Having healthy relationships and a fulfilling sex life ultimately comes down to one thing: communication. Openly and honestly sharing your wants, needs, and boundaries with your partner is the best way to make sure that everyone is comfortable and happy.
Communication becomes particularly important when giving and asking for consent with your sexual partner. Enthusiastic consent is required for any kind of sex. More consent basics:
Lack of a “no” does not mean “yes.”
Consent to one act does not imply consent to other acts, or to sex again in the future.
At any time during sex, consent can be revoked.
Being in a relationship does not imply consent.
Clothing does not imply consent.
Flirting does not imply consent.
Alcohol and drug use can make consent tricky. As a rule of thumb, if someone is too intoxicated to drive, they’re too intoxicated to have sex.
Someone who is passed out or unconscious cannot give consent.
For information about the University policy on consent and sexual assault, refer to the Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Sexual Misconduct.
You may have heard of the “no means no” model of consent, but it’s more productive to think of consent in terms of “only yes means yes”--after all, we all want to be totally sure that our partner is into us and the sex we’re having!
Asking for consent doesn’t have to sound weird--it can even be sexy. Here are some ways to ask for consent:
- “Can I take your shirt off?
- “How do you want me to touch you?”
- “Do you want to try something new?”
Consent is given freely and enthusiastically, so no one feels pressured, obligated, or threatened. Here are some examples of enthusiastic consent:
- “I want you!”
- “That feels so good!”
Non-consent can take many forms, both verbal and nonverbal. Examples include:
- “That hurts”
- “I’m not sure”
- “I love you, but…”
- Avoiding touch
- Being silent
- Shaking head
You’ll notice that we didn’t give any examples of non-verbal consent. While there are definitely ways a person can indicate without words that they’re into you--active participation, like both parties initiating things like touching and kissing--verbal consent is the only way to be sure.
If you encounter any signs of non-consent, or want to be sure that your partner’s active participation is enthusiastic consent, stop and check in! Maybe your partner’s arm is in an uncomfortable position--or maybe they need the sexual activity to stop. Examples include:
- “Does this feel good?”
- “How are you doing?”
- “Do you want to…?”
- “What should I do next?”
Checking in doesn’t need to kill the mood, and most importantly, makes sure that everyone is safe, consenting, and having fun. It can also be a great way to open up conversations about what you and your partner like or dislike in your sex life!
Checking in doesn’t have to be reserved for during sex! Like all things in a healthy relationship, good communication with your partner about your sex life is the best way to ensure that everyone is enjoying themselves. Talking about sex, especially sexual preferences, can be awkward, but chances are you and your partner will be glad you started the conversation.
These conversations can start simply--
“Just checking in, how are you feeling about the birth control we’re using/how often we’re having sex/the kind of foreplay we usually try/etc.?”
“I’ve been thinking it might be fun to try [insert sex act here], what do you think?” and expand from there.
Whenever these conversations come up, remember to:
- Start with open-ended questions
- Set a tone of non-judgement
- Be sure to clarify boundaries, limits, and safe words when necessary