The topic of sexual consent is often avoided and perceived as being boring, unsexy, and unnecessary. Yet, when you do not discuss consent openly and honestly with a potential sexual partner, you risk violating their boundaries and traumatizing them.
Thankfully the topic of consent has been pushed to the forefront of public discussion.
Before you can ethically be sexual with someone, you need to ensure that they want to be sexual with you too.
The #MeToo movement along with a number of high-profile sexual assault incidents highlighted just how important consent is. This has made educational resources more abundant and easier to navigate.
What Is Sexual Consent?
Sexual consent is when a person (who has the ability and freedom to agree to participate) agrees to participate in a sexual activity. Before you can ethically be sexual with someone, you need to ensure they want to be sexual with you too.
Consent should be enthusiastic and freely given.
Getting and giving consent are all about setting your personal boundaries and respecting your partner’s boundaries.
It is also vital to check-in with your partner if something isn’t clear. Do your best to avoid any miscommunication when obtaining consent. Without consent, any sexual activity – including oral sex, genital touching, kissing and penetration – is sexual assault or rape.
Planned Parenthood has developed an acronym that helps to make obtaining consent clear and easy. Their saying is, “Consent is easy as FRIES:”
- Freely Given – Consenting to sexual activity is YOUR choice to make without pressure, manipulation or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Reversible – Consent can be withdrawn at ANY time. It doesn’t matter if you’re already naked or if you’ve had sex with this person before. You can always withdraw your consent
- Informed – Consent is only consent if the person giving their consent has all the information. For example, if your partner says they will use a condom and then they don’t. This isn’t full consent
- Enthusiastic – You should only engage in sexual activities that you WANT to participate in. Avoid feeling pressured to say yes to something your partner wants when you don’t want it
- Specific – Saying yes to going into the bedroom does not equate to consent for sexual activity. Be very specific to what you’re asking consent for and giving consent to
The bottom line is that you get the ultimate say over what happens to YOUR body. It does not matter if you’ve had sex with this person before or if you’re married to this person.
You always have the right to say no to anything that involves your body, period. You’re also allowed to withdraw your consent after sexual activity has begun. You don’t owe it to your partner to continue if you begin to feel uncomfortable and want things to stop mid-sex.
Consent should be obtained every time and even throughout the activity.
When and How to Ask for Sexual Consent
Consent should always be obtained before engaging in sexual activity.
You should even ask consent for a kiss or a hug. Talking openly and honestly about your desires and boundaries is vital to any relationship, regardless of consent. Open and honest communication is the foundation of any relationship – short term or long term.
For any sexual encounter, it is the responsibility of the person who desires to initiate sexual activity to obtain consent and to ensure that the other person feels safe and comfortable.
It is also important for the person seeking consent to let their partner know that they are willing to listen and talk openly about it.
Consent IS sexy!
Both parties should be comfortable communicating their needs without feeling pressured or fearful. This is what a healthy sexual encounter looks like. It can be uncomfortable talking about sex, but not talking about it can lead to miscommunication, coercion and rape.
I’ve heard people say that talking about consent isn’t sexy and is a mood killer. Frankly, that is silly. Having someone commit unwanted advances upon you is the mood killer. Consent IS sexy!
Once you’ve gotten the “yes, I want sex too”, you and your partner can have loads of fun talking about all the things you want to do with each other, talk about your likes and dislikes, and plan out your sexy adventure. This can create tons of exciting and erotic anticipation.
Here Are Ways That You Can Talk About Consent:
Be bold and get to the point. Here’s how:
- Would you kiss me?
- Can I touch you?
- Can I kiss you?
- Can I (fill in the blank)?
- Do you want to have sex, or do you prefer to wait?
- Can I take this off?
- I would love for you to do (fill in the blank) to me, would you be interested?
You can use the opportunity to talk about boundaries and sex as foreplay:
- It feels so good when you (fill in the blank), do you want to do this?
- I find it really hot when you (fill in the blank), are you open to doing this?
- I think it is sexy when we (fill in the blank), do you want to do this?
- Can I kiss you here?
- Can I touch you here?
- Can I take off your clothes?
- Would you like to take off my clothes?
If things have already begun to get heated, you could say:
- Do you want me to stop?
- Are you ok with me continuing this?
- How far are you comfortable going right now?
- Is this ok? Or would you prefer me to stop?
Remember, it is important that consent be ongoing.
This means that, even in the heat of the moment, it is important to be certain that your partner is ok with continuing. It is ok for them to say no and want to stop, even if they said yes earlier.
Assumptions lead to bad outcomes, which is why it is so important to keep checking in with your partner.
Consent Under the Influence: What You Need to Know
When you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it can be difficult, if not impossible, for you to make a sound and logical decision. While, legally, it is possible to give consent while intoxicated, it is very tricky.
A research study conducted at Wayne State University, found a direct relationship between excessive alcohol consumption and the risk for committing sexual assault.
Approximately one half of sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator and/or the victim.
Consent should be obtained every time and even throughout the activity.
It is incredibly important that if either person is under the influence that you communicate your boundaries and be even more aware of and concerned about your partner’s boundaries.
Furthermore, it is important to have the consent conversation before you become intoxicated. Below are a few important guidelines to follow when obtaining or giving consent while intoxicated:
- It is even more important to follow the FRIES guidelines (above) if you and/or your partner are intoxicated
- If your partner is stumbling, slurring their words, has vomited, can’t stand properly without leaning on something, or falling asleep, they are incapacitated and cannot give consent
- If your partner is intoxicated, it is suggested that you ask, “Do you feel clear enough to be making decisions about sex?” Regardless of their answer, if you feel like they aren’t clear enough, then stop and wait until you’re both sober
What Sexual Consent Sounds and Looks Like
You will know that you have consent when your partner has clearly and enthusiastically said yes – without any pressure or coercion.
Below are some examples of what this looks like:
- Both parties are engaging in sexual activity with enthusiasm and joy after agreeing to have sex
- There is continuous open and honest communication during sexual activity, sexting, and while in a short- or long-term relationship
- One partner shows respect and care when the other person says no or feels unsure about something. This can be anything from sexting to engaging in sexual intercourse
- The absence of a “no” is not assumed to be a “yes”. This is also the same with silence and a “maybe”
What to Do if You Have Been Sexually Assaulted
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, it can be difficult to know where to turn for assistance and what steps to take next. First, please know that you are not alone and what happened to you is NOT your fault.
- Contact the police by calling 911 if you’re in danger or have been injured
- Contact someone you trust for support
- Report the assault to the police
- If you were raped, go to a hospital or clinic and get a “rape kit.” It will be useful to collect the evidence immediately, regardless of whether you decide to report it to the police. This gives you options later
- Contact a support group or seek counseling
- Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673
Sexual Consent is Sexy
Communication can be challenging. Communicating about sensitive topics like sexual desires and boundaries is even harder. However, working through these hard conversations with your partner will only benefit your relationship and bring you closer together.
When we are vulnerable with someone, it helps connect you rather than drive you apart.
While at first glance it may seem like talking about consent is a mood killer, if you switch your perspective, it can be extremely erotic and create anticipation, which is never a bad thing.
Think about the consent conversation as one that will help to build a strong and healthy foundation for a great relationship and a sexy adventure in bed together.
Perspective is huge and sexual consent is everything.