Never Fear: Consent

BY RACHEL RICHARDS '17

How do I ask for consent in a way that makes me and my partner feel good and that won’t ruin the moment?

Consent is absolutely always necessary. Consent is not ‘sexy,’ it is required. There seems to be a standing question on the how-to’s with consent that center on not wanting to ‘ruin the mood’ and trying to make it sexy so it isn’t scary and clunky. Consent is not: a maybe, a yes that needed to be asked for more than once, a yes that came with baggage or guilting,a lack of a no or if the person is unconscious or intoxicated. You always need to ask for consent, without pressure, and before every new choice made by either party. This means a verbal yes and an enthusiastic physical involvement. So let’s talk ways to ask for consent:

This starts with asking someone if you can kiss them, especially for the first time. Questions like, “Can I kiss you?” or “Is it okay if I kiss you now?” are straightforward and cute. Hearing ‘yes!’ to that is going to feel good! Hearing ‘no’ probably isn’t, but it is good to know that before trying to kiss someone. You always want the person you are kissing to be excited about it. If someone says no, my suggested response is “thank you for your honesty.” Whatever you choose to say, be kind, polite and warm. Do not make someone feel uncomfortable or guilty for not granting you consent to touch them.

These rules continue as touching continues. It is best to set and understand boundaries and interests beforehand. Ask what your partner likes; it’s a fun conversation to have. If this feels uncomfortable, then you guys probably aren’t ready to have sex. If your partner is not comfortable talking about sex in this way, navigate the best way to set up those boundaries, likes and dislikes. After establishing desires and limits, consent means asking your partner before each new move: “Where do you see tonight going?” “Can I take your shirt off?” “Do you want me to take off my pants?” “Is this good?” It means being able to communicate throughout the act and being able to have a conversation that looks like: “Tonight I’m not interested in penetrative sex, but I am interested in oral sex” or “Please never touch my butthole.”

Consent is also fluid and needs to be reaffirmed. Consent can be revoked at any time, and receiving consent once does not mean that consent can be assumed during later encounters. Having sex with someone once does not mean that they owe you sex again, and while you are having sex with them, they can at any time change their mind. This can mean they are interested in ending sex all together, or that they want you to touch them in a different way. All of this applies also to body language. You need to receive a verbal consent, but along with that the person needs to be physically engaged. If they wince, tense up, are quiet or otherwise unengaged that is not enthusiastic consent. Stop to check in.

This is more than something to use during romantic encounters. Consent and communication skills are important always. I ask my friends if they need more room while we share a chair, if I’m encroaching on their space or if they want to be cuddled. There is so much love and comfort in meeting this bare minimum for our entangled human existence. Ask questions, and when you are asked, be honest and open. There is nothing more exciting than knowing you are wanted.

Mount Holyoke News

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