WHAT DOES CONSENT SOUND LIKE?
The most important part about sexual consent is asking your partner beforehand and respecting their boundaries during sexual activity. But how do you know if someone is agreeing to be sexual with you?
Below, we have listed many ways that people express a yes or a refusal. This is not an all-encompassing list, but it is one that is meant to get your wheels turning. The best way to know if your partner is into it, is by asking very clear questions and not acting until you feel very certain about their response. It will not kill the mood to ask for clarification. Open communication can lead to some pretty great sex!
Most people use verbal and nonverbal cues to communicate. It is important to observe your partner's words, sounds, and body language after you ask a question about sexual intimacy and during any sexual activity. If it ever feels like your partner's words are not matching up with their body language, just take a breather and ask for clarification. It can be as simple as asking, "are you enjoying this?"
Verbal consent can be just as hot or sexy as any other type of communication, and it tends to be the most clear form of communication. This is because words are less likely to be interpreted incorrectly, as least in comparison to sounds or body language. People who have been intimate with someone for a long time may choose to rely a bit more on sounds and nonverbal cues.
Yes, Yes, Yes!
Very Clear Agreement
"Yes" is a wonderful word that demonstrates someone is agreeing to be sexual in a certain way with you. Depending on the question you asked, it can sound a few different ways. It should always be enthusiastic.
- Yes! Yass. Yes please.
- Oh, I'd like that.
- Yeah, and where should I touch you?
- Yes, as long as you/we/I ______.
Consent is an ongoing process between all sexual partners. Ideally, your partner is engaging equally in whatever is going on.
- Harder, slower, come closer to me, oh yes right there!
- What would you like?
- Action: touching with reciprocity (kissing back, touching the equivalent place that you are touching them)
- Action: eye contact, open or relaxed body language
Sex should feel good for everyone involved. This means both emotional wellness and physical pleasure.
- I am sure about this.
- This feels amazing. Doing this with you feels right.
- I'd like to make you feel as good as I do right now. What feels good to you?
- Actions: smiling, laughing, moaning, gasping
No. Maybe so?
A huge part of asking for consent is honoring the response. Sometimes, our partners will refuse our initiations. That's okay; it just means they do not want to be intimate in that way right now. When you receive non-consent, it is your job to not engage in that sexual activity.
If you are ever in a position where your partner expresses "maybe," you should treat that response as a "no" until you have more information about whether they actually want to consent or not. Trying to make someone agree is coercive, and it is not okay.
- I'm not sure.
- Um, I guess we can maybe try that.
- I don't know what that means. How would we do ___?
- Action: puzzled look, hesitation before answering, indecisiveness
Just Say No...
It is rarely that simple. People do not always say the word "no" when they do not want to engage in sexual activity. Instead, people might express their lack of interest in friendlier terms or through body language. There are many reasons for this. For instance, your partner might be trying not to hurt your feelings or ruin the relationship as a whole. Other times, there might be a power differential that makes saying no feel hard to do (are you more experienced than your partner, are you older, or do you have certain access to societal privilege that your partner does not?). Non-consent in any form must be respected.
This is the exact opposite of the active participation that should be happening during sexual intimacy. It is important to know that many people might freeze up when they are scared or nervous. Not fully reciprocating during sexual activity is a sign that you should stop and check in.
- Ummmm... or But...
- That hurts.
- Action: turning their head away, moving their body away from yours, redirecting your movements, or "leveling down" the type of sexual activity.
- Action: crying, moaning, cringing, grimacing
- Action: not moving at all
Your partner might be okay with certain sexual acts but not others. There might be occasions where your partner wanted to have sex or a certain type of sex at one time but not now. It is okay to say yes to somethings and no to others.
- I have a headache, maybe later.
- I really like you, but I don't feel ready to do that.
- I want to do ___, but not any further.
- We should wait until we have each been tested for STIs.
- I don't really like when we do ___.
Take a Breather
If someone wants to be with you, asking for clarification is not likely to ruin the moment. Instead, it demonstrates that you care about your partner's well being and pleasure.
You may find that you or your partner are hesitant when engaging in sexual intimacy because of past sexual encounters that were difficult or violating. Slowing down to make sure that everyone is okay can increase trust, intimacy and feelings of safety for all involved!