“Valentine’s Day is the day that they shall sacrifice their bodies for sweethearts and cause the loss of personal and family dignity,” the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport warned last year, according to Cambodia Daily.
It’s almost Valentine’s Day! Like it or hate it, every year we’re bombarded with messages about romance, flowers, candy, candlelit dinners and lovey-dovey cards to give to our sweeties. Valentine’s Day can be overwhelming and, we at Marie Stopes International Cambodia we admit, a little silly, but we like to think of it as another day to reaffirm the importance of healthy, respectful relationships with yourself or with others!
Healthy love isn’t about possession or ownership. Far from it. In a healthy relationship, partners are recognized as individuals with different boundaries and needs. Sure, you and your partner can share some of the same boundaries and needs, and maybe that’s what makes you a great match! But safety and respect for each other come first. You don’t own one another, you’re not objects. You are human beings with complicated desires and feelings. When one person in the relationship feels like they own the other person, or when they try to control their partner because they “love” them well, that isn’t love! Those are actually big flashing warning signs of abuse.
Cambodia already has a fairly significant problem with rape. According to United Nations research, one in five Cambodian men admit to raping a woman at least once. Half of that number started before the age of 20. And nearly two-thirds said they had raped their partner, or more explicitly, their songsar.
Valentine’s Day only exacerbates that trend, government officials say. “This year, we are asking teachers to properly advise their students,” Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron told the Cambodia Daily. “Stop thinking anymore about Valentine’s Day. Buying flowers for each other is fine, but if it is meant to move beyond friendship and lose one’s virginity — that is not right.” Dr Naron further states “Valentine’s Day exposes the youth to rape.”
Marie Stopes International Cambodia wants to encourage you this Valentine’s Day express your love for yourself and others with respect. When engaging in sexual activity weather single or married always have consent see below for what myths and tips for understanding consent.
Seeking sexual consent means confirming that your sexual partner has agreed to engage in whatever behavior you are doing together. Clear consent ensures that all partners can feel comfortable and enjoy what is happening.
Myth 1: Men cannot be raped. There is a belief that men always desire sex and therefore their consent may not be needed. However, every person has the right to refuse to engage in sexual acts. Not wanting to have sex doesn’t make someone less of a man, just as wanting to have sex doesn’t make someone less of a woman.
Myth 2: If a person is sexually aroused, they’ve given sexual consent. Our bodies respond to sexual attention in ways that are not always congruent with what we are thinking. Sexual touch may cause physical arousal, but that does not mean the person desires to have sex.
Myth 3: Having done sexual things in the past means that my partner will be open to those things again. As with any of our preferences, they may differ from day to day. Accordingly, even for acts that we’ve done with our partners before, it is worth it to make sure that they are open to it now. There may be any number of reasons they are not interested this time.
Myth 4: If we are already doing sexual things, I have permission to do more sexual things. While people may not verbally check in before every additional sexual act, it is important to recognize that a partner can give you permission to do some things and not others. Also, a partner can always withdraw their consent. It’s your responsibility to know if you have consent. It is not your partner’s responsibility to tell you “no.” It is important to realize there are a lot of reasons someone might be unable to say “no”. For example, a partner may fear saying “no” or may feel pressured not to say “no.” As such, regular communication with sexual partners is essential.
Only yes means yes. Sometimes a partner will say “maybe” or offer an ambiguous answer to if they are open to particular acts. Those answers can’t be taken as consent. Accordingly, be careful about trying to pursue those acts, because the person may clarify that you do not have consent.
There are questions you can ask to check for consent. While some people fear that discussing consent will ruin the sexual mood, there are ways to ask questions that ensure consent while maintaining the vibe.
“Would you like me to stop?”
“Are you comfortable?”
“How far do you want to go?”
“Does that feel good?”
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we’d like to remind you that everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship. Remember, love has many definitions, but abuse isn’t one of them. If you or someone you know has a question about a relationship, healthy or unhealthy, please call our call center at 012-999-002 or check out our web site.