By Marissa Klass, NFTY-GER
The story of Purim found in the Book of Esther recounts acts of bravery committed by a member of a silenced and oppressed group of people. Esther was empowered by her guardian Mordechai to speak to her husband, King Ahasuerus, on behalf of the Jewish people in an effort to save them from their impending destruction orchestrated by the King’s royal vizier, Haman. In a situation where Esther’s own life was on the line, as King Ahasuerus did not know that she was Jewish, Esther was still courageous enough to speak up, and successfully save the Jewish people from Haman’s malicious intentions. Sometimes, however, we may find it difficult to tap into our inner Esther, and we are unable to find the right words, or the right time to speak up.
It’s about time we borrowed some of Esther’s courage, and learned how to talk openly about consent. Consent is when someone willingly and eagerly says yes to a sexual activity with another person. It is crucial that a person feels empowered to speak up when they are not comfortable engaging in a sexual situation. In order for consent to be meaningful, the person initiating or asking the other individual to engage in a sexual activity must be receptive to their response. Consent is a two-way street, and the discussion of consent should be normalized in present-day culture. Speaking up is never easy. It may leave you wondering, How do I speak up? Or When can I speak up?
How do I speak up?
Let the other person know when you are uncomfortable. Finding a voice is oftentimes difficult, so take the time to establish what you are and are not okay with, if choosing to engage in a sexual activity. It is perfectly okay to say “no”, “no thank you”, or “I am not comfortable with that” in any given situation. Know that you are capable of calling the shots, and everything that you do is YOUR decision.
When can I speak up?
You are free to say yes or no to a sexual activity at any time. Even if you initially said yes, you are allowed to change your mind and deny consent whenever there is an activity you’re not comfortable engaging in. It is important to know that you are always in control of the situation, and no time is the wrong time to say what you would or would not like to do.
When feeling silenced and oppressed, it can feel seemingly impossible to use your own voice. In order to speak up and be your own advocate, to fight for yourself like Esther, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of consent.