During your time at university, it’s pretty likely that you maybe, might, possibly, at some point engage in some sort of sexual activity. It’s important if you do, that the sex is safe and consensual. Consent is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but many people are unsure exactly what it means, or how to get consent. Here are some simple guidelines that will help you ensure that when you have sex, it’s consented to by everyone involved.
Although some of this stuff might sound a bit scary, it’s just because it’s so important, and once you’ve read these guidelines, you’ll see that making sure you’ve got consent is actually really simple.
What is consent and why is it important?
- Consent is about everyone involved. Everyone has the right to give or to deny their consent. A person’s answer must be respected.
- If you or your partner expresses a wish to stop at any point, even during sex itself, sex must stop. This can happen for any number of reasons, if a person isn’t comfortable, happy, or they’re just not enjoying it. They might do this by saying “no,” “stop,” by pushing you away, or many other ways. To continue after this point is rape.
- Consent is never given automatically. Being in a relationship, or because you’ve had sex before doesn’t mean that consent has been given. You both have to give consent each time you have sex.
- Sometimes a person cannot give consent. If someone is really drunk, under the influence of drugs, unconscious, asleep, or otherwise unaware of their situation, then they are not in a position to give valid consent. This means that if a person is really drunk and saying yes, they might not actually know what they’re doing. It would be best in this sort of situation to wait until you’re both sober before having sex.
Types Of Consent
Many people worry that getting consent will ruin the mood, or spoil the moment, but that’s not the case. Getting consent doesn’t have to be formal or awkward, and it’s actually really simple to do.
There are two types of consent, verbal and physical.
This is the clearest and most definite way of getting consent. It’s best to get verbal consent if it’s the first time you’ve been with your partner, or if you are feeling at all unsure of their wishes.
This doesn’t have to be as formal as:
“Would you like to have sex with me right now?”
“Yes I would.”
Although that would absolutely work, and is as clear as you can be, there are other, less clumsy ways to verbally get consent. Asking open questions that allow your partner to answer either yes or no:
“Are you OK with this?”
“Is this what you want?”
Even something as simple as
“Should I get a condom/dental dam/femidom etc”
It’s unlikely that when you’re both in bed together, asking if you should get a condom could be construed as anything other than the lead up to sex. Unless you’re a keen balloon animal artist.
What doesn’t work in this situation is closed questions, such as
“You’re ok with this, aren’t you.”
This isn’t a question; it doesn’t leave a person much room to answer no. This is not the proper way to get consent.
Physical consent is much more subtle than verbal consent. It is best to rely on physical consent only if you are very comfortable with your partner, or you are sure you can read their physical actions clearly. Probably because you have been with that person for some time, or you have spoken about having sex previously. If you are unsure you should use some of the verbal consent methods listed above.
It is important to note that sexual arousal does NOT constitute a form of physical consent; you can be attracted to someone and still not want to have sex with them.
Common forms of giving non-verbal consent include:
- Initiating sexual activity
- Pulling someone closer
- Relaxed body language
- Laughter and/or smiling
Ways of non-verbally denying consent could include:
- Not engaging in sexual activity
- Pushing someone away
- Tense body language
- Crying, or looking upset
If you are ever unsure, ask. Back up non-verbal consent with verbal consent.
Sex is meant to be enjoyable, and making sure you both want to have sex is the best way to keep it so. If you at any point want to say “No,” you are able to do so, and that’s fine. The most important thing to remember from all of this is simply:
No does not mean yes. Maybe does not mean yes. Only yes means yes. Make sure that everyone is consenting and have fun.