We have all seen the literature on consent.

Magazine articles, judges, political leaders, books, research – there is no shortage of information out there on what consent is.

But there is little information about what consent ISN’T.

Consent ISN’T all-encompassing.

Consent ISN’T irreversible.

Consent ISN’T indissoluble.

We are teaching our little boys not to rape anybody. We are teaching our little girls what rape is and maybe, even, how to avoid it.

Maybe you told her to avoid isolated alleyways. Maybe you told her to avoid drinking too much. Maybe you told her to watch how she talks to strangers.

But, what about the middle ground?

I’m talking about the cases that would be weak in a court of law but happen daily. The cases that we have little to no fight against. The cases that do not have sanctions in the Criminal Code, and can, somehow, be justified in the minds of a perpetrator just enough to help him sleep at night.

I’m talking about the cases that still cross BOUNDARIES.

I’m talking about the middle ground like the time my ex-boyfriend sent me nude (and very elicit) photos of myself. This was a man that I trusted, and at one point, I pictured in my future. This was a man that I thought respected me and my body. This was a man that I had REQUESTED delete the photos of me post-breakup.

This is the type of picture that could destroy my reputation had it been leaked – simply because we live in a world that would look at me with a “how could you?” instead of batting an eye at his betrayal.

I didn’t consent to him having these photos of me anymore. I didn’t consent to him sending them to me as either a power move or a threat. I didn’t consent to my naked body being front and centre of his phone.

He didn’t even know that this was sexual misconduct. At the time, neither did I.

I’m talking about the middle ground like the time I was groped in a bar. I was waiting for the bartender to make my drink as unfamiliar hands crept its way up my skirt.

I turned around, and he walked away. He was drunk, right? It was harmless, right?

I didn’t consent to his hands on me.

He didn’t even know it was sexual assault. At the time, neither did I.

I’m talking about the middle ground like the time I consented to sex WITH a condom. He refused because he was “clean”. When I reached into the bedside table, he pinned my struggling arms down and thrust into me despite my pleas of “stop” and “no”.

Even though I tried hopelessly to wiggle out from his grasp – and when I got free, I tried (with all of my might) to push his hips away from mine.

But I had consented to sex, right?

Afterwards, he left my house as if nothing had occurred. He kissed me goodbye as I closed the door. I sat on the floor and began to cry. I was confused.

Because I had consented to sex, right?

He didn’t even know that he raped me. At the time, neither did I.

I rarely discuss any of these occurrences. God forbid somebody labels me as a slut for wearing a short skirt, sending my boyfriend photos or for engaging in a sexual relationship with an untrustworthy man.

And when I do talk about these events, I still preface them with, “it’s not a big deal.” Because God forbid, I seem overdramatic before anybody paints any of these men as “inappropriate” – at the very least.

Sexual misconduct happens EVERYWHERE. EVERY DAY. Sexual misconduct is a jock that receives a “nudie” from a girl in his math class and tilts his phone to the right so three of his teammates can see her exposed.

Sexual misconduct is a new boyfriend convincing his girlfriend to have sex with him for the first time, despite her claims of not being ready.

Sexual misconduct is an unfamiliar woman running her hand up your thigh on your way to work on public transit despite you shuffling in your seat – trying to distance yourself.

Sexual misconduct is a husband who demands sex from his stay-at-home wife because he “works hard to put food on the table”.

Sexual misconduct is a friend who makes lewd comments despite your pleas for her to stop.

Sexual misconduct is an unsolicited picture of your genitals to somebody.

So what is consent?

And how do we teach our children to be so respectful that they never fall into the grey area or the blurred lines?

How do we start a conversation that is greater than “don’t rape anybody” and “don’t be raped”?

How do we teach our children that just because something isn’t punishable by law doesn’t mean that it follows the code for basic human decency?

How do we follow a moral code that prioritizes boundaries over instant gratification?

The vast majority of my friends have been raped. All of which fell into a grey area and they decided not to prosecute.

ALL of my friends have had experiences that rejected their right to consent whether it was in the form of a nude photo, grope or lewd comment.

With technology becoming more prominent than ever, the landscape of society has changed drastically. People are becoming more informed about the importance of consent and the prevalence of rape, but not many people are talking about the middle ground.

We, as a whole, have become more informed and more aware of rape and the culture that succeeds it.

But rape isn’t only just a violent attack in a dark alleyway at 2 AM by a complete stranger.

Sometimes rape is in your own bedroom.

Sometimes rape is by a friend.

Sometimes sexual misconduct comes in the form of a text message.

Sometimes sexual misconduct comes in the form of a tilted phone or a lewd comment.

Sometimes society focuses solely on the monster in your closet and not the friendly smile at the end of the bed.

Writers note:

None of these experiences painted my world in blue and black. Instead, they painted my world in vibrant colours and the need to do more and speak louder.

I have never seen myself as a victim – but as a woman that has the opportunity to educate.

… a woman that has the opportunity to start a conversation.

However, every day, there are millions of men and women who struggle with long-term side effects of people who crossed their boundaries.

It’s OUR job to make a change.

Written by Celina Dawdy