This is why you ask permission

Asking consent is really hot

Having sex is fun, but being forced into sexual activities without your permission is traumatising. So don’t assume your partner wants the same thing you want.
28 June om 9:41 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 5 July 2022
om 14:48 uur.
June 28 at 9:41 AM.
Last modified on July 5, 2022
at 14:48 PM.
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Door David Vorbau

28 June om 9:41 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 5 July 2022
om 14:48 uur.
Avatar photo

By David Vorbau

June 28 at 9:41 AM.
Last modified on July 5, 2022
at 14:48 PM.
Avatar photo

David Vorbau

Paul doesn’t remember exactly how he lost his virginity. The UG student was sixteen years old and most of what he recalls of that night is a blur.

‘It was at a party where my girlfriend and I were both drunk. I remember waking up at some point and we were having sex on the bathroom floor. To this day I have no idea how it got to that, but I do know for certain that at some point I passed out.’ 

‘Educate yourselves, talk to each other, normalise communicating during sex and talking about sex, be conscious of your partner(s) during sex’, advises Lorna Kaufmann of LTAS. ‘Establishing consent doesn’t need to be cringey, it can also be very sexy. For example, you can ask your partner(s): “Do you like it when I touch you here?”, “Do you like this?” Or you can give consent by saying things like: “I love it when you do x” or “It really turns me on when you do y.”’

That, he knows now, was not okay. Paul hadn’t told his girlfriend that he wanted to have sex with her, and he definitely wasn’t in a state where he could give permission. ‘It was hard to even consider that she would break my trust by having sex with me when I wasn’t able to fully consent.’

It wasn’t until coming to uni that it sunk in. ‘When people asked how I lost my virginity, they found fault with the way it had happened.’ 

The idea that someone not wanting to have sex is a ‘turn-off’ is a horribly outdated way of thinking, he feels. ‘Then there’s the fact that these kinds of things just don’t happen to men – which was the narrative at the time.’


Sexual harassment is happening all the time. That should change, says second year liberal arts and sciences student Marie Fournier.

She founded the Sexual Wellness and Education Initiative (SWEI) to tackle the issues surrounding sexual consent in Groningen. What is consent? How do you ask for it? And who’s responsible when something happens against your will?

These kinds of things just don’t happen to men, that’s the narrative

‘Consent is only consent if a lucid person of the proper age gives a clear and enthusiastic “yes,” whether that be verbal or non-verbal’, says external affairs officer of SWEI Birgit Eggink. ‘Consent is not the absence of a disagreement or refusal, and it is also not true consent if the person is coerced or threatened into agreement. Consent is also flexible, and a person can change their mind and withdraw consent at any moment during a sex act.’

Lorna Kaufmann, a member of the Let’s Talk About Sex (LTAS) committee of the Groningen Feminist Network, agrees completely. ‘To make it absolutely clear: if someone doesn’t look like they’ll remember giving consent the next day, then they’re mentally unable to provide it.’ 

Which means that Paul’s girlfriend really should have acted differently. 


Too often, consent is just assumed, say Birgit and Marie from SWEI. 

That’s what Maria experienced. She worked at a bar in Groningen and ended up talking to some locals just before two in the morning. ‘I had one of the customers come behind the bar and tip me a large sum of money without good reason. That made me quite uncomfortable, and I tried to refuse, but the surrounding customers, including the owner, encouraged me to accept the tip’, she says. 

It’s not true consent if the person is coerced or threatened into agreement

But when the guy completed his transaction, he touched her butt, held her hand and then walked away. ‘It was really weird, very uncomfortable and at the time I was very shocked and confused.’ 

Because she had taken the money, she also felt she didn’t have a leg to stand on to complain about what had happened. She ended up quitting her job after that shift. 

‘Everyone should ask for sexual consent, regardless of the situation or the impression they may get from anyone’, she says now. ‘This guy should have respected my boundaries and personal space.’ 


Isabella, who studies at University College, was a victim of sexual assault as well, when she was only thirteen years old and attending a friend’s sleepover. ‘We all went to sleep after watching a movie. Then in the middle of the night, I woke up next to this guy and I felt his penis on my ass. I also felt something wet, and I don’t know until this day if that was water or if he came.’ 

Confronting him was difficult for her. ‘I couldn’t say anything at that moment. So I was just trying to pretend that I was still sleeping. Then the next day, I also didn’t confront him.’ 

She felt insecure and scared for months after. ‘I just didn’t know what happened when I was sleeping. In my mind I felt that I was pregnant for the whole year after.’ 

Body language

The guy who assaulted her just took the opportunity without giving one thought to what she wanted. However, even though it’s obvious Isabella’s boundaries were violated, she also realises there are many situations that aren’t as clear-cut. 

‘Sometimes body language is hard to interpret’, she says. ‘That’s why this whole discussion is so controversial. I feel like it’s the job of both people to make sure that the other person is fine with what’s happening. I definitely haven’t always given boys clear signals. So I really have to work on that as well, also for my own safety.’ 

I definitely haven’t always given boys clear signals

One of the reasons for these – sometimes – mixed signals is the fact that many people feel uncomfortable with asking consent. Socially, it is often associated with excessive correctness or a mood killer. 

But Marie and Birgit feel that does not have to be the case at all. ‘Asking for consent should be something that’s sexy, not something that seems like a turn-off’, says Birgit. ‘It shows that the person respects you and that they want you to feel comfortable. It should be seen as something that’s actually really hot.’


And yes, sometimes you may give – or get – a ‘no’. So we have to get rid of our expectations, says Marie. ‘If you meet someone in a club, you shouldn’t assume you two are going to have sex. It’s about understanding that those expectations are yours and the other person may not feel that way.’ 

To help people with that, SWEI offers workshops and LTAS also provides education. But according to Lorna, it shouldn’t just be about students educating themselves. The UG has a duty, too, she feels. ‘There should be more conversation and education about consent. Higher education should be a place to facilitate this, as students especially are at risk.’

She’d like to see campaigns, speeches during introduction week, education for university staff.

All parties, from Isabella to Paul, from LTAS to SWEI, especially agree on one thing. Consent is cool. It shows respect, affection, and maturity, and conveys a feeling of protection. ‘Let’s establish that consent is sexy’, Marie says. ‘It will normalise the discussion and prevent more sexual assault from happening.’

The names of Paul, Isabella and Maria are fake. UKrant’s editors know their real names.