“Consent.” We’ve all heard the word by now, but what does it mean? How does one get it? What do people mean when they say that consent is sexy? How do I make consent sexy?
Consent is an enthusiastic, freely given yes. Essentially, consent means that you have agency over your own body at all times. Consent can always be taken away, and consent to one act may not mean consent to another act.
Freely given means that you can make your choice without fear of consequence. This can mean more than fear of having the situation turn violent. It can also mean fear of losing a friend, of ending a relationship, of losing resources and/or of having rumors spread and losing social capital. In order to give consent freely, one cannot be pressured or manipulated — peer pressure is not a tactic for getting someone into your bedroom. If we lie, pressure or manipulate our partners, we have broken their consent and the person’s trust.
For consent to be freely given also requires a sober mind. Drugs and/or alcohol hinder our ability to give consent. I know this may not seem like a sexy thought because many people use substances to “break the ice,” but you must be present and sound-minded to give consent. It can be intimidating to make the first move without the presence of substances, but having the courage to do so in the face of that fear is part of the joy of forming new relationships.
Now that you know what consent is, make sure to ask for and obtain consent clearly. If we ask someone if they want to move from the living room to the bedroom and they say, “Yes,” that person has not agreed to any sex act, they have only agreed to change locations. If what we really want to know is if they want to engage in some sexy acts with us then simply ask! For example: “I’m having a lot of fun making out, but would you like to go to bedroom and (fill in the specific act here)?”
Many people think that such direct talk will be awkward, or that it will kill the vibe. And sometimes it is, but with practice it becomes less awkward and even hot! In fact, when you get a freely given “yes” from someone, we know that they really do want to have sex with us. And there is nothing hotter than that! Asking for consent can also be an amazing way to slow down the situation to be more enjoyable. Foreplay becomes longer and much more connective. Every move is a new opportunity to keep reaffirming consent.
Still stumped for things to say? Try these: “Would you like me to take of your shirt?” “May I kiss you here?” “Can we try something new?” “Kiss me here!” “Should we take off our clothes?” “I want to touch you here.” “Do you like this?” “How does this feel?” The list goes on and on…
Consent not only creates really good sex, but it also increases communication with your partner and strengthens your relationship overall. The art of consent is really about respecting our partners and ourselves. It helps us be clear on what we are agreeing to and reduces the potential for harm. It may take practice, but once it becomes natural, it becomes a part of us. Many people don’t actually know what they want, but in an open and consenting relationship, they can find the freedom to explore and discover that for themselves.
Talking about sex is still taboo. We have a hard time finding places we can talk freely. But the best place to start is with our own partners. If we cannot trust them enough to share our thoughts and feelings with, and they do not trust us enough to share theirs, we may want to reconsider if they are appropriate sexual partners for us. Consent is where all sex must begin.
We at the Eugene Intimate Health Center write this column in hopes of sharing some of our knowledge with the larger Lane County area. In future columns, we will be writing on a different issue that deals with sexual health. We hope to normalize the conversation and share some of our wisdom with you. If you have any topics you’d like to see us cover, please reach out via Facebook to the Eugene Intimate Health Center.
Kim Marks is the director of the Eugene Intimate Health Center and founder of As You Like It: The Pleasure Shop. Have questions about intimate topics? Find the center on Facebook and ask away.