Saying 'I do'—or 'yes' more than once—is not blanket consent for sex

The other day I read an anonymous article written by a woman who had been raped repeatedly by her husband during their marriage. As terrible as the story was, the comments on the social media share of it were worse.

I was appalled to read comment after comment of women saying their spouses or long-time partners regularly forced or coerced them into sex. Many of those men basically claimed ownership of their partners' bodies, believing they were entitled to sex whenever they wanted it. Some pushed ahead even after she had explicitly said no or begged him not to. Some women would wake up in the middle of being raped by the person who was supposed to love, honor, and cherish them. Sadly, some women thought this was normal.

Too many people seem to think saying "I do"—or saying yes to sex more than once—equals a blanket consent for sex whenever. News flash: It does not.

There is no such thing as blanket consent for sex. It doesn't matter if you're in a committed relationship. It doesn't matter how long you've been together. It doesn't matter if you've said yes a hundred times in a row. If you don't want to have sex, you don't have to. Period.


Particularly disconcerting were the women who said they and/or their husbands were taught by their churches or religions that they had to submit whenever their husbands wanted sex. That it was their "duty" to please their husbands and that they couldn't "deny" them. That they didn't have ownership over their own body at all.

Others talked about how their partner would guilt them into sex, saying they "needed it" or "couldn't help themselves." How they would gaslight them or threaten to go get it elsewhere if they didn't relent.

Comment after comment. Story after story, some describing outright abuse and others describing incredibly unhealthy dynamics surrounding sex and consent within the relationship.

I was horrified to read these stories—but even more horrified by the statistics that back them up. According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, between 10 and 14 percent of married women in the U.S. are raped by their husbands, and one-third of women report "having unwanted sex" with their partner. However, spousal rape also goes largely unreported.

Perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising. After all, up until 1975, every state's rape laws had an exemption for marriage, so legally speaking, married women (or men) couldn't be raped by their spouses. Thanks to pressure from the women's rights movement, all states changed their laws to acknowledge marital rape by 1993. But culture often takes longer to change than laws, and there are still far too many people who don't understand that consent is the standard for everyone in every sexual encounter, regardless of relationship status.

While consent is straightforward, the dynamics of sex are unique to each relationship. In a loving, long-term relationship, sex can be a bit of a complex dance. Different people have different desires, intimacy means different things to different people, and life circumstances (babies, health issues, etc.) can impact a couple's sexual activity. Each couple has to work out the hows and whens and how oftens of their sex life, but it should always be a mutual thing. A sexual relationship requires ongoing communication, and sometimes negotiations of sorts are necessary to make sure each partner feels heard and respected in their wants and desires.

The key is respect. There's a world of difference between saying to your partner "I feel like our relationship needs more physical intimacy," and saying "You need to be ready and raring to go whenever I'm feeling feel frisky." The former is a conversation starter that can ultimately lead to greater connection and a stronger relationship. The latter is just a terrible attitude to take toward your loved one.

Some might say "enthusiastic consent" is necessary, but as someone who's been in a healthy, happy marriage for 23 years, I'd say that's not always reality. There may be times when one partner isn't super into it at first, but they know they will be once they get started, so they say yes because they want to make their partner happy. (Not because their partner pressured them, but because they genuinely want to.) But consent to even head down the road to funkytown always needs to be there in the first place. Always. Every time.

No one should be made to feel like they're a bad partner for saying no when they aren't up for sex. No one should be pushed or pressured into it. No one should be demanding sex or taking it when it hasn't been freely offered. Why would you even want to have sex with someone who actively doesn't want to anyway?

No means no. "Stop" means no. Being asleep means no. Yes means yes. It's really that simple.

I hope both women and men read this and recognize that anything short of that standard of consent is not okay. Everyone deserves a partner who respects their bodily autonomy and understands that sex is a mutually agreed-upon activity—every time, in every relationship.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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