The conversation surrounding rape culture and its dismantlement requires society to tackle misogyny, toxic masculinity and for women who live at an intersection of gender and Blackness, misogynoir. But it must also include a much-needed conversation about consent and its complexities. What is consent? If a woman tells you yes today, does she want to have sex with you tomorrow? What if you are granted consent, but it is rescinded during the act? Is consent the shrug of a shoulder, a yes under pressure, uncertainty or silence? The truth is, consent must always be affirmative. It must never be pressured. And it can always be revoked. If it is not affirmative, it means no. Here, ESSENCE lists all the ways women have said no to highlight what non-consent looks like. And while it is understood that consent alone cannot tackle rampant rape culture -- it will take rapists not raping women -- it is our hope that exploring consent and the words we sometimes use to convey a "no" will aid in the fight to protect our sisters.
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