What Does Nonconsent Really Mean

Friday, October 7, 2022


Sometimes I get the feeling that even with a lot of discussion on non-consent appearing in the media and social media, there are those who do not truly understand the concept in its entirety. Some questions that arise from this usually concern when "no" can actually mean "yes." This may sound absurd but a lot of people, regardless of gender, break the rule in many ways that can accumulate over time without realizing what they are doing is wrong. 

    The concept of how we understand and approach the word "no" begins from childhood. As a child or even as a parent, you may realize that the word "no" is thrown around several times a day. There is nothing wrong in this but there may be some habits in the parents that obscure the true meaning and purpose of this word. 

    The important thing that we don't readily consider is that when girls are told that their choice is unimportant and obeying others is the rule, it affects all areas of their lives. How can a girl grow up to be a mentally strong woman who is unafraid to voice her opinion when as a girl she was trained to behave in the opposite manner? I was taught that I needed to obey my elders no matter how uncomfortable I felt. My opinion was dismissed because a child cannot know better than an adult. As a child, I asked a lot of questions and voiced too many opinions. This was not taken kindly by my parents who were brought up in a different manner. Children were to be seen and not heard. 

    It became difficult to defend myself in volatile situations because I doubted my instincts. I learned that when I agreed to do as I was told, everyone around me was happier. This was the level I needed to obtain to be successful in life. Despite my gut feeling telling me otherwise, and negative reinforcement, this is who I became, a people pleaser. 

    I did not know how to set any boundaries for my own safety. I went along with the crowd and did what was necessary to keep people around me happy at my own detriment. Whether it was friends, families or bullies, the line of right and wrong blurred between the confusion of pleasing those around me and doing what was right for me. I created enemies, hurt those I loved, and most importantly, lost myself. Despite the pain, I did not realize until adulthood, it was this specific thing that was causing my mental decline. This behaviour also became the reason I was easily manipulated. I became desperate for everyone's approval. 

    In order to survive within this deceit, lying became second nature. In order to make sure the other person did not become upset with me, lying was the easiest way to protect the fragile bonds I held on to. My feelings or thoughts did not matter after all. Eventually, this harmful behavior bled into relationships I was not ready for. I feared confrontation and having to deal with the upset that followed. This meant I agreed to do things I did not want to. Each time, I was in these situations, I put myself down. I was ridden with the guilt of my mistakes which destroyed all self-respect I was grasping desperately to. Balancing all this was exhausting. 

    I ended up burning many bridges before I learned what was happening. By this point, I became detached from the abuse I was accepting despite my inner self screaming for it to stop. But I did not know how to stop and walk away. I knew how to run away once I was in too deep, but escape wasn't always an option. I became entangled in the webs around me until there was nowhere left to run. Others used that to blackmail me into continuing or feeding the monster my self-deprecating voice had become. This was all I knew.

    Breaking this cycle fractured me. It broke my relationships with everyone around me. I had no genuine relationships around me for a while. Once I escaped, I was utterly alone because all I could see around me was disgust. The questions that swirled around me were "you should have known better" or "how could you be this dumb?" Everyone looked on with incredulity. 

    It took over a decade to reincarnate at least some remnants of myself as an adult. I was not aware of the resources around me that may have made the agony of reconstruction somewhat bearable. No adults around me were supportive of this. Nobody thought there was anything truly wrong with me other than me. I looked desperately to others for connection and bonding. But I was used for my desperation to quell their desires and as a person taught to obey, I did. 

    Nevertheless, I survived. It did not need to be this way or this difficult. I will never let this happen to my own children. I did not need to be in so much pain all the time as a child. I did grow, but not without consequences weighing me down. I am still learning to stand up for myself but it is still a challenge. But I keep working at it because I never want to go down that path again. I also have the support I need to nurture positive changes within me now. But I cannot easily forget the origin of this pain. These social constructs and cultural expectations that I will continue to shatter.

Photo by Milan Popovic on Unsplash

1 comment:

  1. You touched a very sensitive topic. Every voice deserves to be heard and acknowledged. I agree we need more awareness on consent and children need to be made comfortable when growing up in a society. This will enable them to be strong and independent individuals.


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