The Power of No

No is a two letter word, but it is one that has a mighty impact. No means stop. No means I don’t want to. But, most importantly, no means no.

One of the take home messages of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)  is exactly that. According to a PDF on their website entitled Everyday Consent, it reminds you that consent isn’t just for sex, but rather “consent is about always choosing to respect personal and emotional boundaries.” It goes onto say that “by practicing consent in everyday situations, you show that you value the choices of others.”

The PDF points out several ways that you can practice consent, which can consist of more than you think.

For example, that the PDF points out is that you can practice consent by asking them if it’s okay to touch them. This is more than sexually naturally. This can be as simple as asking if it’s okay to give them a hug or put your arm around you. The PDF says that it’s important to “ask sincerely so others understand it’s okay to say no.”

According to the PDF, this is especially important if the person is a sexual assault victim, because “any unexpected touch can be scary and traumatic.” However, it also points out that others may want their personal space.

Furthermore, you can even ask that person permission when it comes to sharing photos and posting. Just a simple is it okay if I post this? can go a long way. Social media is a crucial part of 21st century life. Some people might not want their personal life (such as who they are dating) broadcasted over the Internet waves.

However, handling that no can be challenging. The PDF says that it’s okay to feel disappointed when someone says no, but it’s important to accept the answer and move on. Adding onto that, 99 percent of the time, it doesn’t have to do with you. People are different — and therefore, they are comfortable with different things.

At the end of the day, sexual assault boils down to one thing — that no. And, hearing that from your partner can certainly be a hard pill to swallow. But, hearing the no and being in a relationship where your partner can feel comfortable enough to say it makes all of the difference.

With that being said, whenever you’re ready to have sex, there’s one final message I want to say — have consensual sex. This, according to the PDF, it must be “freely given,” and that person “must understand what they are agreeing to, and they can change their mind at any time.”

Furthermore, there’s two additional points I want to make clear from the PDF — consent needs to be clear and enthusiastic, and that the “absence of “no” or silence does not mean “yes,”” and that “past consent does not mean current or future consent.” 

Therefore, you should listen for that no — whether it may be verbal or body language. It might be louder than you think.

7 thoughts on “The Power of No

  1. You made a crucial point here: “sometimes a ‘no’ comes in the form of silence” and that should be respected. Not only because people are different but also because they come from different backgrounds. If we take into consideration cultural differences ( high context X low context culture), it may makes things even harder and open the door to a lot of misunderstanding. Good points!

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    1. I definitely agree with you. I think the more we iterate that, the more aware that a consensual ‘yes’ consists of the word ‘yes.’ Otherwise, I believe that any other communication is a flat out no. More people need that awareness — especially today.

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  2. Wow! Thanks Natalie. Many of us assume that consent is one of those things that don’t matter, but it does matter a whole lot. It’s rather sad that many of us get to realise this, when it’s a little too late.

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