Abuse Awareness: Sexual Consent Within Marriage

There’s a lot of talk going around these past few years about consent and how important it is. Unfortunately, this discussion seems mostly targeted at people who seem to be dating or having sex with people they don’t know very well. But what about you? If you’re married, you may be wondering, is there such thing as sexual consent within marriage? Let’s take a deeper look at the answer.

What Is Consent?

Before we talk about marriage, it’s important that we’re all on the same page. What is consent?

Consent is:

Talking to your partner about what sexual acts they’re comfortable with and not comfortable with. Some people are comfortable using toys, performing or receiving oral, or doing anal. Others are not. Understanding what your partner is okay with trying out, what they know they like, and what they are not interested in doing at all is a key part of consent. Both partners should be enthusiastically on-board to consider the sex consenting.

Asking your partner how explicit they like their consent to be. For some people within a committed relationship or marriage sex is only comfortable when consent is explicit. Asking outright, “Are you interested in sex right now?” and receiving a solid “Yes” in response is explicit consent. However, some people may be okay with implied consent, where an eagerness to go along with the other’s provocations is their way of saying they’re happy with it. Every person has different boundaries and knowing your partner’s boundaries is important in getting their consent.

Paying attention to your partner’s needs. This doesn’t just mean providing good sex; it means noticing when your partner has grown tense or uncomfortable. If one partner is noticeably uncomfortable, tense, or lacking enjoyment, the other person should always attempt to open a dialogue. Asking your partner if they are okay, if they would like to stop, and if something is wrong are great ways to do so. This allows an uncomfortable partner to retract consent and stop doing something they are no longer comfortable with.

Why Does Consent Matter?

Many people perceive sex as an opt-out activity rather than an opt-in activity. We, as a society, need to start viewing consent as an opt-in activity. No one should ever be assumed to be consenting. This is the kind of action that leads to people going along with sex due to social pressure and fear.

Consent is important for many reasons. It allows partners to feel safe with each other, ensures both partners are happy and comfortable, and allows each their complete autonomy and agency.

Sexual Consent Within Marriage

Because consent is so important in making people feel safe, secure, and comfortable, sexual consent within marriage is even more important than outside of one. While consent is important everywhere, sexual consent within marriage is 150% necessary for a strong sexual bond, the assurance of safety, the feeling that both partners respect each other’s agency, and a feeling of overall satisfaction in your marital sex life.

The idea that sexual consent within marriage is unnecessary is something that can only be justified under the belief that a spouse is a property of some kind. This kind of objectification hasn’t been even remotely acceptable in decades. It only continues to get less and less acceptable as women gain respect and autonomy across the globe. Don’t let your marriage take away your right to respect, agency, and authority over your own body and actions.

If you feel like you’re not being given a choice within your marriage to say no, to be given the opportunity to say no, or to back out of the act once it’s started, you are not having consensual sex. Even if you are afraid to say no, you are not having consensual sex. Do you feel like your spouse is running the show and you are only there to do as you’re told? That is also not consensual sex.

If you’re being forced, coerced, or manipulated into nonconsensual sex, take a look at these resources for victims of sexual abuse. If you feel like your relationship could use some help with consent and you believe your partner is willing and happy to learn more, schedule an appointment with Toronto Sex Therapy.