In the last week, after learning of the case of the group rape in Palermo, it became clear again that consent is a central aspect in all bonds and relationships. “If there is no consent, it is rape”, could be read on a poster pasted on the front of the house of one of the rapists. However, there are many other instances, linked to our daily lives, in which this concept is also put into play.
Every time, in a relationship, one of the parties advances without taking into account the will of the other person, their consent is violated, as if their will or their desire did not matter. This can be clearly seen in situations related to sexuality, but it can also be extended to other levels, such as economics or family, to name a few examples. In short: no one is exempt from violating it.
In recent years –especially since the march organized by the collective Ni una menos in 2015– this dimension has gained prominence, which seeks to break with the culture of “no means yes” and which is key when analyzing whether a relationship is healthy. However, the awareness that a woman’s will cannot be violated is quite recent and does not permeate all sectors equally.
“When we talk about consent, we are essentially talking about a question. When someone makes a proposal to another, he must mediate some type of question to find out if the other person is in line with what is being proposed. The response may or may not be verbal, but one has to pay attention to that answer. Sometimes, one assumes that he knows the other person and takes certain things for granted, but in reality he is not listening to what he wants, desires or needs, ”explains Aníbal Muzzín, a psychologist specializing in family violence.
The referents emphasize that this mutual agreement must be renewed before each new act. “Each practice is consented independently of each otherthat is to say, I can give a kiss in a consensual way, but that no longer opens the door for the other to advance by taking off my clothes or having sexual relations”, points out Nayla Procopio, coordinator of the National Network of Youth and Adolescents for Sexual Health and Reproductive, which depends on the Foundation for the Study and Research of Women (FEIM).
Procopio highlights some basic guidelines of consent: “Is renewed every time, that is to say, that he has said yes once or on one occasion, does not leave a yes installed forever. it is reversibleI can repent, not want to, or say yes and then no, whenever I want and that must be respected. It is explicit and conscious, this has to do with demolishing the myth that ‘he who is silent grants’, that a no is yes, or that women say no out of hysteria or to make themselves desired. It is also important to understand that there is no consent if the person is unconscious or under the influence of alcohol or other substances“, Explain.
The consent barrier is often breached in situations of power asymmetry. “Today there are still couples in which the expected behavior for the woman is to say that she yes to the one who has the power of the home, because she has the money and, if she leaves me, the family disarms. In contexts like this, it is a risk to ask for consent because there is the option that the other person will tell me no and it is preferable not to give way to no because: ‘You are mine and I feel like it. If you don’t feel like it, look for them anywhere’. That is the prevailing logic”, adds Muzzín, who coordinates the Network of Work and Study Teams in Masculinities (Retem).
In this sense, Procopio emphasizes that, when there is an asymmetry of power, consent is not possible. “For example, when there are sexual relations between girls under the age of 13 and boys several years older than them, or when there is an asymmetry of power,” she lists.
The revaluation of this concept comes to question deeply rooted behaviors in our culture. “We grew up with the idea that he is not yes. and from what if he says no, insist. We men were taught that our desire goes above that of all the identities on the planet. Why? Because there is the mandate, the pressure to be successful. We have to be successful, we have to get the woman we want and we have to do whatever it takes to achieve it. And it is not like that”, expressed Andrés Arbit, co-founder of the Privilegiados group in dialogue with LA NACION, referring to how, many times, these attitudes respond to behaviors learned during upbringing.
The Ni una menos march, as well as the viralization of certain complaints against sexist violence that promoted, on a global level, campaigns such as Mee too, Cuéntalo and, right here, Look how we wear ourselves, promoted greater awareness in this regard. With their sights set on lowering the rate of femicides, organizations and specialists examine certain practices as naturalized as harmfulwhich promote different types of violence.
“There is a socialization of women to be available or at the disposal of the will of men, even if that does not coincide with their will and that, in some way, leads more to yield than to consent. It does not necessarily mean that the will or that the desire is reciprocal, but rather that that of men, by imposition, weighs more”, explains Luciano Fabbri, doctor in Social Sciences and secretary of Education and Training for Equality of the Ministry of Equality, Gender and Diversity of Santa Fe.
In parallel, men are socialized believing that they can dispose of women. “All this implies a great challenge. It is important for us men to be able to detect, in principle, our own nuances in terms of bodily sensations and emotions that we often have denied. That deficit in our own registry also impacts the non-registration of the emotions and sensations of the people with whom we bond”, adds Fabbri, a member of the Institute of Masculinities and Social Change.
A few months ago, the Spotlight Initiative – a global alliance between the European Union and the United Nations for the end of gender violence – together with the Argentine Advertising Council launched the “Stop the ball” campaign, which promotes free, respectful and diverse masculinities . In a soccer key, some of the behaviors supposedly enabled in hegemonic masculinity are questioned, but which are harmful even between friends, couples or children.
“Let’s Stop the Ball seeks to question men so that they are encouraged to question machismo, disarm the mandates of violent masculinityunequal relationships and codes of complicity that are almost always at the root of violence against girls, women and LGBTI+”, explains Roberto Valent, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Argentina.
In this sense, for Procopius, speaking of consent implies, precisely, distorting the violence. Understand that the case of Palermo is one of the most aberrant examples in which the body and the will of a woman are subjugated. But that there are many previous instances that are worth detecting and dismantling. “We still have in the social imaginary an idea of violence closely linked to the physical, to someone alien to you, shouting and insulting as a signal. But although these characteristics are clearly part of the violence, there are also other more subtle manifestations, but which have the same violent and overwhelming charge”, she maintains.
Procopio refers to other situations that can occur within the framework of a Relationship. There, the panorama is broad: from the pressure and insistence to have sex despite having said no, going through take off the condom in the middle of a sexual relationship without the consent of the other person, or the emotional manipulation after having said “no” to carrying out a certain act; or, already entering other fields, the Workplace Harassmentwhich are shared nude images or sexual videos without express agreementor also the street harassment. And the list goes on.
“There is a lot of talk about deconstruction but that is a process. And not all men are going through it -concludes Muzzín-. It is enough to look at the profile of the rapists: young people and supposedly socialized in a context of strong awareness about these issues, to understand that much remains to be retraced until everyone understands that “no is no”.
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“No Is No”: What Other Ways Consent Is Violated in a Relationship