Described simply, consent is agreeing to engage in sexual activity with another person. This agreement should free, voluntarily, and active, and all parties should be giving each other an enthusiastic “yes” to that sexual activity.
Are you going to have sex? Make sure you have consent
Consent is so important because it lets the person you’re with know that you want to engage in a particular sexual activity with them — and it lets you know they want the same. This shows basic respect for another person, and it recognizes that a person should only ever be doing what they really want to do in bed, and never have to do anything they don’t want to do. Consent is an integral part of any healthy sexual experience and it doesn’t need to be sexy, but it can be.
Why consent in sex matters
Consent can be sexy because communication can be sexy — specifically communication that helps you and your partner get on the same page about your wants and desires, what you like and what you don’t like, what you’d like to try and your boundaries.
Communicating clearly with your sexual partner is something you should do in every sexual encounter, whether you’re fooling around with someone new for the first time or you and your partner are married and have three kids together. This is because wants and desires can change from year to year, day to day, and even minute to minute. What you were comfortable with last week might not be what you’re comfortable with now — and what you might never have dreamed of experimenting with last year might be something you might want to try tonight. This is why it’s really important to keep checking in with each other.
Important questions to ask before sexual intercourse
One of the easiest ways to check in and ensure that you are on the same page is with questions and answers. Body language can communicate a lot, but sometimes an individual’s comfort level can be unclear. Asking clear questions and giving clear answers takes a lot of the guesswork out of things and ensures that a sexual encounter progresses in a way where you each understand what the other is comfortable with. These questions don’t have to kill the mood, they can actually fan the flames. Questions like:
- Do you want to take this to the bedroom?
- Can I kiss your neck?
- Can I take your shirt off?
- Do you want to help me get undressed?
- What do you want to do next?
- Are you comfortable?
- Can you show me where you want me to touch you?
- Could you touch me here?
- Does this feel good?
- Can we try … ?
- Would you like to … ?
- I would love to … Would you want me to do that?
You can surely use your imagination to fill in some of those blanks — you may even be able to imagine a number of other questions that you might want to ask the next time you’re getting intimate. You don’t necessarily need to be super chatty throughout your sexual activity if that’s not your style, but checking in, getting consent, and asking questions like this occasionally (before sex) can help you both have a truly mutually pleasurable experience. These questions don’t ever need to feel awkward either. If you ask them with honesty and are really invested in hearing the answers and learning more about what your partner wants and desires and enjoys, they can actually be very sexy. And, you know, if you have someone particular who you’d like to ask you these questions sometime soon, it doesn’t hurt to share this article with them. (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.) Just send it their way — they’ll surely be able to use their imagination too.
- Consent: What is it and why is it so important?
- An enthusiastic “yes”: Clearly communicating desires and boundaries in the bedroom
- “Sexual Consent.” Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. Retrieved February 18 2019. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/sex-and-relationships/sexual-consent.
- “What Consent Looks Like.” RAINN. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Retrieved February 18 2019. https://www.rainn.org/articles/what-is-consent.
- “What is Consent?” Sex And U. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Retrieved February 18 2019. https://www.sexandu.ca/consent/what-is-consent/.