Is this Sexual Activity Okay?

If a topic appears on my blog, it’s almost always because it is about something I’ve seen repeatedly, said repeatedly, or been asked about repeatedly. With sex becoming more and more casual, there is a lot more grey area about what is and what isn’t appropriate. I hope that this article clears some of that up. If I’ve gotten something wrong, haven’t been specific enough, or left out something important, please comment below. It’s too important a topic to keep quiet about.

Is this  sexual activity okay?

  • A seventeen year old male and fourteen year old female engage in oral sex with both parties agreeing.

No. According to AgeofConsent.net, the legal age of consent in Virginia is 18. However, Virginia has a Romeo and Juliet clause that says that people aged 15 to 17 or 13 to 15 are exempt. These teens are too far apart in age to fall under this exemption.

Is this sexual activity okay?

  • A 19 year old male and 17 year old female in Virginia have sex with both parties consenting.
  • A 22 year old female teacher has sex with a 17 year old male student. Both parties consent.
No. The legal age of consent in Virginia is 18. A legal adult cannot have sex with a minor even if the minor consents. This is considered statutory rape, meaning that it’s prosecutable because the law does not allow the minor to consent. The law is the same for males and females.

Is this sexual activity okay?

  • An adult female prisoner and adult male prison officer have sex with consent on both sides.
  • An adult female singles out a young, inexperienced male at a party. He’s not interested. She gets him drunk. There is no force, but he’s too incapacitated to say no.
  • A mentally ill client begins a romance with his case worker that eventually leads to a consensual sexual relationship.
  • A mentally retarded woman agrees to have sex with her landlord for a break in the rent.

All of these are aggravated sexual battery. This is a felony. A conviction will result in one to twenty years in prison because one party cannot consent due to mental incapacity or physical helplessness. That might seen strange in the case of the inmate and the officer, but because of the power differential, the inmate isn’t seen as having the ability to consent.

Is this sexual activity okay?

  • Two teenagers are petting. They are in a relationship. They have had sex before. One wants to stop halfway through coitus. The other continues.
  • Two adults into BDSM are “playing rough.” They enjoy this. One is bound and gagged and unable to verbalize the use of the safe word. This partner makes motions to stop, but they go unheeded.

No. This is a violation of consent. Consent is a moment to moment thing. Consent only exists until it doesn’t. Even if you’ve had consensual sex a hundred times, it doesn’t mean you have consent now. Even if you have already begun a sexual act, consent can be withdrawn at any time. Consent doesn’t have to be given or withdrawn verbally. Saying, “I didn’t realize you were serious” isn’t a legal excuse.

Is this sexual activity okay?

  • As part of a fraternity initiation, one male is told to perform oral sex on another male. He pulls his face into his crotch with his pants on. About seven other fraternity members are present. They are not drinking. They all laughing and calling it a joke.
No. Using force, threat, or intimidation – even if one party thinks it’s a joke – is inappropriate and illegal.

Is this sexual activity okay?

  • An adult step-mother has consensual sex with her seventeen year old step-son. They are in love.

No, for two reasons. The step-son is under the age of consent. Abuse by a step-parent makes this a felony. In Virginia, incest is illegal in all cases, even if both parties are legal adults.

Is this sexual activity okay?

  • A visibly drunk female is in a bar wearing short, tight, revealing clothing and flirting with several men. She is followed to her car and held down while a stranger forces her to have sex.

No. This is what some people think that sexual assault looks like. This is rarely the case. Rape doesn’t have to be violent, committed by a stranger, or be done by physical force. Sexual assault is about consent. All you have to do to define it is ask yourself two questions. Have both parties given consent? Are both parties able to give consent?

There are many examples of behaviors that may not be criminal, but are inappropriate. Talking about someone’s gender or body parts can be harassment if they aren’t willing participants in the conversation. It doesn’t matter if one of them thinks it’s just in fun. Subjecting someone to sexually suggestive photographs, cartoons, or videos might also be inappropriate if the person is a child or the behavior is unwanted. Touching, brushing your body parts against someone, or brushing against someone else’s is inappropriate. Exposing private parts is also inappropriate.

Questionable sexual behavior can happen because of a lack of restraint manifested in disregard for social conventions, impulsivity, and poor risk assessment. This can also be due to lack of awareness. The more disconnected we become from lack of face-to-face contact, the harder it becomes to read nonverbal cues.

If you are the target of inappropriate behavior, provide the person with immediate, direct, concrete, and clear communication about the behavior. For example, you could say, “I do not want to see pictures of naked people. This needs to stop now” or “I really do not want to hear about your sexual experiences. Don’t speak about that around me again.” Your words don’t have to be judgmental or humiliating, just clear and direct. Of course if the behavior is criminal, you could report it to the authorities.

If you don’t know what is appropriate and what isn’t, ask someone you trust. Always ask someone if what you want to do or say is okay before you do it. If someone objects, stop immediately. Remember, it’s about consent.

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