Episode 142: "Up until what point during sex can I change my mind, and take away consent?"Support the show
On today’s episode of Ask Ava, we’re answering a question from local teens about changing their minds during sexual activity.
My name is Jessica Skultety, and I am an Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services at no charge for over 40 years.
Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, "Up until what point during sex can I change my mind and take away consent?”
And today we’re joined again by Safe+Sound Somerset college volunteer Ella Blank, who goes to the University of Maryland. Hi Ella, thanks for joining us!
Ella: Hi everyone! So, you can change your mind about participating in a sexual activity at ANY point. While your partner might be disappointed, you have every right to take back your permission. This could be for also, any reason. Maybe you’re uncomfortable, or you don’t feel like you want to move further, or you could just not in the mood. Sometimes people are being pressured or threatened to continue.
Jessica: Yeah, and it’s also important to remember that if you consented to one thing (like taking off your clothes), it does NOT mean that you have the green light to go forward in any other way, or that your partner has that green light. Um, you can give consent for one thing and then decide you do not want to do that, or that you want to something else, or you could even choose to stop. People are always allowed to change their minds and it should not be held against them!
E: Definitely. If your partner decides that they don’t want to continue with the sexual activity, then it’s important that you respect their choice and don’t guilt trip, manipulate or put them down. Also, convincing someone, or pressuring, or manipulating them into saying yes, does not mean that they are giving you consent. Consent is an ongoing discussion about boundaries and what each party is comfortable with. If there is something that you tried and don’t want to do again, you can discuss that with your partner.
J: Right! Even if you started something, but decided you don’t like it or are not in the mood, you can communicate that to your partner, and they should respect your decisions. Consent is all about communication! Withdrawing consent or taking it back can be intimidating and uncomfortable, but it can help to check in periodically with your partner and use phrases like, “Is this okay?” “Is this still ok?” You are allowed to stop in the middle of a sexual activity as well.
E: Yes. You should definitely not feel obligated to do anything that you are not enthusiastically choosing to do. You can say something like, “Let’s stop,” or, “I need a break.” Uh, you could also say, “I’m not sure. Can we wait a minute?”
This gives you a chance to really consider what you want to do. It sometimes seems like characters in TVs and movies, never stop sexual activity or never change their minds or unsure or be unsure about things. But in reality this isn’t really normal, or safe, because partners have to communicate all the time! Consent is ongoing and it never ends.
J: Yes, and keep in mind that your partner, any partner engaging in sexual activity have to be of age, which is different depending what state or country you are in. And if you’ve been pressured or forced into sexual activity of some kind, that is not okay, and it’s not your fault. There are services available to support you, like our helpline at 866-685-1122. Thank you so much again for being here today, Ella.
E: Of course, thank you for having me!
To speak with an expert about relationship or sexual violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.