Life Lessons from Asking for Consent
In our first podcast episode of April, “Good Form,” we focused on the power and importance of talking more about sex. Not only because there are sexual innuendos all around us, every day, but because having conversations about sex has many benefits such as reducing stigma, normalizing the female perspectives on pleasure, and learning more about how sex and intimacy connect us all.
To support the efforts of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, all of our blog posts will be related to sex. I’m kicking off the series with the topic of consent. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center explains that, “consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.” However, because this may be a new idea for many of us, actually having a dialogue about consent with someone can feel uncomfortable and awkward. We all need to get familiar with this as the new norm—know what consent is, what language to use to ask for it, and how it builds trust in relationships. These are the building blocks of a healthy sexual relationship with either a long-term or short-term partner, as well as, a healthy sexual confidence for yourself. Read on for the what, how, and why of consent.
Consent is someone agreeing that something can happen or agreeing to do something. Consent is like a permission slip. You aren’t obligated to do something once you have given consent but you are acknowledging that it is allowed. It’s worth noting that for both of you to sign the permission slip, you and the other person have to be clear about what you are agreeing to. Author Brené Brown writes “Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind” in the context of leadership, but the statement works perfectly for consent too. Both parties should be clear about what they are agreeing to and acknowledge that consent in one area does not include consent for every activity that might transpire. A yes for a kiss, doesn’t mean you have a pass to advance to oral later on. Regular check in’s as a sexual experience advances are important to ensure new permission slips are signed as needed.
The “Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind” lesson works here also; remember to be direct. There is no need to be shy, embarrassed, or to beat around the bush. Think about it like this: if you ask and are in agreement, then the two (or more) of you are going to move well beyond any “shy” territory. Use your words and say exactly what you want, be specific, and wait for a response. Pay attention to your partner’s words, but also to their body language and mood after the ask. Because the goal is an enthusiastic yes, hearing no can be hard. But after you shoot your shot and miss, rebound the ball, and suggest another activity. “Ok, cool…do you want to grab something to eat then?” or ”OK, we can just hang out tonight.” Remember to be thoughtful about consent. Deciding to say yes might be swayed by the time, place, and manner, all of which may set you and your partner up for an experience full of yeses at another time. Speaking of being thoughtful, be mindful of any power dynamics in the relationship that might influence consent. Is the person dependent on you financially? Is the person significantly younger that you with less sexual experience? Have you displayed a volatile reaction to their no in the past? All of these could render a false positive, so check your privilege and power to ensure your ask is not actually considered a demand.
To avoid jail, and ruining your and someone else’s lives.
Additionally, consent can really enhance the sexual experience with your partner. When you ask for consent, you can learn exactly what the other person wants, as well as when and how they want it. You don’t have to guess or to be unsure; you can know and be confident that you’re responding to your their needs and desires.
Consent isn’t a roadblock or an obstacle in the way of getting what you want but more of a necessary and supportive path of ensuring that the experiences that you and your partner are about to engage in are mutually desired. Get consent, every time. It’s good form.