What is consent?
And how do you get it?
Consent is an agreement between those involved to engage in any activity.
There's lots of ways to give consent, but it's important to make sure that it is true consent, because sex or sexual activity without consent is sexual assault or rape.
- freely given meaning that parties feel comfortable and safe enough to speak honestly about what they want. Consent cannot be given if anyone is coerced or manipulated into giving it. It also cannot be given if someone is asleep, heavily intoxicated, unconscious, or not of legal age.
- clear - you want to make sure that in whatever you're engaging in, you know for certain that the other person is okay with it and you are clear on exactly what you're consenting to. Consenting to holding hands is very different than consenting to having sex. Make sure you're getting clear consent every step of the way.
- retractable - it is possible to change your mind and withdraw consent and know that it will be respected. Also, just because you or the other parties have consented to something before (either with each other or other people) doesn't automatically mean you consent this time. You have to give and get consent every time.
it doesn't need to be weird, we promise.
People often think of getting consent as being awkward or a mood killer. In reality, getting consent can increase the intimacy between partners and also make sure all parties are getting what they want out of the encounter. Its about telling your partner what you plan on doing to/with/for them and giving them the space to be honest if that's what they want. So ask for consent, and then wait for their reaction (verbal or nonverbal) before deciding whether you should actually do it or not.
Start off by saying something like, "I really want you, but I also want you to know I'm committed to making you feel totally safe and comfortable with me. So if I do anything that makes you uncomfortable, even a little, please tell me "stop" or "slow down" and I'll do so immediately, okay?"
- Can I kiss you?
- Can I take your shirt off?
- I'd love to kiss you/give you a massage, would you like that?
- I'd love a massage, would you like to give me one?
- Are you okay/comfortable?
- Can I try this?
- Can I post this picture of us?
- I'd really like to meet your family, can I come over for dinner?
- Is it okay if I use your phone to call ___?
Don't forget, not doing or saying anything doesn't automatically mean yes!
Yes means yes
We sometimes hear people use the phrase "no means no" when talking about consent, but there's some problems with this:
Not everyone is able to verbally say "no" - if someone is intoxicated, on drugs, asleep, or even just frozen in fear, then they may not be able to say no.
Instead, think of the phrase "Yes means Yes" meaning that you don't start any sexual activity (even just holding hands!) without first checking in with and making sure that your partner or partners are okay with it.
Want to know some more? Here are some other resources with great info on consent.