Top 10 Things You Need To Know About Consent
Your go-to guide for a quick brush up on sexual consent, what consent is and isn’t, and how to practice it.
The #metoo movement has opened up a world-wide conversation about sexual assault and the culture that normalizes it. The media has served up dramatic examples of celebrities who got it wrong, but there’s still a lot of confusion about what consent—let alone enthusiastic consent—looks, feels, and sounds like.
Consent is an ongoing agreement between two (or more) people to engage in sexual activity. Enthusiastic consent means everyone is so excited they can hardly wait to rip each other’s clothes off. What could be hotter than that? But how do you know for sure if everyone is 100% on board?
1. Start The Conversation Before Things Get Hot And Heavy
It’s easier to talk about your needs, desires and deal-breakers before you’re flooded with hormones and physical sensations. Some of us — especially if we’ve been socialized to put others’ desires first, or have experienced sexual trauma in the past — may have a difficult time communicating about consent in the heat of the moment.
2. Consent Is Not Just About Intercourse
Get consent before engaging in any sexual activity. This includes touching, kissing, hugging, grabbing and cuddling.
3. Consent Is Necessary In Any Kind Of Relationship
Whether you’ve been married for thirty years, or just met online, you still need to respect each other’s boundaries.
4. Consent Is Ongoing
Consent needs to be re-negotiated whenever you and your partner change activities. Just because someone consents to kissing, doesn’t mean they consent to taking their clothes off.
Enthusiastic consent means everyone is so excited they can hardly wait to rip each other’s clothes off.
5. Past Consent Doesn’t Count As Future Consent
You may have had consensual sex in the past, but that doesn’t give you a blank check going forward. And don’t assume that because their online profile says they’re into BDSM, that they want you to tie them up.
6. Consent Can Be Revoked At Any Time
No reasons or explanations required. Everyone has a right to control over their own bodies.
7. Consent Is Freely Given
Saying “Yes,” under pressure is not consent. No pressure means no begging, badgering, manipulating, “But you got me so turned on..,” or threats of physical or psychological violence (like telling your boss or posting private pictures).
8. You Can’t Get Consent From Someone Who’s Not In A Position To Give It
This applies to minors, and anyone who is too drunk, high, or ill to give clear consent. The same goes for anyone who is asleep or unconscious. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution.
9. Silence Is Not Consent
Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal communication. Not saying no is not the same as saying “yes.” If your partner says, “yes,” but tenses up or pulls away, stop and ask if they’re okay. For much of history, society hasn’t allowed all people the same ownership over our bodies. This power imbalance can make it scary to speak up about our boundaries and our desires.
10. Consent Doesn’t Have To Be A Buzzkill
Au contraire! After all, what is hotter than knowing your partner wants it just as bad as you do! Once you get the hang of it, talking about consent can actually help get you in the mood. Instead of asking, “Can I do ___” “Can I touch ___” every step of the way, try phrases like,“You want to help me take my shirt off?” or “I want to touch you so bad, how would you feel about that?”
Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal communication.
Consent skills take practice and it’s okay to feel awkward at first. After all, most of us didn’t grow up talking openly about sex. But better to feel awkward than to stay silent and inadvertently cause harm.
One reason the #metoo movement has been so powerful is that it broke the culture of silence around sexual assault. Getting consent is not only about making sure you and your partners have safe, fun, and maybe even mind-blowing sex—it’s about disrupting the culture of silence and building a culture that empowers everyone’s sexuality.
Myths and facts
Setting the record straight.
At O.school, we know that few things are one-size-fits-all. Read on for insights from Pleasure Professionals and other experts:
Check out what the O.school Community is buzzing about and send your questions and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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How To Tell Your Partner You’ve Changed Your Mind: Withdrawing Consent
So you thought you were up to get down, but now you’re not feeling it… It’s ok to change your mind, here’s how to communicate it.
So you’ve agreed to sex, but have changed your mind?
Withdrawing consent might make you feel anxious about hurting or letting down your partner. Society teaches us to go along with things for fear of rocking the boat or spoiling the fun for others.
But when it comes to sex, the best situation for you and your partner is enthusiastic consent. That means that if you feel uncomfortable or reluctant at any point before or during sex, you should stop.
This can feel like an awkward or tricky situation for many people, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some pointers to help you out.
Remember What Consent Is
It’s important to remember what consent is in order to feel confident about withdrawing it. Just because you’ve agreed to sex beforehand, or have previously had sex with your partner, have already taken your clothes off, or even started doing it, does not mean that you cannot stop at any moment. It’s always ok if you want to stop.
Enthusiastic consent means that you should not feel coerced, pressured or manipulated into sex but genuinely safe, comfortable and willing. If you do not feel like this, it’s perfectly reasonable for you to withdraw consent. In the end, everyone should have the right to decide what happens to their own body.
Phrases To Use To Withdraw Consent
If you are talking about sex beforehand, and have not started getting intimate yet, some phrases to use are:
- “I’ve changed my mind”
- “I want to feel completely safe and comfortable in everything I do with you, and I’m not at that point yet”
- “I want to take things slow,”
- “I don’t feel comfortable”
- “I need some more time and space to make a decision”
“I’m not feeling it, let’s stop”
If you have already started having sex, some phrases to use to let them know you’ve changed your mind are:
- “I don’t feel comfortable, let’s stop”
- “I don’t want to carry on”
- “I want to stop”
- “Let’s take a break”
- “I don’t want to go further”
- “I’m not feeling it, let’s stop”
Talk About Consent And Talk Often
The more you talk about consent, how you feel and what you want, the easier it will become. Sex and consent are about constant communication.
If you communicate what you like and how you feel at every stage of your relationship, using phrases like “I like that,” “I don’t feel comfortable with that,” “I would love to try…” or even “yes!”, you will become more confident in expressing your consent both verbally and with your body language. Plus, your partner will probably appreciate the feedback!
In addition, explicitly having conversations about consent early on in any relationship will make it easier to withdraw consent. You could start the conversation by saying, “I really want you, and I want to feel safe and enjoy everything we do together, so if I don’t feel comfortable, I’ll tell you to slow-down or stop. Okay?”
You may also want to ask your partner to check in with you every now and then during sex in order to make sure you feel good at each stage. It’s also a good idea to make clear anything you don’t want to do, for example, if you don’t like oral sex or anal play, beforehand.
How To Respond When Someone Says “Stop”
Sexual communication is two-sided, if the person you’re with tells you they want to stop then you need to be a good listener and to respond immediately to their request. It can be disappointing, and it may feel like a rejection, but it’s probably more about where they’re at and what they want rather than a reflection on you. You could respond by saying “Thanks for letting me know what you need” then ask them if they’d prefer to cuddle, talk, or just call it a night.
“Thanks for letting me know what you need”
Remember, if you’re not feeling it— for any reason, it’s ok to change your mind and stop. Sure, it can feel awkward to interrupt things, but it’s important that everyone is having a good time and if you’re not then it’s time to wrap it up.