What does consent mean?

What does consent mean?

By Rebecca, 20.04.2020

A “yes” or a “no” doesn’t cut it when it comes to sexual consent.

There has been a lot of talk over the past year about consent and consent culture. Some people think that consent is just about saying “yes” to something, but it is a much more complicated topic.

So what does consent mean?

Sexual consent is an agreement to participate in a sexual activity with that particular person. All people involved must agree to all sexual acts, every time.

“No means no,” is a great place to start, but it doesn’t encompass all of consent.

Consent needs to be freely given, without pressure, manipulation or the heavy influence of drugs or alcohol. Consent needs to be enthusiastic – the absence of “no” does not mean “yes.” Consent needs to be specific to certain acts and situations – saying “yes” once does not give a free-for-all. Consent can be reversible if someone changes their mind (more on this below).

Won’t it be Awkward?

Some people fear that getting consent is an awkward thing to discuss, especially if it is just for a hook up. There is a misconception that you have to sit down and have a serious conversation about it. People also make jokes about having their partner sign a contract that says they give consent.

Instead, there are sexy ways to gain consent. Some examples:

-Is this okay?

-How would you like me to make you feel good?

-Are you comfortable?

-Can I take off your shirt?

-Can I suck your nipples?

-Is it okay if I kiss you all over your body?

By asking questions throughout your session, you are doing two things. The first is gaining consent in a sexy way – you are checking in on your partner and making sure they are comfortable to continue. The second is that you’re communicating with your partner and figuring out what they enjoy so that you can pleasure them even more.

Consent can very well be straightforward asking someone to consent, but it also so much more than that and it does not have to be awkward. In fact, asking if someone is enjoying themselves is one of the sexiest things you can do.

What Happens if Someone Changes Their Mind?

It is very possible that someone changes their mind throughout a session. Maybe it doesn’t feel good or maybe they thought they wanted it and realized they didn’t, or maybe they thought they could move on from their ex-partner but they tried too soon. It doesn’t matter the reason someone might change their mind. The moment they do, you need to respect that decision. Consent is not a one-time thing. Consent is ongoing throughout all interactions. If someone suddenly says to stop, stop right away and don’t get mad. You should probably have a conversation about what happened, but make sure you’re not trying to persuade them into continuing something they weren’t enjoying.

Just because someone consented at the beginning of the session, doesn’t mean they have to consent to the rest of it. Respecting someone’s decision change is part of consent.

Similarly, if someone consented to a past hookup, it doesn’t mean they consent to another one.

What if I’m in a Long Term Relationship?

My partner and I have been together for five years, so we know a thing or two about what the other person enjoys and doesn’t enjoy. We have also had discussions about what is generally okay and what is never okay. We also continue to ask for consent in our own, sexy ways. We ask each other a lot of “is this okay” and it has never once ruined the mood. We communicate and check in with each other, and we respect when the other person isn’t up for something they usually say “yes” to. There are definitely things that we don’t ask each other about anymore, but that has come after many sessions together. For example, I don’t ask him if it’s okay that I take off his pants when we’re in the middle of the session – I know this is okay with him – and if he ever didn’t want to – he would tell me and I would respect it. I don’t ask him if I can cup his balls, but I do ask him if how I’m holding them feels good for him. For us, consent is so ingrained in our communication, that it actually makes sex better.

Is it Just About Sex?

Often, when people talk about consent, they talk about it in terms of sexual activity, but consent can reach across a lot of topics. Right now, there is a movement for early consent education to start happening with children. If someone says “no” to playing, then the other kid needs to respect that. If your kid says “no” to hugging a relative, then everyone needs to respect that. The same can be applied for adults.

Consent should work its way through all sorts of social scenarios, not just the sex-related ones.

Consent is a major topic, and we don’t expect this article to provide all of the information about it. If this is new to you, make sure to read up about “enthusiastic consent” and ask as many questions as you need. You get to decide what you do with your body, and if someone isn’t respecting that, get that person out of your life.

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