What Counts as Sexual Consent? Consent Communication within Heteropatriarchy: A Resource for Improving Sexual Communication and Education

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Clogg, Stephanie
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Consent is a nuanced conversation that is context-dependent and both a deeply personal and interpersonal process. When examining the context in which consent operates, one must acknowledge the underlying sociocultural structures that shape consent communication. Inherent in most contemporary definitions of consent is the concept of free choice and willingness, however many conceptualizations of consent ignore the gendered expectations and heteronormative power differentials that impede women's ability to freely consent. Therefore, broader social discourse must be considered when evaluating why it is problematic to assume women can "just say no" to unwanted sex. On this notion, sexual consent must be conceptualized as a gendered and unequal process that is operating within heteropatriarchal contexts. As the many definitions of consent in literature and legislation have evolved over time, it is essential to consider whether these conceptualizations accurately represent consent behaviours exhibited in real life scenarios, and how this subsequently impacts sexual assault identification. Despite numerous sexual assault prevention initiatives, the prevalence of sexual violence has not declined in several decades. Thus, implications of this research are invaluable on both an individual and systemic level. This paper aims to synthesize and critically examine extant sexual consent literature through the lens of feminist-informed perspectives. In doing so, this can address how internalized norms and gendered beliefs inform sexual behaviours. Recommendations to improve sexual education and sexual communication are discussed, along with evidence-based resources, in an effort to increase agency in sexual decision making.
sexual consent , sexual communication , sex education , gender norm , sexual script , sexual assault