Going out with someone or being in a relationship can make you feel many different things - happiness, nervousness, excitement, and love.
Sometimes it can also be confusing, especially when it comes to intimacy and sex. Intimacy is when two people become physically, sexually, and/or emotionally close.
It can be hard to know if the person you're with wants to be more intimate with you or not. Sometimes it's hard to ask or find out how the other person is feeling. It's important that the person you're with gives their consent to the level of intimacy you have with them.
Consent is when one person agrees to or gives permission to another person to do something. It means agreeing to an action based on your knowledge of what that action involves, its likely consequences, and having the option of saying no.
When it comes to sex in your relationship consent is really important. It's important to remember that both of you have a responsibility to make sure that you both feel safe and comfortable every step along the way.
Remember, your actions towards the person you're with can greatly affect the way they feel about you, themselves, the relationship, and sex in general.
Here are seven sexual consent you need to know.
- “Yes, yes, YEEEEEES! That’s good!”
So let’s get this clear when you say “YES” to sex you’re giving your consent to sexual activity RIGHT NOW, not forever into the future.
Giving consent for a type of sexual activity, one time doesn’t mean giving consent for doing that activity again – or any other sexual activity for that matter. And it applies to whatever type of sex you’re having, not just penetrative vaginal or anal sex.
No one can give an overall “YES” to all sexual activity when you don’t know exactly what your partner is thinking, or what you’re saying yes to. You wouldn’t do it for anything else, so why sex?
Remember too that sex is emotional and you may also suddenly feel like stopping – that’s YOUR RIGHT! You can change your mind ‘in the moment’ and you don’t have to have a reason.
- When you’re ‘in the moment’, keep communicating.
Be careful not to make any assumptions about what’s okay for the other person. Don’t have expectations about what they will do. Whether you’re getting closer and about to start having sex or you’re already ‘in the moment’, consent is all about good communication.
Getting consent when you don’t know someone very well is sometimes a bit awkward - it can feel like you’re changing the mood… and with regular partners, we can forget to check. But the only way to really know what you’re both agreeing to is to keep communicating – it can be fun and even more of a turn-on to talk about what you’re doing!
- 3. Sexual consent is clear and positive.
Sexual consent can be given in lots of different ways, but it’s clear and it’s positive.
It might be asking the other person when you want to do something new, for example saying, “Is this okay?” or “Is this good for you?” and getting a clear and positive response.
Or it might be clearly agreeing to certain activities, either by giving an enthusiastic “YES!” or something else that’s positive, like “Yes, I’m open to trying,” or “I’d like to see how it feels.”
Using clear physical cues – like letting out a sigh, reciprocating with a similar touch, looking your partner in the eye, and smiling – to let them know that you’re comfortable taking things to the next level is another form of consent.
- Sexual consent is NEVER about pressuring or taking advantage.
Sexual consent is definitely not:
Refusing to hear when someone says “NO” and carrying on.
Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for more.
Taking advantage of someone who is so far gone on drugs or alcohol that they can’t make a clear choice.
Pressuring someone to have sex by intimidating them or making them feel scared.
Assuming you have consent to start or carry on because someone has given it in the past.
And if someone is under the legal age of consent then there can be no sexual consent. Period.
- Don’t ever assume the other person wants to have sex with you.
Just because you’re in a relationship with someone, or married to them, it doesn’t give them the right to do what they want to you – or you to them. It’s no different from sex with anyone else – you must both be up for it (whatever it is), each time.
There are lots of ways to say no without necessarily using the word “NO”. It’s the same with consent – someone may say it in other ways, like “not right now”, “I’m not sure”, or they might just stay silent. Their body language might also signal “NO” – you can tell because they might turn away, curl up, or not respond positively to being touched for example. They may just not be ready for sex.
What if you think, or can feel, that your partner is turned on? Sometimes we can be turned on but we don’t want to be touched – it’s certainly not an automatic invitation to sex. Our minds may want the opposite of what our bodies are doing which can be confusing and uncomfortable. Just communicate!
- Consensual sex + safer sex = great sex!
And remember consensual sex is even better when it’s safer sex. You’ll feel more relaxed and comfortable, and more confident when having sex.
Condoms are still the best way to prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancies, but there are other options too like PrEP, so make sure you’re clued up.
And one last thing… if you’re drinking alcohol or taking drugs, just be aware that you might make decisions that you wouldn’t normally, like going to the next level with someone or even deciding to have sex at all.
7. Kissing doesn't always need to lead to sex.
There are different types of intimacy, like holding hands, writing love notes, kissing, hugging, massage, and actually having sex. Different people will be willing to go to different types and try different things. You might enjoy kissing, but not feel ready to have sex. Or you might have had sex before and not feel like it every time you kiss. Kissing and getting intimate does not need to lead to sex. That's why it's important to communicate how you are feeling. Every time you engage in intimate or sexual activity it is really important that you and the person you're with is comfortable with what's happening.
Everyone has the right to say 'no' and everyone has the right to change their mind at any time regardless of their past experiences with other people or the person they are with.