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Boundaries and consent

Sexual intercourse is built on equality and good communication where the desires and needs of both parties are respected. It is therefore never OK to force or coerce someone into sex, whether we are in a relationship or not. Both parties should feel comfortable discussing their boundaries. If we belittle the needs of others, say they are foolish or react badly in some way, we are not treating them with respect.

Consent for sex and sexual activities is incredibly important and necessary for everyone to feel good. But what exactly is consent?

  •  Talking about what we want and listening to the other party: before, during, and after.
  • Asking for permission instead of assuming that we can do something.
  • Continuing to ask the person what they like and what they want to do, despite having slept together before. People don’t always want to do the same thing.
  • Consent can be given through words or body language. If the other party is silent, unsure, or says maybe, that is not consent.
  • Consent implies that the other party is conscious. People who are sleeping, very drunk, or unconscious cannot give consent.

You are not respecting boundaries if you:

  •  Pressure the other person to do things they don’t want to do, for example by threatening them or by making them feel guilty.
  • Make the other person feel as if they owe you sex or some kind of sexual behaviour, for example in return for a gift, favour, or being invited on a date.
  • Ignore boundaries that have been expressed in words or body language, for example, if the person resists or pushes you away.

It doesn’t matter if the person said something different earlier, they can always change their mind. According to Icelandic laws, rape is defined based on consent, which means that if sexual intercourse or other sexual activity are had with a person without consent it is rape. Consent is therefore key.

Porn can blur the boundaries between sex and sexual violence

Have you considered how pornography affects your expectations of sex? Or whether it affects how we look at our own bodies? Could it be that porn confuses our boundaries and affects the demands we make on our sexual partners?

Sexual harassment

If we cross someone’s boundaries in a sexual way that is sexual harassment. Sometimes it can be hard to define what constitutes sexual harassment but that’s determined by the feeling of the person being harassed. The behaviour may vary but its defining feature is that it is unwelcome and not consented to by the person who experiences the harassment. While we might find something OK or funny that doesn’t mean that others would. We should never behave sexually toward someone unless consent has been given.

Examples of sexual harassment are: sexual comments or jokes, sending sexual photos, sexting, whistling at someone, groping, incessant invitations on dates and so on.

Sexting and sexual photos

If we send something sexual to a person without their consent, it is sexual harassment. This includes pictures, videos, and written text. The same applies to sharing sexual content without consent, recording it without consent or coercing such material without consent. All of that is against the law.

 It is important to be on the same page when it comes to sending sexual pictures and messages and respect the boundaries of others. Do not pressure the other person or send material they don’t expect to receive. The other person must decide to participate in digital sexual communication. Although you may want to have such communication you must respect the right of others to make their own choices.

People who do harm are not monsters

Those who rape and commit violence are most often not “monsters” rather just regular people close to us. Experts on the subject of victims and perpetrators believe that rape culture and violence will not be eradicated unless we shed light on perpetrators and create a culture where they can and must take responsibility.

Resources

Heimilisfriður

Heimilisfriður offers therapy for people who have abused someone in a close relationship.

1717

The Red Cross Helpline 1717 is a dedicated phone and webchat for those who need someone to talk to in confidentiality. They are open 24 hours, and it's free to call.