Consent culture is truly a new way of thinking for a lot of people. It means moving away from behaviours and attitudes that perpetuate rape culture and moving toward an honest attempt at reducing sexualized violence.

What is consent culture, anyway? Well, one way to think about it is as normalizing of conversations and behaviours around getting sexual consent and emphasizing the fact that consent should be enthusiastic and on-going with any partner and every encounter. Consent culture also means finding healthy ways to deal with rejection.

In everyday conversations, I still hear statements that perpetuate rape culture. I still hear people say things that are oppressive and non-supportive to sexual assault survivors.

One conversation that still haunts me happened last summer. I was in a relationship with someone who was in denial about some substance abuse problems. He was at the point where he would do incredibly disrespectful things when he was blacked out from drinking and doing drugs.

On one of these occasions, he was completely and belligerently intoxicated, and had been dropped off at my apartment. He tried to make out with my friend in the cab and got rejected. Once he got inside my apartment he crawled into bed with me, pushing himself on me, rubbing up against me, kissing me and dry humping me. He did this even after I said “stop, I’m not in the mood.” I was pushing him off me for hours, all night.

In the morning, he had no recollection of what happened and was upset that I was upset.

There is no excuse, ever, to ignore someone’s “no”, or to ignore someone’s “stop.” It does not matter how intoxicated someone is. It is never a justification for disrespecting their wishes and their consent.

And just because they are your partner, this does not justify their behaviour or make it okay. It does not mean you have to give in. If they keep trying after you say no, it is a form of sexual assault.

After breaking up with him, I was chatting with that same friend who my ex had tried to make out with in the cab. This “friend” told me that it wasn’t a big deal because he was my boyfriend. This “friend” said I was overreacting.

It made me sick to hear someone say those words. Suffice it to say, neither of those people are in my life anymore, and for that I am so happy.

Hearing those words made my heart hurt for all the people stuck in relationships with people who coerce and pressure them into sex, or make them feel bad when they don’t want to have sex.

You are always allowed to say no.

It is your right to say no to anyone you want, including your partner.

Assault is just as wrong when it’s done by a partner or someone you’ve been on a date with.

Touching, kissing, humping or having sex with someone who doesn’t want to participate is not hooking up. It’s sexual assault.  

If you are in need of support because of an abusive relationship, please reach out to one of the many free resources available in Winnipeg. Klinic Community Health and Heart Medicine Lodge are there to support you.

Find out more about supports available to you at or

Suzy Gilbert is finishing her last term at Red River College in the Creative Communications program and is the founder of Together, an awareness campaign promoting consensual sexual experiences through respect, communication and sex positivity. Together strives to support and educate young people about safe and healthy sexual relationships and consent culture. You can find Together on Instagram at @togetherwpg, on Facebook at Together Winnipeg and on its website at