What is Sexual Consent
Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past years, you most likely know of the #MeToo movement. It raised a lot of questions on what is considered consensual sexual behavior on one hand and sexual assault or rape on the other hand. The #MeToo movement caused a complete shift in consciousness when it comes to sexual consent. It prompted people to set clear boundaries that need to be respected to create a safe sex culture. Everything now revolves around consent which prior to the #MeToo era meant totally different things to different people.
Planned Parenthood defines sexual consent as an explicit agreement to participate in any sexual activity. Simply put, if you plan on being sexual with someone, you need to, first of all, confirm if they want to be sexual with you. In today’s social climate consent is mandatory, whether you’re indulging in genital touching, oral sex, vaginal or anal penetration, and other more exotic sexual activities, there must be consent.All parties involved must agree explicitly, be it a hookup, a one-night stand, friends with benefits, a Netflix and chill session, long term relationships, and marriages. Anything short of this would be regarded as sexual assault or rape.
Here’s what you need to know about consent, what proper consent should look and sound like and how to ask for consent without spoiling the mood.
1. Sexual consent must be explicit
Gone are the days when not saying ‘’no’’ or saying nothing meant consent, in today’s world the only way to be sure is for the other person to explicitly agree. Simply assuming someone is into you is no longer acceptable, you have to ask them, check with them and not try to analyze their behavior. Currently, there’s something known as enthusiastic consent which requires getting a definitive ‘’Yes’’ from your partner before any sexual activity. Moreover, consent has to be reiterated and has to be verbal. You could say “I would love to kiss you/give you a massage/take your shirt off… Would you like that?” Or alternatively ask them to do the same for you, this way there are no blurred lines.
2. Consent is reversible
This means you can change your mind at any given time and your partner has to respect your choice even if you have begun the sexual activity. Consent is given of your free will and can be taken back at any time without consequences. In addition, you should keep in mind that a partner’s consent to one sexual activity does not mean blanket consent or agreeing to everything. For example, a person could consent to kiss but not to sex, or agree to oral sex but does not want penetration. So it’s recommended to always ask instead of assuming. Talk to the other person, tell them what you want and ask them what they want.
3. Check-in with each other
Body language alone is not enough to establish consent, you have to speak up and encourage your sexual partner to do the same. Make sure consent doesn’t change, this is very common with teenagers and those without much sexual experience, they would like the idea of sex without knowing what they’re getting into. It’s up to you to check in with your sexual interest to make sure they’re enjoying what you’re doing, are comfortable with it and feel safe. You may be into choking or using whips but your partner isn’t, so better find out.
4. Consent must be informed
A person who is vulnerable, legally underage, sexually inexperienced, heavily intoxicated, unconscious, etc can’t provide consent. For there to consent, the giver must possess the knowledge and understanding of what they’re agreeing to. If you have sex with a minor or a mentally challenged person even if they consented, you’ll find yourself behind bars. The person initiating the sexual act has the responsibility to verify if their partner is impaired or limited in their ability to provide consent. No matter how eager a person may seem to hit the sack with you, if it’s established that their judgment was impaired you’re liable for sexual assault.
5. Drink and drugs affect consent
Consent given under the influence of alcohol, drugs or coercion does not count, a drunk person or someone who is high can’t give consent, so having sex with a person in that state is equivalent to rape. See to it that when a person consents, they are doing so freely, consciously and enthusiastically. Anything other than this screams disaster, plus sex is much more fun when both parties involved are fully aware of and committed to what they’re doing.
Absence does not mean consent
Consent is a very tricky concept, the absence of refusal does not necessarily mean consent. Failure to disagree does not mean they’re agreeing, ask your sexual partner what they want and observe their response, are they freezing in fear, pulling away uncomfortably, then that’s a NO.
When you can’t get a definite ‘’ yes or no’’ rely on nonverbal clues, but the idea is to get confirmation from both verbal and non-verbal consent. If both differ, giving mixed signals, you had better stop.
How To Ask Properly for Consent Without Spoiling The Mood
When you bring up the issue of content you get opposing views, women generally seem to grasp what it means and see it as straightforward, guys, on the other hand, are very skeptical about it, they think it won’t play out to their advantage if they ask for consent. Some say it might even ruin the mood as they feel it’s not masculine to ask. But that’s not necessarily true, we’re here to tell you there are ways in which you could ask for consent without killing the vibe and it could even come across as sexy depending on how you go about it.
1. Ask Her Flat out
It’s true no one wants a guy who outrightly asks you “Do you want to have sex?” but with a little subtility, being upfront has its benefits. It leaves no room for misinterpretation or ambiguity. Flat out asking may not be the sexiest way to get consent but what it lacks in romance it makes up for in clarity. Ask your sexual partner “Can I kiss you?”, “How far do you want to go?”, Do you want to take this to the bedroom?”, ‘’ How about spending the night with me?. There’s no need to be overly creative, keep it straightforward and explicit. This won’t kill the mood, if she says no, it’s not because you asked, it’s just because she’s not ready or not into you. Sorry!
2. Look for Nonverbal Cues
Before asking for consent, use common sense and take hints from nonverbal cues like body language. When looking for nonverbal cues, play close attention to how she reacts when you touch or kiss her. You don’t just go from zero to a hundred, there has to be some pre-established rapport before sex. The basic rule is to build it up slowly, let your actions be reciprocated and met with equal enthusiasm. You don’t want to be the guy who randomly gropes her tits or grabs her butt out of nowhere. Start with noninvasive moves, a light touch here and there on nonintimate body parts such as the hand, knee, back or cheek. Watch how she responds to your touch if it’s positive, go ahead and ask for verbal consent.
3. Tell Her What You Want
Asking does not always have to be in the form of a question, sometimes you can tell her what you want and wait for her to respond. You can tell her ‘’ You’re so sexy. I want to put my hands all over you’’. ‘’Or imagine how it would feel if I was inside of you’’. If she wants it also she’ll give you the green light at this point, this way there’s no confusion or doubt as to what’s happening or where things are going and if you both were on the same page, to begin with, it wouldn’t change anything.
4. Ask About Her Comfort Levels
Directly asking about her comfort levels in a conversation tells her what you have in mind. Instead of you going hardcore porn movie star on her and saying something like ‘’ Can I fuck you in the ass?’’ that will definitely kill the mood, be a gentleman and ask her ‘’ “How comfortable are you with anal?” or “Are you comfortable with me going down on you?” There’s no need to be over creative, just use common sense, a little subtleness and you’ll keep the flames of passion burning bright into the night.
When the Line is a Blur, a Yes is a No.. and a No is a Yes
There’s an ever going debate over where exactly to draw the line between consensual sex versus sexual assault. Some are of the view that “Only No Means No” is the best way to proceed, this means that unless the person explicitly says ‘’No’’ loud and clear they’re implicitly consenting. Others believe that “Only Yes Means Yes,” meaning that unless the person explicitly says “yes’’, loud and clear, they’re not giving consent, they may be also scared or intimidated to say no to you, it doesn’t mean they’re in agreement with what you are doing to their body.
Regardless of which side of the spectrum we find ourselves, one thing we can all agree on is we all want a sexual partner who shares our enthusiasm to have a worthy experience ( well, most people do). Keeping this in mind, when the lines are blurred it’s best to err on the side of caution and consider that a ‘’No’’ is always a no and a ‘’Yes’’ is yes but can sometimes be a no. I know it’s confusing but to be on the safe side, the ideal position is to use a mix of nonverbal cues alongside words to confirm consent. If one is lacking or both contradict then it’s best you walk away.
Whether you are as experienced as a sex worker or you’re having sex for the first time, straight or gay, young or old, as long as you’re planning on getting your freak on, consent is vital. Practices that used to seem normal and acceptable have been brought under scrutiny with the #MeToo movement. It’s a whole new era, your best bet is to be on the side of caution, always get the green light first, leave room for your partner to say no if something doesn’t feel right and ask for permission before you do anything that is out of the scope of traditional sexual practices.
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé