WHAT IS CONSENT?
Sexual consent is all about making sure you and your partner(s) agree to and want to engage in sexual intimacy. To receive consent, your partner(s) needs to have a free and clear mindset. That means that there is no pressure from anyone else, no threats, they are not incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, they are conscious, and there are no significant power differences that would impact their ability to say yes or no. A person can change their mind at any time, even after an activity has started.
Consent laws vary by jurisdiction. You can learn a little bit more about consent and Montana state law in our glossary. To find your state’s laws about consent, you can visit the RAINN State Law Database.
Ask for Consent
Verbal communication is the best way to know what is going on in your partner's head. A clear "yes" ensures that your partner is engaged and eager. Body language can also be a helpful indicator, but it is important to not relay solely on non-verbal cues. It may feel awkward at first, but once you get the hang of it, asking for consent can feel pretty damn sexy.
Questions to Try
When sexual intimacy begins, you want to make sure that you and your partner are on the same page. Clear communication helps establish boundaries that make you and your partner feel supported and safe.
- Can I kiss you?
- Can I help you undress?
- Do you feel sober enough, or do you want to wait until the morning?
- Can we just cuddle?
Safe SeX Practices
Fully informed consent includes understanding you and your partner's sexual and reproductive health.
- When was the last time you were tested?
- Are you using birth control? What kind?
- If we do that, do you have lube?
- Do you want me to wear a condom/dental dam?
It is important to communicate throughout sexual intimacy, because your partner is allowed to change their mind about any activity at any time. Open ended questions help ensure that your partner feels good about what is going on.
- How does this feel?
- Do you like what we are doing?
- Do you need me to go faster/slower, harder/softer?
- Do you want me to stop?
Not everyone likes to be touched in all the same ways or in all the same places, and not everyone is the same in how they like to touch others. By asking permission to engage with someone's body in a new way, you are showing that you respect their personal autonomy.
- Could we try ___ for a bit?
- Can we switch roles/who is on bottom?
- Would you like it if I put my mouth here?
- Would you be comfortable touching me like this?
Continuing a Relationship
As partners spend time together, it makes sense that many boundaries have already been established. You'll still want to check in and openly communicate when you want to initiate intimacy or change activities. But you can also use your established relationship to talk more about what feels good and how to make sex more pleasurable for all!
- What do you fantasize about?
- Is there something else you'd like to do with me?
- I liked when we did ___ last time, would you be down to do that again?
- Next time, can we try it where we ___?
Dealing with Rejection
Sometimes your partner does not want to do the same thing you are interested in pursuing. That's fine; it happens. There are still a lot of ways you can be with someone you like without crossing their boundaries. There will also be times when you are not in the mood or just not into a particular activity. Open communication helps everyone feel good about sexual intimacy.
How to Show Respect
It doesn't always feel good to feel rejected. But you can always be respectful about it. And remember, a yes that was given after being bullied into it is not true consent.
- No worries. I want you to be comfortable.
- That's fine. I am happy just being with you.
- You look uncomfortable. It is okay if you want me to stop.
- I think it is a great idea that we get more comfortable with each other before going further.