Sex is a normal and natural part of being human. Everyone makes a personal decision about when they are ready to have sex; some relationships are casual and short-term while others are long-term. It’s different for everyone. With that, it’s crucial to understand the concept of consent in order to respect your partner, and to make sure your partner respects you. Consent is required in order to have consensual sexual interactions, but sometimes students don’t know know the right way to converse with their partner about boundaries. We hope that whenever you choose to become sexually active, you do it responsibly. Consent is important for everyone to have a safe, healthy and happy sex life .
How Do I Ask?
Won’t it kill the mood? Isn’t that awkward? Don’t you just know when someone wants to have sex? Is it really necessary to ask permission every step of the way? Does this mean that anytime I don’t explicitly ask permission, they can just regret it and call it rape?
A lot of those questions stem from a “but I just want to have sex” mindset, when the mindset should revolve around what both you and your partner enjoy doing. Affirmative consent isn’t about making things awkward, it’s about making sure your partner really does want to do what you want to do.
So how do you ask? Here are some suggestions:
- “I’d really like to do ____, do you want to?”
- “How do you feel about trying/doing ____?”
- “Does this feel good to you?”
- “Are you interested in doing ___?”
- “Are you enjoying this?”
- “I like doing _____. What do you like to do?”
The possibilities are endless, so have fun with it! Remember that sex should be an ongoing conversation, where you check in with your partner to make sure they are excited about and are enjoying everything that is happening.
What are signs they’re not interested?
It’s simple: there has been new research that indicates people are likely to freeze up when they feel scared, threatened, or traumatized. While most of us are familiar with flight or fight, there is actually this third chemical reaction in our brains – “freeze.” Because of neuro-biology, people may not be able to speak up and say “let’s stop,” so they just disengage and wait for it to be over.
Using an affirmative consent standard takes into account what happens in our bodies on a cellular level. Beyond biology, social norms may impact a person’s ability to speak up. Statements like “maybe later,” “I’m tired,” “not right now,” “let’s just watch a movie,” or even silence are indicators that a person doesn’t actually want to have sex, despite none of those being an explicit “no.”
What are nonverbal cues for consent?
Here are the basic ways you can know you have consent:
- You and your partner(s) have given an informed, uncoerced, verbal “yes.”
- You and your partner(s) aren’t at all incapacitated
- You and your partner(s) are of legal age
Here are other cues that indicate consent*:
- Head nod
- Thumbs up
- Pulling someone closer
- Nodding yes
- Making direct eye contact
- Actively touching someone
- Initiating sexual activity
*Body language can always differ between people, so it’s always good to have some kind of verbal consent.
If you ask someone if they want to have sex with you (or do any other activity) and they say no, you didn’t “kill the mood.” You simply gave that person an opportunity to tell you that they didn’t want to have sex. Rejection usually doesn’t feel good, but neither does hurting someone. Affirmative consent is sexy. So play around with how you ask for consent, figure out what way is most comfortable to you, and practice good communication with your partner(s)! Remember: even if you do find it awkward, a few seconds of feeling awkward is worth preventing harming someone.