Sexual consent is an important part of showing respect and making sure everyone involved in a sexual encounter is doing so voluntarily. There are easy ways to ensure that you have your partner’s or partners’ consent during sex and any activities leading up to it.
Before we dive into incorporating consent into your life, first, let’s define it. According to RAINN, “Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent should be clearly and freely communicated. A verbal and affirmative expression of consent can help both you and your partner to understand and respect each other’s boundaries.”
First, make sure you and your partner or partners are sober enough to consent to sex. There’s nothing wrong with having a drink or two on a date or as a prelude to sex, but if someone isn’t in their right mind enough to agree to a sexual act, that’s not an ideal situation to get sexual consent. This doesn’t mean an evening of making out and drinking has to end with no satisfaction. You can both sober up for a while until you’re in a clearer headspace.
When in doubt, ask! Asking a partner for consent doesn’t have to be a stilted or awkward process. You don’t have to go through a mechanical-sounding list, asking “Can I touch you here?” over and over. But you can check in as you progress from kissing to fondling to getting naked and beyond. You can ask your partner, “How does this feel?” or “What would you like to do next” or “Do you like that?” You can have them guide your actions so you can be sure they’re into being with you.
According to Respect Me, “After asking for consent (and respecting the answer of course) both people will feel more relaxed, comfortable and confident in the relationship – whatever form the relationship takes.
Consent is not just for sex either. You need consent for kissing, touching…. for EVERY sexual activity.”
Respect Me also offers options for how to ask for consent by asking questions such as Do you want to keep going?” or “I really want to (sexy thing). Do you want to?” or “Would you like me to stop or do something different?”
Another important thing to keep in mind is that consent can change during a single session or over the course of a relationship. Consent to an activity today doesn’t necessarily mean the person consents to that same activity forever. According to RAINN this means, “[A]greeing to kiss someone doesn’t give that person permission to remove your clothes. Having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.”
Another important aspect to highlight is the concept of enthusiastic consent. According to the University of Sydney, enthusiastic consent means “While consent is about saying ‘yes’, enthusiastic consent focuses on the enthusiasm of the ‘yes’. More than just being granted permission to engage in romantic and sexual activity, enthusiastic consent, as the name suggests, seeks others’ enthusiastic agreement to be intimate.”
The University of Sydney offers suggestions on how to ensure enthusiastic consent, such as asking questions like “[Fill in the blank] sounds sexy to me. What do you think?” or “Last time when we did [fill in the blank] I liked it so much. I’ve been thinking about how hot it would be if we also [fill in the blank]. Thoughts?”
Once you get to know your partner better, you may develop shorthand ways of asking for consent. You may start by talking about what each of you want to try, or what each of you may have fantasized about. The most important thing is to check in with them and make sure you have their full consent. This will provide a better and mutually enjoyable experience for you.