So you’re past your first few dates and are considering getting to the physical stage. Before you make a move though, it’s a good idea to have a conversation about sexual consent with your potential partner. But – what exactly is consent, anyway?
Sexual consent is the agreement and explicit permission between two (or more) people to engage in sexual activity. It’s mostly verbal, but doesn’t have to be, as there are many different ways to actually give your sexual consent (see below). At its core however, consent is about mutual respect for your partner and their boundaries. Besides – sex is so much better and more pleasurable if neither party has to assume anything.
Why is Consent Important?
The #MeToo movement has painfully highlighted our society’s need for the consent conversation. When moving into a deeper connection in a relationship, ensuring enthusiastic willingness around sexual consent is pivotal. Connecting with anything less than a full YES can be dangerous and prevent healthy, authentic connection.
And just for good measure – here are the things NOT considered consent:
- Flirting is not consent
- Silence is not consent
- Assuming to have permission is not consent
- A pressured yes is not consent
- Being affected or incapacitated by alcohol or drugs never equals consent
- Having a psychological or decision-making inability also doesn’t equal consent
Lack of a sexual consent conversation before engaging in the act could also result in broken trust with a partner and ourselves. Sex should feel like an active collaboration between two (or more) adults who absolutely want to be there, in that moment, taking part in that connection.
Know Your Desires and Boundaries
Remember – consent means you are giving permission for something to happen. As sexual adults however, it’s important for us to examine our own boundaries and limitations so we can properly communicate them to our partners.
Consent and non-consent can be a part of our arousal too. For example, we may be very aroused by the knowledge that we can fully trust someone. We may feel cared for by them because they ask our consent , or give their overt consent at each new step of sexual escalation.
There are also instances – particularly in the BDSM community – where we may be aroused by overt non-consent. In a case of edgy bedroom play, our partner maybe does whatever they want to us, without regard for our needs. This extends to the romantic notion that a partner knows everything we want, without ever having to ask. Or the feeling that they can attune to us – without words.
So once we know where the line is, we can then develop the tools to communicate what is and what is not okay in the bedroom.
Get Consent Before The Act
Building a framework of trust and respect opens up the possibilities for connection. This is done through knowing what consent means, how to give it, how to ask for it, and respecting it.
Keep in mind though – consent should always happen before an act, and not after. There are many different ways to go about getting consent in sexual relationships. However, the principles transfer over into any intimate scenario or exchange.
Examples of Sexual Consent
There are two main types of consent in sexual relationships: verbal and nonverbal (or implied). The examples below can help you get started in communicating how you want to play.
Consent can be directly expressed verbally, and this is the most reliable and clear form of consent. Essentially, as long as you give a YES and get a YES, the fun cab begin! Examples of verbal consent are:
- “Yes!” or “Absolutely!”
- “That sounds like so much fun. Let’s go for it!”
- “I loved when we did that last time. Can we try it again?”
- “That does not sound good to me, but I would be really into this other option.”
- “Wow, I really like that. Keep going!”
Nonverbal or Implied Consent
This type of consent may be implied through visual, physical or nonverbal cues. It is important to remain very clear while signaling your permission to your partner in this way.
- Taking your partner’s hands and placing them on certain parts of your body is a nonverbal signal that intimacy can intensify and continue. Also, you’re showing them where it’s okay to touch you!
- Smiling or moaning when your partner touches or pleases you expresses you are enjoying their sexy choices.
- Reciprocating touch can also be one of the examples of consent. It is one way you can give consent in your partner’s sexual language. Did you really like it when your partner stroked your back? Respond in-kind! It will let them know you liked what they did.
Rules of Consent
There are some very important rules of consent to take with you into the bedroom. The list below includes some big ones, and we suggest continuing to educate yourself on being an attentive partner.
- Clarity: One of the most important rules of consent is clarity. Make sure your partner knows when something is okay and when something is not. Leaving a grey area can easily result in someone getting hurt. If you aren’t clear, don’t assume. Get curious and seek out certainty in your partner’s preferences.
- Safety: Make it safe for your partner to tell you YES or NO. When they share, greet them with gratitude – verbally or non verbally. Also listen to more than just their words. If something feels off, chances are something is off. Paying attention to your partner’s energy and willingness is pivotal. If their body doesn’t feel like it’s enjoying being intimate, get curious again.
- Perpetuity: Consent is not perpetual. Have you and your partner tried some racy stuff in the bedroom and you’re itching to get back at it? That’s great. Make sure they’re still into it. Their experience could have been different from yours. Your partner saying yes one time, or multiple times does not excuse you from getting consent. Every. Single. Time.
- Be Sober: A person can only give ethical and cognitive consent if they are of sound mind. Consent given during inebriation is not a responsible choice, and boundaries may unknowingly be crossed. The best thing here is to wait for the person to sober up, and then lovingly discuss their sexual boundaries and preferences with them.
- It’s Revocable: Consent can be removed at any moment during play. If your partner has given consent for a sexy act and changes their mind halfway through, this means it’s time to stop.
How to Ask for Sexual Consent
When considering how to ask for consent, remember you can rely on both verbal and non-verbal responses. Make sure however there is room in your language for your partner to say no. Here are some tried and true, respectful verbal ways you can ask for consent:
- “Is this okay with you?”
- “Does this feel good? Should I keep going?”
- “Are you turned on by me touching you in this way?”
- “Do you want to do this?”
- “I am really excited by this fantasy and would love to play it out with you. What parts, if any, excite you?”
Asking for consent nonverbally can be a bit trickier and is mostly nuance. Relying on them takes intention and attunement. With some gentleness and patience this can be a successful way to communicate. Pay close attention to your partner’s energy, and go slow. Your play in a sexy space should leave room for nonverbal cues from your partner. Pause, intake, connect, and play some more.
As relationships develop and intensify ethically, consent is likely to become more and more natural. Don’t forget, consent can be a sexy part of your bedroom play. Once you know your partner is fully on board, connection strengthens and becomes so much more fun. Take the time to ask, and celebrate your partner’s yeses and no’s. Take the time to speak up, and celebrate your body. Consent makes things delicious. Enjoy the yum!