Consent has become an important word in today’s culture. It is usually referencing whether or not someone gave permission or made an agreement to do something. Whether or not someone gave consent has been especially important when people engage in any sexually related acts. There is a humorous video describing consent in terms of tea. It discusses things like if a person asked for tea once before and you gave them tea, but then the next time you offer them tea and they decide they do not want any tea, then you should not force them tea anyways. It is done using humor but it brings up an important concept. Consent is crucial in any situation especially as if the situation turns physical. Most people think about consent in the dating scene, but what does consent look like in a relationship?
The official nature of the term “relationship” does not mean someone has given up their right to consent. Even if certain actions were done together in the past, it does not mean they automatically happen again in the future. Consent serves as boundary and a protector for both the relationship and the people involved in the relationship. It helps create trust and allows people to feel their desires are respected in the relationship. It can prevent you from getting hurt or hurting someone else. It also helps you know exactly where you stand with someone and can make everything more comfortable. Vulnerability can grow and connection can become stronger in the context of a consensual relationship.
Consent can be one of those things you almost do not realize how important it actually is until it is violated. In today’s technological world, consent has taken on another life of its own. Technology has expanded people’s ability to connect and express themselves. For some couples, sending nude photographs or videos can be an enjoyable experience, a way to stay connected, and even a way to have a little fun. It is always important to make sure both parties agree to this beforehand. As the sender, did your partner give you permission to send the photos? As the receiver, what did your partner consent to as far as what you may do with the photos? For example, what happens after viewing the photos or if the couple breaks up? These are some important questions to answer before sending photos. People do not necessarily want unsolicited photos or want their photos shared with someone else. Answering these kinds of questions may seem unsexy at the time, but they protect both the relationship and the people within the relationship. Once consent is given and the terms of consent are understood, it can be more freeing and enjoyable.
Sending nude photos is just one aspect of a relationship people provide consent for. Consent is something that is given regularly. Every time a couple has sex or a person shares an embarrassing story about their partner is an example of when consent may be given. As the person receiving consent, you are then given the freedom to enjoy time with a partner you know wants the same things. As the person giving consent, you are able to experience trust and respect which is invaluable in a relationship. Consent can give couples the freedom to be vulnerable and express their true selves in the context of a safe and respectful relationship.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.