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.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 06.28.21


After Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man, was pursued and shot by three white residents while jogging through a Georgia suburb, Ellen and Patrick Miller* of San Diego hung a Black Lives Matter flag in front of their house. It was a small gesture, but something tangible they could do.

Like many people, they wanted to both support the BLM movement and bring awareness about racism to members of their community. Despite residing in a part of the county notoriously rumored to be marred by white supremacists and their beliefs, their neighbors didn't say much about it—at first.

Recently, though, during a short window when both Ellen and Patrick were out of the house, someone sliced the flag in two and left the remains in their yard.

via Paula Fitzgibbons

They were upset, but not surprised.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."