Consent is the process of discussing boundaries and what you’re comfortable with during sex. It is important to make consent part of every sexual encounter to establish clear boundaries and create an enjoyable experience for all parties involved.
This blog has been contributed by Daveena Saranna. If you would like to contribute a blog to this series, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find out more about #WeGetConsent campaigns here too.
Trigger warnings: mention of rape and sexual assault.
What is consent and why is it important?
Consent is the process of discussing boundaries and what you’re comfortable with during sex. It is important to make consent part of every sexual encounter to establish clear boundaries and create an enjoyable experience for all parties involved. Consent should be clearly and freely communicated and sex without consent is rape or assault. Those who are underage, intoxicated by drugs or alcohol or sleeping cannot give consent. Consent must be specific and retractable, meaning that you make clear what it is you consent to (E.g. I am comfortable doing X, and Y but not Z) and is not taken for granted. (E.g. If you are in a relationship, consent to sexual activity last week doesn’t mean that you don’t need to ask for consent this week or if you have changed your mind and no longer wish to continue an activity or at all that is your right to do so!)
Physicality plays a huge part in sexual activity. A key indicator of consent is if your partner(s) are actively engaged in what they are doing. Check in on your partner(s) and make sure that their body language is matching their verbal confirmations. Physical consent is interlinked with Enthusiastic Consent and can involve non-verbal communication such as eye contact, smiling or nodding. Whilst physical cues do not replace clear consent, they are important to take note of.
An equivalent of a ‘yes’ is necessary for healthy sexual engagement and communication. Your partner should be willing to say ‘yes’ to the acts you both/all wish to engage in. This ‘yes’ cannot be forced or coerced, otherwise it does not class as consent, which leads onto the next section on Enthusiastic Consent. Verbal communication is important and checking on your partner(s) by asking “are you okay with this?” or “is this still okay?” will allow conversation around consent and ensure that all parties are safe and happy.
The most important aspect of consent is the enthusiasm. Purely participating physically or saying ‘yes’ but without meaning behind it does not constitute as consent. If there is any doubt that your partner(s) are not entirely comfortable with the situation, you should think, how enthusiastic are they? Is that confirmed in their verbal and physical consent?
What to remember
Overall, misconceptions about consent can make it seem like discussing it will ruin the moment or be really difficult but that is not the case. In the future, remember that consent must be verbal, physical and most importantly enthusiastic. On top of that make sure the consent is specific and retractable and continue to check in on your partner(s) throughout. All of the above are so important for healthy and fun sex and can help to reduce sexual assault and rape.