Can you revoke consent? Whatsmore, can you revoke consent in the middle of something you previously consented to?

Back in June, I spoke to writer Bobby Box about the idea of revoking consent — namely, his question was, can you? The answer is, of course, yes.

Regarding where this passage ended up, I am actually not sure, if anywhere, but discussion of consent — and revoking it — is important. As such, here’s what I offered up regarding the topic a couple months back:

We live in a social world that, at every corner and throughout the life course, shuts down communication about sex – from sex education to sex behavior and everything in between. Though we may be making progress in some spaces, we are overwhelmingly collectively stunted in this respect.

As a partial consequence, revoking consent in the midst of a sexual encounter is challenging and complex. This is not because revoking consent in the midst of a sexual encounter is difficult to comprehend or an unusual thing for someone to be compelled to do. Instead, at least in part, it’s because we live in a world that doesn’t understand what consent is, much less that it’s a mutable process – and that interpersonal communication about sex (which, as we know, is impeded on a wider social level) is a necessary aspect of consent.

At the most base level, finding ways to make one’s self understood is often the first step to interpersonal communication. If at any point and for any reason, one finds themself needing to revoke consent during a sexual encounter, the most important part is to remember to communicate your desires clearly. Be your cues verbal or physical, do not hint. Do not suggest. Be direct, and be clear.

The wider social norms that shape our personal negotiations – not to mention our interpersonal understandings – here may certainly make this challenging. The benefits of being clear are many, however, for everyone involved — even if it may mean being uncomfortable or pushing back on social pressures.

(pictured: Apparently consensual talking. Image via Andrew C)

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