Sexual Consent. When is a yes (to sex) really a no?

Understanding what sexual consent means. You may have heard the phrase “No means no” before. The message is simple: when someone says no to any sexual activity, you shouldn’t try to make it happen. Otherwise, it’s sexual assault or sexual coercion, and that’s not okay. No means no and that is extremely important to understand but first things first...   It all starts with a question and understanding!
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Understanding what sexual consent means.

 

You may have heard the phrase “No means no” before. The message is simple: when someone says no to any sexual activity, you shouldn’t try to make it happen. Otherwise, it’s sexual assault or sexual coercion, and that’s not okay.

No means no and that is extremely important to understand but first things first…

It all starts with a question and understanding!

What is sexual consent?

 

What is sexual consent?

  • Sexual consent means saying yes to sexual activity.
  • Everyone has the right to decide whether or not they want to do something sexual and to change their mind at any point.
  • When you’re thinking of doing something sexual with somebody– whether it’s a sexual touch, a kiss, sex, or anything else– consent means talking with them beforehand. That way you can find out whether they’re into what’s on your mind or not.
  • You can never assume someone is consenting to sexual activity just because they haven’t said no, or because you think you’re picking up on something from their body language. Click To Tweet
  • Consent is verbal. This means asking first before you do anything, even if someone has agreed to other sexual activities.
  • Your sexual partner must be within the age of consent.
  • Consent should be asked and received for any sex act such as kissing, touching, or vaginal/anal penetration before it happens.
  • Consent may also come with terms like if someone agrees to sex, but only if a condom is used. You must respect these terms if you want to maintain consent.
Learn the common mistakes people make when using a condom.
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How can I be sure I have consent?

  • You will know if someone has consented when they say yes. Even better: Yes, please!  Oh god yes! I thought you’d never ask!
  • Someone cannot legally consent if they are drunk or high.

 

Why should I obtain consent?

  • Talking about sex and getting consent before it happens is hot. It shows that you respect your partner, and gives everyone a chance to agree about what they’re interested in and want to do.
  • Getting consent can be a fun part of foreplay.

 

What might happen if I don’t obtain sexual consent?

  • If you don’t get sexual consent first, you may end up doing something the other person does not want.
  • You may violate someone’s personal boundaries and hurt them badly.
  • If you force someone to participate in any sexual act (including kissing) without their consent you may be charged with sexual assault and be convicted of a criminal act.

 

What does the age of consent mean?

 

What means NO?

  • No means no.
  • It does not mean maybe.
  • It does not mean ask me over and over.
  • There many other ways to say no, such as:
    • Not now, maybe later, I’ll think about it, and I’m not sure.
    • Not responding or doing anything sexual in return.
    • Turning and walking away.

 

Can my partner change their mind?

  • Even if someone says yes, they have the right to change their mind at any time.

 

Does my partner have to tell me why they say no or change their mind?

  • Sometimes they will share their reasons why, but they don’t have to.
  • There are lots of reasons why somebody might say no or change their mind about sex. They may be feeling nervous, sick, drunk or afraid. They may just not be into it.

 

What should I do if the person I’m with changes their mind?

  • Stop what you’re doing, no questions asked.
  • You may choose to check in with them to see if they’re ok or if they want to talk about what’s going on for them.

 

I’m already in a relationship or on a date. Is that sexual consent?

  • No, you can’t assume sexual consent based on being in a relationship or on a date. You still have to ask first.

 

My partner said okay to us kissing. Is that sexual consent?

  • Just because someone consents to one sexual act (e.g., kissing), doesn’t mean that they’re okay with another. You will still need to ask if things progress further.

Do women have to ask men for sexual consent?

  • Yes! Whether guy on girl, guy on guy, girl on guy, or girl on girl it is always necessary to ask for consent.
  • It is up to you to check in with your partner before you start any kind of sexual activity.

Are you nervous about asking? Having someone say yes can be very sexy!  You can ask in all sorts of interesting ways and when your partner says yes it can be really hot.

Getting consent just takes a second and can make a big difference in how things go.

Sexual consent doesn’t have to kill the mood!  If you’re wondering how to go about checking in and making sure that you have your partner’s consent before you have sex, How to Talk About Sexual Consent can help.

 

Comment your thoughts below.

Naturally Yours,

Elise Ho, Ph.D., D.N.Psy


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38 thoughts on “Sexual Consent. When is a yes (to sex) really a no?”

  1. This is a great article and very important! I try to teach my children from now that no means no, no matter what situation and to respect the other person when they do say no immediately! I truly hopes this teaching carries through as they get older and sexually active. I should have them read this article! Great stuff!

  2. “You can never assume someone is consenting to sexual activity just because they haven’t said no, or because you think you’re picking up on something from their body language. Consent is verbal. “….I want to pin this somewhere, Dr. Ho! Do I have your permission?

  3. I think that most people would rather not ask and “get” an implied yes, then risk asking and get a hard no.
    Bad decision and cowardice.

  4. Understanding this fact is so important. It is better to ask for permission than to force yourself on someone. This could be so harmful!

  5. “It does not mean ask me over and over.”
    THIS. I can’t tell you how many situations I’ve been in where the man begs for more and thinks that if he keeps pushing or asking eventually I will consent. It’s frustrating and harassing but unfortunately very standard in the culture where I live.

    1. I am sad to hear that you have been stuck in this type of situation. It is not right. When it is culture-bound it is an extra layer of difficulty but I do think these conversations help.

  6. I think there needs to be a shift in the way we think about approaching sex. Some people have this idea that coyness is sexy. They think hard to get is a thing. Women romanticize it, and men misunderstand it. Lack of communication leads to bad outcomes. We HAVE to have open conversations about what we want.

  7. This is extra informative. Some people don’t understand the concept of NO. And that goes both ways. You don’t have to say yes if you don’t want or if you feel pressured to do something.

  8. Thats really informative article for everyone!Thanks for sharing with these issues because not much people wants to talk about it.

  9. I think it’s so important to discuss it prior to doing the act. Make sure you get a solid YES and make sure you respect your partner whatever his/her decision. Also, make sure you are both protected. Sex is more than just the act.

    1. YES!!!!!! Sex is so much more than the act. Sex and respect need to go hand in hand. Protection from misunderstandings, forceful behaviors, pregnancy and sexual disease plus more. Thank you for your comments.

  10. I love that you put the part in there about legal consent cannot happen under the influence. I don’t think a lot of people realize that one.

    1. Thank you, Rosey. Many people may not realize that or that under the influence does not only mean drunk or high. Perhaps I should write a follow up to that or link to a great article about that subject.

  11. This post is so informative and so important. Especially for teenagers as they start to explore their sexuality and become a whole lot more social. I will definitely be sending this off to all my friends with teenaged kids!

    1. Amy, you honor me with sharing. Thank you for that. As young people begin their sexual journey, or even before, it is of great importance that they fully understand expectations before there is trouble that they didn’t even know they could cause. As well, it is extremely important that folks know there right to say no. I am happy to do my small part.

  12. This post is so important for everyone to read. No means no, but sometimes yes can mean no. Sometimes body language can mean no. That’s why clear communication is so key.

  13. This is such an important post. Of course, we all know that consent is so important, BUT it’s hard to know what consent is in some cases. That first question of when yes is no. You really have to be careful. You have to communicate clearly, and you have to make sure you can see what a person means with their actions and not just their words.

    1. Ben, you are so right. It can all be very confusing. The conversation clears up the confusion. Some feel it is not “sexy” or “romantic” but respect is actually one of the sexiest things in the world.

  14. So important for everyone men and women to know. I feel like there were times i could have really gotten myself in bad situations.

    1. Neely, thank you for sharing. Unfortunately, the majority of women (and many men) do have that same story. It is one of the reasons why it is so important for us to discuss such topics.

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About The Author

Dr. Elise Ho

Dr. Elise Ho

Dr. Ho is a Holistic Health & Life Coach with a special interest in Mindset, Stress Management, Emotional Health and the Brain-Gut Connection to it all.

During Elise's 30+ years of experience she has been honored to work closely with health and wellness pioneers such as Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. John Gray, and several others.

Dr. Ho holds multiple certifications and degrees including a Ph.D. in Natural Health and a doctoral degree in Naturopathic Psychology.