Consent with Caitlin: Commitment needs consent too

Consent applies to all relationships. Graphic courtesy of @theabcsofnonconsent on Instagram.

CAITLIN SEGRAVES | STAFF REPORTER | csegrave@butler.edu

Content warning: References to sexual violence and sexual acts are included in this article. 

How long have you been with your partner? In a long-term relationship it can feel like years — or maybe even decades. Maybe you can finish each other’s sentences or it seems like you can read their mind. But can you assume that you know what they want? Jules Arthur-Grable, Butler’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention specialist, has the perfect response to that question. 

“You know what they say when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me,” Arthur-Grable said, using a great play on words to drive the point home. 

It would be weird to assume what your partner wants to eat for dinner, or what they want to drink. So, you always ask to make sure, right? Maybe you have a short hand for that, asking them if they want their usual from y’all’s favorite restaurant. The thing is, you’re still asking for their consent when you do that. And it still applies in the bedroom. 

“You can’t just assume consent is there,” Arthur-Grables said. “So even if you’ve been in a relationship with somebody for a really long time you have to earn the right to use the shorthand and have to have that conversation… You have to figure out what is and is not okay. Before you can just go with it, [ask] ‘you wanna?’”

Maybe you don’t think consent is sexy. You don’t want to awkwardly ask “does this feel good?” everytime you participate in sexual activities; you don’t think you can play it off well. Then make consent sexy and incorporate consent into dirty talk. You can check in with your partner and still make it hot! It’s never too late to incorporate consent, no matter how long you’ve been with your partner — especially if you haven’t explicitly incorporated consent in the past.

During my chat with Arthur-Grable, she gave explicit examples for those who maybe are not sure where to start with making consent sexy. 

“‘You like that?’ Arthur-Grable said. “‘You like it when I touch you here? What do you want me to do? What do you want me to do to you?’”

She gives these easy quotes because it is that simple — and fun — to incorporate consent into sex!

Remember, the person initiating the sexual activity should be the one asking for consent. However, if you are the person being asked for consent, you should feel okay saying no.

“We need to be comfortable in what our boundaries are and how we’re feeling and be okay with that,” Arthur-Grables said. “And our partner needs to be able to respect that… I don’t want [them] to feel bad or think that I don’t love [them]. But it’s, it’s not [them]. It’s me. And so we need to practice being able to kind of assert our boundaries and assert what we are and are not okay with it at any given point.” 

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but if you don’t want to have sex, that’s okay. Your partner is not entitled to your body, nor should you feel guilty for not engaging in any sort of sexual activity with them. And if your long-term partner is not asking you for consent, it is sexual assault. 

If you don’t feel empowered or safe enough in your relationship to say no to sexual activities, you may want to reevaluate the relationship you’re in. Consent is non-negotiable. Of course, for longer relationships, it may not look like consent discussed in the past. You may already know their boundaries and what they like. You can create a shorthand — a flirtatious “You wanna?” gets the point across while still asking for consent to initiate some sexy time. My favorite quote from my chat with Aurthur-Grable was very important, yet simple.

“Consent might look a little bit different, but it still needs to be there,” Arthur-Grables said. 

Every relationship is different, and consent may look a little different for every couple. However, it always needs to be present in order for your relationship to thrive and for your partner — and yourself — to feel good. 

Consent will lead to better communication, better communication leads to better sex. It’s a win-win situation for everybody in my book.

As always, please feel free to reach out to the SARP office if you want to talk more deeply about consent in long term relationships — or for literally anything else!

If you have any questions or topics you want me to write about, email me! We can keep it confidential.

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