What is consent?
Consent is simple - if it’s not yes, it’s no. Consent is about the free, willing, and open agreement to participate in any aspect of romance or sex. Having consent is the one sure way to know that someone wants to have sex with you, and that all involved parties are aware of and truly happy about what is going on. This means no guilt, pressure, or coercion. We partnered with Project Consent to bring you a little Consent 101, so you can better navigate respect ad communication with your partner(s).
Consent is about communication and it is not a one-time thing. It should happen every time you engage in a sexual activity. Giving consent for one sexual activity does not mean that you give consent for another or for multiple sexual encounters. You have the right to turn down sexual activity at any time, even if it is with someone you have had sex with before. No one has the right to have sex with you without your consent, no matter the circumstance. It is important to discuss and respect your partner’s boundaries throughout a sexual encounter, and every encounter thereafter. So, let’s break it down. Planned Parenthood defines consent as…
- Freely given (which also means you are free to say no!)
What should I ask consent for?
Everything! It can be from the act of sex itself to asking if your partner would feel more comfortable if you wore a condom or dental dam during oral intercourse, to whether they like dirty talk during sex. Consent doesn’t just mean sex itself. People can also consent to one form of sexual activity and not another!
How do I know if my partner consents?
Well that’s easy. Just ask! It may feel awkward to ask your partner if they want to have sex but it is necessary. No gender is responsible for initiating, and both partners should actively communicate their feelings and desires throughout any given situation.
Non-awkward ways to ask for consent:
Guiding your partner during sex can be super hot. Who doesn't want to know what the other person wants? Communication leads to better sex, and ensures that everyone is on the same page. Here are some helpful questions to guide the conversation:
- "What turns you on?"
- "What do you want to do/where do you want me to go next?"
- "Are you okay with this?"
- "May I...?"
- "We can stop or pause anytime you want. Just let me know."
- "How are you feeling?"
- "I was thinking we could try X. Would you like that?"
- "Does this feel good?"
- "What are your favorite positions?"
- "We don't have to have sex. I'm enjoying just being with you."
- "Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?"
The main point is to create a safe space with your partner(s) to let them know it is okay to stop, and to open up a dialogue about what they find pleasurable and comfortable. You can still have a good time without having sex; there is no need to pressure someone to go further than they want to. Always be respectful, and look out for both explicit verbal consent and body language.
What if I change my mind and don't want to do something after I've already consented to sex?
Consent is ongoing and it is okay to change your mind at any time! If you have concerns, talk to your partner about what you’re nervous about and what your boundaries are. If your partner does something that you are uncomfortable with, you can say no. Consenting to sex initially does not mean you have to consent to everything that happens after. Even if it’s something you’ve done with your partner before, feelings can change and you can say no.
What if the situation seems iffy?
- If either partner is pressuring or guilting the other partner…
- If a partner reacts angrily or with resentment when the other partner says “no”...
- If a partner seem uncomfortable ...
- If one partner (or both) are severely incapacitated (intoxicated, high, unconscious, or asleep)...
- One partner is in pain...
Consent is the most necessary part of sex. Without consent, a sexual act with another person isn’t sex - it is sexual assault. A person cannot consent if they are:
- under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- unconscious (passed out or asleep)
- under threat or coercion
- a minor (16-18 depending on the state)
- impaired in a way (physically or mentally) that inhibits them from giving clear and active consent
If you aren’t sure, don’t do it. It’s not worth it for anyone. The effects of sexual assault can last a lifetime, and it is never okay to violate someone (in fact, it's illegal). If you are going to engage with someone intimately, you need their explicit permission first. Being respectful of boundaries is the key to safe, consensual, and enjoyable sex.
Incidents of sexual assault can be easily avoided by ensuring that all parties enthusiastically consent. Consent is what makes sex enjoyable between you and your partner(s)! You should always feel safe communicating before, during, and after a sexual encounter. Consent is necessary on a very basic, human level - it is always an established right, not a removable luxury.
This basic is sponsored by our amazing friends at Project Consent. Project Consent is a global movement that aims to combat sexual assault and rape culture by raising awareness, spreading education, and promoting consent.