We Need To Talk About Consent

"Do you have a boyfriend?"
"No, I-"
"-then what’s the problem?"
Four lines of dialogue, barely more than twenty syllables. Small; insignificant. Tiny letters spat out of mouths and jumping off tongue-tips, free-falling and erased in a few seconds.
It doesn’t matter if they’re fiction, or if I’ve already seen the phrases scattered in a biography. It doesn’t matter if I’ve heard the words called out under the gentle heat of stage lights, or listened as they were mumbled by voices sticky with tequila on the edges of a nightclub.
It doesn’t matter if they’re real or not. If they were overheard or first-hand; lies or verbatim; my imagination or someone else’s memory.
It doesn’t matter if they’re my memory.
Because the moment "Stop-" was uttered, everything should have.
The cars should have halted, the lights are red and it’s illegal now, the race should have ended, I’m out of breath and I can’t keep on running, the lights should have turned back on, it’s dark and I’m scared and I can’t see anything.
Everything should have stopped.
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
The reason. It wasn’t enough to just refuse, that wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair to reject you with your body and your mouth and your hands, the other girls don’t reject me, it wasn’t fair, you’re making a mistake, it wasn’t fair, go on, it’ll be OK.
"No, I-"
-don’t have a boyfriend, I am single, I am free. I wanted to roll back to the minutes when we first locked eyes and you approached me. I wanted to find the words to say no, I’m fine thank you when you bought me my first drink. I wanted to go back and remember myself in the moment when I forgot who I was and let you hold my body in your hands for a moment because it made me feel wanted.
"-then what’s the problem?"
Single, free, intoxicated. Green lights, green lights, green lights.
"-I said no."
Life is a series of choices. The moment our eyes open we are choosing things; how many times to snooze the alarm; whether or not to skip breakfast; if we really need to check Instagram instead of showering; whether we say yes or no.
Sometimes, our choices are ignored. Like asking for a single-shot and getting a double; like asking for just an inch at the hairdressers and losing three; like asking someone to stop kissing your mouth and for it to continue.
"-then what’s the problem?"
There doesn’t need to be a problem. You don’t need an excuse. You don’t need a 30-mark essay to support your answer.
You are free to just say no.
Our experiences don’t define us, and we are not labelled by the words other people use. We are just people. People who can change their mind; who can walk into a shop and forget what they’re looking for; who can drive down the road and want to turn back; who can kiss someone once and never again.
Consent is as simple as saying yes or no.
It doesn’t matter if you are single, because that doesn’t mean yes. It doesn’t matter if you accept a drink, because that doesn’t mean yes. It doesn’t matter if you smile at someone, because that doesn’t mean yes.
What matters is your choice. Your voice. Your consent.
Your yes or no.
Lucy Farrington-Smith, originally written for HuffPost Women UK
Image credit Matheus Ferrero @ Unsplash
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