Our Taylorian, Denise talks about the importance of consent and giving consent.
This article consists of topics revolving around rape and sexual violence. Please read at your own discretion.
Kris Wu, a Chinese pop star and former member of the K-pop band, EXO, sparked debates about sexual consent in China following his recent scandal for allegedly trying to deceive young women multiple times into having sexual relations with him — ie. arrested for suspicion of rape.
I’m sure we’re no stranger to many other similar cases with regards to sexual harassment and consent in Malaysia. I gave a lot of thoughts about this issue and hence, I’m here to talk about consent and to raise awareness about the consequences of non-consent.
According to Google, consent is defined as ‘permission for something to happen or agreement to do something’. Consent must be clearly and freely given through communication, either verbally or nonverbally. It’s important as it sets not just your personal boundaries but also your partner’s. Any sexual activity with the absence of consent is considered sexual assault or rape.
Though the ‘C’ in consent may be confusing to some, it can be easily cleared following the acronym ‘FRIES’, which stands for:
Freely given: Consent must be freely given and not forced
Reversible: Consent can be reversed and withdrawn
Informed: Someone must be informed in order for consent to be present
Enthusiasm: You should only do what you feel like doing
Specific: You should be specific in what you’re about to do and if your partner is okay with it
1. Informed Consent
You may have heard of consent forms in the healthcare or research industry, and this is actually a legal requirement to ensure the patient or research subject understands the procedure, risks, and costs of their participation.
When it comes to day-to-day life, it’s always better to ‘inform’ first no matter what you do. “Mum, I’m going out with my friends for dinner!”, “Guys, sorry I can’t make it to the meeting later cause I’m not feeling well.” Informing others beforehand would always be beneficial to not just you, but also the other party to avoid misunderstandings or unnecessary worry.
In this case, in order for a person to consent to sex, they must be informed before and agree to the act before anything should happen.
2. Expressed Consent
This type of consent is expressed clearly, either through written permission or a verbal agreement. For example, when you accept that cookie a certain website offered you, you’ve given them an expressed consent to store your data. Expressed consent is very important when it comes to sexual activity. Like when a male lead in a novel asks the character he likes “Can I kiss you?” and they reply with a “Yes” or a nod, they’re giving an expressed consent to receive the kiss.
Check this guide to see the many ways of asking for consent!
3. Implied Consent
Implied consent is consent that’s not explicitly granted, rather, it’s merely from a person’s action or depending on the circumstances of a situation, by a person’s silence and inaction. Sometimes, in the medical field, consent can be implied. For instance, when you offer your arm for the CoronaVac vaccine shot or venipuncture for blood testing. However, when it comes to sexual consent, it should and will NEVER be implied.
Sexual consent must be EXPLICIT and given voluntarily. If you didn’t get a clear answer, it’s best to assume it’s a no. A lot of times, sex offenders defend themselves by saying their victim did not verbally say no, or that the victim’s body reacted to their assaults. But there are many types of assaults due to the absence of consent, including marital rape, child grooming, and coerced sexual contact.
Yes, just because you’re married, it doesn’t mean that you’ve automatically gotten consent. You should always check on your partner before rushing things because we all can change our minds anytime and both you and your partner’s choices should be respected in the relationship.
(Read also: 5 Things You Need To Know About Sexual Consent)
According to an article on The Rakyat Post, the Malaysian Penal Code (Act 574), Section 375, states that the age of consent to have sex in Malaysia is 16 years old. But, the Sexual Offenses Against Children Act of 2017 states that any sexual conduct with a minor or child below the age of 18 is illegal and is deemed as a sexual offence. In 2020, it was found that 90% of sexual assaults in Selangor itself involve underaged girls. The police stated that most of the victims were approached through the Internet and eventually groomed to have sex with the offenders.
Following that, what is a coerced sexual contract? This is something we don’t often talk about. Any persistent persuasion, threats, guilt trips, or using drugs and alcohol that are intended for you to give in counts as coercion.
The reason why sexual coercion is one of the worst could mainly be because the offender can say “But they said yes!” More than often victims are manipulated until they don’t even realise they’ve been assaulted. But as mentioned before, sexual consent must be expressed voluntarily, you can also read this article written by a fellow Taylor’s University student about sexual harassment.
Some examples of sexual coercion are:
“You would do it for me if you love me”, “You should be grateful I’m with you, I could sleep with anyone anytime”, “You must be cheating on me seeing how you’re refusing to do it with me”.
There are more examples you can find in this article.
To top it off, many are reluctant to speak up due to fear of being stigmatised. In Malaysia, talks of sexual consent and harassment are typically a taboo topic and victim-blaming isn’t uncommon in the community.
I was baffled when a brave student exposed her school teacher’s inappropriate rape jokes, was slammed with a RM1mil lawsuit. She was also cyberbullied a lot when the #MakeSchoolASaferPlace hashtag started trending as people were siding with the teacher, “It's just a joke”. Perhaps this is the reason why a lot of sexual assault victims don’t speak up to those in power and authority. Sometimes, the victims are put at fault instead.
One of the YouTube videos I’ve watched and will never forget is about a former air stewardess who was raped in her apartment building and was blamed for what she wore and not praying enough. It was pure devastation for me, I can’t imagine how hard it is for her. It shows that Malaysia has a long way to go when it comes to consent and awareness about sexual harassment.
It’s important to know, sexual assault can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, and relationship, anywhere and anytime. If you need help, don’t hesitate to call the Telenita Helpline at 03-78770224 (Mondays to Fridays, 9:30AM-4:30PM) for free counselling and legal information. You can also read here for more info regarding what to do after a sexual assault.
Denise Chang is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Mass Communication (Honours) (Digital Media Production) at Taylor's University. She is also the Secretary for Taylor’s AKPK Club and Assistant Director of Events for Taylor’s Nature Club.
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