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Consent matters - even when you're married

Consent matters – even when you’re married

By Tammy February, W24, 10/04/2017
Consent matters – even when you’re married

Just because you’re in a relationship with someone, does not mean that there shouldn’t be set boundaries.

So, unless you’ve been in hibernation, you may have probably come across this article about how Vampire Diaries star Ian Somerhalder threw away his wife’s birth control pills without her knowing about it.

In an interview on a parenting podcast, Dr Belin’s Informed Pregnancy, Ian revealed that when they were on holiday in Spain, he actually videotaped himself tossing Nikki Reed’s pills out of her purse without her knowledge.

According to Buzzfeed, he jokingly admitted that in a way he was the one who decided to start a family.

Needless to say, it caused quite a bit of upset on the internet. So much so, that the couple issued a joint statement simultaneously apologising to anyone who has been affected by reproductive coercion.

Nikki has also openly criticised outlets that have taken her story and twisted it out of context.

I don’t think that what happened here was actual bullying given that they decided to start a family together, but I do believe that their shared joke has highlighted an issue that we need to talk about – reproductive coercion and the fact that many women in relationships particularly abusive ones still don’t have agency or any form of control.

A marriage or relationship is a partnership

Being in a relationship does not give someone the right to make decisions on another’s behalf.

Unless your partner has expressly given permission to do something he/she would otherwise not be doing, or because he or she is unable to, it’s never ever okay to rob your partner of making a choice that’s wholly his or hers to make, no matter how it may affect you.

The crux of the matter is that for any relationship or marriage to really work you have to acknowledge someone as an individual and establish boundaries about what is okay and what’s not.

This can include and not be limited to how you communicate, what’s permissible in and outside of the bedroom and how much time you spend with each other or other people.

As a partner, you can surely give advice when asked for, but you’re not two halves of a whole and don’t get to dictate your partner’s decisions when it comes to their choice in friends, career or whether or not they want to have children.

And if they don’t want kids, you need to respect that decision and not infringe on their reproductive rights by hiding or discarding the contraceptive measures they have in place.

Oh, and when it comes to marriage, there’s no such thing as “exercising your marital rights.”

If you partner doesn’t want to have sex, you must respect the right for them to say no. if they do not consent, then a crime is committed – rape. You’re not exempt from consent just because your lover is wearing a ring on their finger.

There is no doubt that South Africa holds one of the highest statistics for rape, and according to News24, the number of gender based violence and sexual offences committed is only increasing.

Dr Eve says that the biggest problem with marital rape is that because the crime is committed by a loved one, it’s not only a violation of your body, but it’s a betrayal of trust, particularly because it’s from someone you’re regularly intimate with.

She goes on to add that it’s also hard in the sense that often the victim will question whether or not they have the right to act on it, because of that established relationship.

Which brings me back to my original point. Consent, boundaries and individual agency are not only important for a relationship to thrive, but necessary for the long haul.