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?
- 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. 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.
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?
- You and your sexual partner must be within the age of consent. For more information on the age of consent, check out What Do I Need to Know About Age of Consent?
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.
Elise Ho, Ph.D., D.N.Psy
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