to yourself and the way others interact with you and your body. Just remember, all you gotta do is say no.
Paulina O’Kieffe | Core Writer
2 Responses to “[FEATURE] All You Gotta Do is Say No – The Power of Consent in the Fight for the Rights to Our Bodies”
I’m that you realized your value.
Thank you. Hope this article can help other girls do the same sooner rather than later.