Consent as a topic is cropping up everywhere these days. But what exactly is it? In short, consent means agreeing or saying “yes” to something of your own free will, without coercion or manipulation of any kind. When it comes to sex, it’s essential that everyone involved consents 100% to everything that’s going on.
Enthusiastic consent means not only saying yes, but being genuinely excited about it. This helps to eliminate any chance of coercion, manipulation, “wearing down” or other tactics that have unfortunately been used to get people to agree to sex.
If someone is badgered, coerced, repeatedly asked or pleaded with, or threatened in any way into agreeing to sex—or if someone agrees to sex simply to placate another person—this is not consent. Consent must be genuine and freely given.
Talking About Consent
Without consent, people get hurt. Society often discourages us from talking about sex, which can make it extra tricky to talk about consent, but the reality is that not talking about it can lead to misunderstandings or—at worst—harm to ourselves or others.
Consent means agreeing or saying “yes” to something of your own free will, without coercion or manipulation of any kind. When it comes to sex, it’s essential that everyone involved consents 100% to everything that’s going on.
So how, and when, do we talk about consent? Here are some tips and tricks for starting the conversation with people you’re thinking of being sexy with.
It’s Always A Good Time For Consent
The best time to broach the conversation is before any kind of sexy time starts happening. Why? Because many factors—runaway hormones, worrying what someone will think, social scripts that tell us once we start we have to keep going—can make it more challenging to stop or slow things down once they get started.
It can be harder, though by no means impossible, to start the conversation once we’re already in bed, partially naked and/or hot and heavy making out with someone. If you’ve already started though, don’t worry, it’s not too late! You can start the conversation at any time. When in doubt, remember: it’s always a good time to talk about consent.
Consent is more nuanced than a simple “yes” or “no.” For instance, you might consent to having sex with someone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you consent to having anal sex, or spending the night, or going on a fancy date. It’s important to be specific and talk about what’s on the table and what’s not. This requires that you...
Identify Your Boundaries
When it comes to sex, boundaries distinguish what you are and aren’t willing to do with—or have done to—your body.
Do you like oral sex? Penetration? Sex toys? Butt stuff? Are safer sex practices important to you? Are you into cuddling post-hookup, or do you prefer to go home? Does dirty talk excite you? Do you want clothes on or off? What parts of your body are OK to be touched? Are you into kink or BDSM?
The best time to broach the conversation is before any kind of sexy time starts happening.
If you’re not sure what your boundaries are, that’s OK! It’s not uncommon to spend years learning about your sexual boundaries, and then relearning them as they change and evolve over time.
Consent Conversation Starters
Most of us aren’t taught how to talk about these things. If you want to talk about it, don’t wait for your partner or fling to bring it up—start the conversation yourself! It might feel awkward, and that’s OK—sometimes even naming the awkward can help break the ice. Be as direct as possible (you can be direct while still being flirty!).
- “I know this is a little awkward because we’re not supposed to talk about this, but I like you and I want us to both feel good. I’d love to know what you’re into and what your boundaries are, and share mine too, so we can make each other feel as good as possible.”
- “Consent is really important to me. Since a hookup can look so many different ways, can we talk about what we’re both looking for?”
- “This feels amazing. Before we go any further, I wanna make sure we’re on the same page. What are you down for tonight?”
Ask Questions And Keep Checking In
We’re not mind readers, and consent for one thing doesn’t mean consent for anything else. Here are some prompts to get you thinking:
- “I think you’re super cute, and I’d love to take you home tonight. What do you think?”
- “What kinds of things are you into?”
- “Do you want to use barriers?”
“What kinds of things are you into?”
- “Do you want me to take off your shirt/pants/underwear?”
- “Are there any places you don’t like to be touched?”
- “What do you call your sexy bits?” (asking specifically about terms people may use for their genitals or other parts of their body)
Say What You’re Up For!
These conversations are also for you to share with your hook-up partner what you’re into and what you’re up for with them. For example, you might say something like:
- “I love oral sex and using hands, but I don’t do penetration.”
- “I love rough touch, but not too rough on my chest. I also have a knee issue so I can’t be on my knees a lot, but we can find all sorts of creative ways around that!”
- “I’m loving making out with you. I wanna keep it here for tonight. That cool?”
- “I’m down to have sex, and I use barriers for everything—condoms, gloves, dental dams.”
- “I don’t like peacing out immediately after hookups—are you down for a cuddle sleepover when we’re done?”
Big Things To Remember About Consent:
- Ask for consent for each thing you do—consent for one thing doesn’t mean consent for other things.
- The risks of not talking about consent are far greater than the awkwardness of talking about it.
Ask for consent for each thing you do - consent for one thing doesn’t mean consent for other things.
- The absence of a “no” does not mean consent. Just because someone doesn’t say no, does not mean they’re saying yes, and in fact, there are many reasons why someone might feel uncomfortable or unable to say no.
- It’s OK—even necessary—to tell someone when they’ve crossed a boundary. Stop what’s happening, take a pause if you need to, and get grounded in your own body before going any further.