By Lydia, Literary Women in Action
I was a sophomore in college when I went back to campus early to train with our health staff on consent workshops for the incoming class. I honestly just wanted to get back to school sooner and see my friends. I wasn’t an avid consent nut back then. #metoo was years away.
But that changed when our facilitator joyfully said, “talking about sex can feel difficult, or strange, but just think about it like a mad libs: I want you to put your adjective adjective noun in my adjective adjective noun.” She knew that consent could be hot. Could improve your hook-up or your sex life or whatever you were into exploring naked or clothed or somewhere in-between with another body.
That’s when I got hooked on active, enthusiastic, ongoing consent.
It’s been almost a decade since that workshop and I still am always excited and pleased and generally turned on when a partner asks me to say what I want in bed. Where I’d like to be touched. What would get me closer to orgasm. I’ve found that communicating about consent can open up the space to communicate about keeping ourselves safe from unplanned pregnancy or sexually-transmitted infections. But more than that, consent and communication can open up our sex lives to new realms of pleasure. Trusting and respecting your partner’s boundaries can allow for genuine and fulfilling intimacy both in the boudoir and beyond.
I absolutely understand that achieving that level of communication with a sexual partner or a date can feel really difficult, particularly at the early stages.
Here’s the thing though: if you’re going to trust someone with your emotional, physical and sexual health, why not begin from a baseline of communicating with mutual respect and clarity? My rule-of-thumb has been that if I’m not ready to talk about sex with a partner, I’m probably not actually ready to engage in sex with that partner.
The tagline at my college was Consent is sexy and I think that holds up.
What Is Consent?
- Freely given
- Can be withdrawn at any time
- Clearly communicated by positive affirmation (the absence of a no is not a yes)
What is Not Consent?
- Physical passivity
- A partner who is incapacitated or unable to make clear decisions due to drugs or alcohol
- Attractive clothing
- Someone under the age of consent may not legally consent to sex at any point
- In Texas, the age of consent is 17. If you & your partner are 14 or older and within three years of each others’ age (i.e. if you are 15 and your partner is 19), then you have an affirmative defense against statutory rape.
- Someone who is coerced or manipulated by a boss, co-worker, teacher, or other authority figure
- Coercion via emotional or physical abuse
Ways To Practice Consent and Intimacy
- Respect yourself and your partner’s desires and needs.
- Ask your partner if, and how and where they’d like to be touched.
- Ask if they have boundaries or limits for the night or the week or whenever.
- Never assume that because an action has happened before that it can automatically happen again.
- Always check in to see that your partner is enthusiastic and interested and present.
- Never use threats or coercion or try to convince someone to be sexual with you.
- Always speak with sexual partners about contraception and sexually transmitted infections. Never assume anything and try to always speak about these topics BEFORE getting naked.
- More tips about talking about sex & consent here!
Also, be sure to think about how you will prevent pregnancy (birth control) before you engage in sexual activity. If you’re under 18 in Texas, you can receive contraception without parental consent at any Title X clinic. More on that in our previous blog post here.
Still curious about consent? Check out these cool online resources: