Let’s talk about sex baby!
Just kidding. We can’t talk about sex without first talking about consent. It is interesting all the ways in which we consent in life. We consent to medical services. We consent to formal education or not. We consent to have bills (wait, what? Oh yea.) We consent to approach conversations day in and day out. But how do we consent when it comes to sex? Is it a one-time thing? My hope is that readers respond with an absolute ‘hell no!’ But let’s elaborate a little further. Consent in general, is a matter of verbal and nonverbal communication between one person and another (others).
When we dive into what makes consent and intimacy work, we need to consider the ways in which we communicate our likes and dislikes. Our preferences are important for others to know IF they indeed want to be part of our sexual story. So, before we really dive into what consent IS let’s talk about what consent IS NOT. Let us take a moment to break down the myths.
Consent is not a one-time deal.
Consent is an ongoing conversation. Consent can change depending on the vibe, the interaction, the type of encounter, and can be pulled at any time. It doesn’t matter if you were into at first but then felt ‘meh’ about the encounter. Once that ‘meh’ is there and you are no longer interested, consent is no longer there. Sometimes folks fall into the trap of “well I wanted to at the beginning, so I guess I will go ahead and do it.” The tone of this statement is clear enough to show that the person is not interested in pursuing the sexual encounter. You can be hot and heavy and DTF one minute and utterly over it the next. And that is okay.
Consent is not a “given” if all parties are intoxicated.
In a 2014 study examining alcohol consumption and condom use, alcohol use was more common with casual partners than with friends, and more common with friends than with ex’s. And while alcohol may be more commonly practiced when engaging in casual sexual encounters, sober consensual sex was reported with higher levels of personal enjoyment in a 2019 study examining consent and sexual pleasure.
In the end, when people are drinking and having sex, they are at higher risk for misreading nonverbal and verbal communication. So, as fun as it may seem why risk it? Alcohol can influence people’s ability to make decisions, including consent to have sex and engage in sexual acts. Just because all parties are drinking doesn’t mean consent is a complete given and somehow the parties cancel each other out.
Consent is not a free for all.
Just because consent is given at the beginning of some heavy petting doesn’t mean that a person is interested in intercourse, anal play, fellatio, or cunnilingus. Each move needs to be consented to in order to ensure all parties involved are confident in the next move. If your hookup loves it when you kiss on their neck but they aren’t interested in being massaged, then that is what you get. There is no need to get upset. In the end, what is the point of engaging with that person if you’re not following their lead. Good rule to follow: Go as fast as the slowest person in the room. If your hookup, your boo, your partner, your partners want to take it slow, take a deep breath and enjoy the mindful ride that has been green lighted.
Consent is not just a verbal or nonverbal agreement.
Sometimes it can be super confusing when someone says yes but then they shutter at your touch. Sometimes it can be hard to read body language when your partner is wet or breathing heavily. The body responds to touch in a very unique way. Someone may easily become aroused by touch and NOT BE INTO IT. Checking in with them regularly when you noticed the slightest flinch or pull away is essential to consent. Take it easy, take it slow, and above all enjoy the time you do have. Consensual sexual encounters can be so fun and pleasurable but there is nothing fun about being ignored.
If you don’t want to go that far. DON’T.
If you are okay with moving forward but your boo isn’t. DON’T.
Consent is Like Tea. No really. Check out this awesomely informative video on consent.
When it comes to consent you have more power than you think. Hopefully by the end of this, you see that with every Consent is Not you can see what Consent Is. Consent can be fun, awkward, powerful, and is essential to your enjoyment of the sexual encounter. To respect someone’s consent, their body, their vibe is to respect them as a person. Just because it feels good to be touched doesn’t mean that we can just go our with libidinal urges and hope for the best.
Interestingly, you may find it helpful to use a consent app. Not endorsing it in anyway except to say that it exists and it may be helpful for you to navigate tougher conversations before things get hot and heavy. Consent Amour is just one of those apps where you can mingle, shake the proverbial ‘consent tree’ and see what transpires.
After the fact.
If you find yourself in a situation where you felt yuck about a sexual encounter after the fact, have a conversation with that person. Sometimes in the moment it is hard to ask for you want and do not want. It is especially difficult when you felt like you were being clear. If you are questioning whether you were raped or assaulted, talk to a mental health professional or the authority. As challenging as it sounds and as much as you wish you could wash it off or sleep it away, it is important to your own quality of life to reach out.
Brightside Counseling LLC has five amazing mental health professionals you can work with to navigate consent with partner(s) and to support you if you have been sexually assaulted or raped. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline. Call 800.656.HOPE or check them out online at https://hotline.rainn.org/online.
Dr. Angela Schubert is a licensed professional counselor and sex therapist under AASECT Sex Therapist supervision of Dr. Neil Cannon. Dr. Schubert is a sex positive therapist and writes on tough sexuality topics to help readers better understand their own sexual script and redefine their own sexual narrative.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Schubert, go to shervink4.sg-host.com.
Herbenick, D., Fu, T.-C., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2019). The Alcohol Contexts of Consent, Wanted Sex, Sexual Pleasure, and Sexual Assault: Results from a Probability Survey of Undergraduate Students. Journal of American College Health, 67(2), 144–152.
Walsh, J., Fielder, R., Carey, K., & Carey, M. (2014). Do Alcohol and Marijuana Use Decrease the Probability of Condom Use for College Women? Journal of Sex Research, 51(2), 145. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2013.821442