Hey loves! Today's topic is about Consent. A topic that has taken society a very long time to evolve from but still really needs to be reinforced. This article will be more serious and might be triggering for some, so please only read on if you feel comfortable with it. 💞
No means No, and Only Yes means Yes
Let’s begin with this: There's more than one way to approach consensual sex. The debate is still ranging over where exactly the line of consensual sex versus sexual assault should be drawn: Some insist that the old “only “no” means no” approach is adequate, which is the idea that unless you explicitly say “no,” you are implicitly consenting to whatever is being done to you and your body (including when you are silent). Others argue that we need a new standard of “only yes means yes,” which is the idea that unless you explicitly say “yes,” you are not giving consent.
Today, we’re here to establish that the latter is what consent really should be. YES means YES, and it’s as simple as that. And “Only Yes Means Yes” can help shift the power dynamics for women: playing hard to get, hesitation or silence will only send wrong messages and weaken your voice, while saying “Yes” out aloud helps getting back ownership of your body. This is also the important lesson parents should educate their boys on: they must get a “Yes” from their partners, since there are obvious comprehension biases on consent from the female side and the male side.
For intimate relationships, we can all agree that we want both ourselves and our partners to be enthusiastic about any sexual encounter. That is to say that every sexual encounter is ideally met with enthusiastic consent, rather than a situation where someone feels obligated or pressured to say yes, despite not being totally excited about participating. There is no single approach for negotiating enthusiastic consent that will work for every person in every situation, but here are some things you can do to ensure that both you and your partner will be happy and comfortable with the physical activity you engage in:
-OBTAINING ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT-
Translation: Make sure your partner is saying YES.
Enthusiastic is the keyword here. Ladies, unless you are quite literally jumping for joy at the opportunity, you have no obligation to do anything, and therefore you do not consent to it. Here are some key points to obtain enthusiastic consent (and, in the same breath, make sure that your consent is enthusiastic):
Avoid partners who are vulnerable
When people are intoxicated, sexually inexperienced, in a new situation, or acting recklessly or immature, their physical and/or mental capacity to make informed sexual decisions is impaired or limited. The more vulnerable they are — and the more vulnerable they are than you — the greater the risk that they will feel coerced or regretful the next day.
Establish reciprocal interest before you start thinking about physical touch
Part of this is the good old art of flirting and building erotic tension: Are they making eye contact, smiling at you, leaning in, chatting excitedly… ? Don’t just come up to someone out of nowhere and ask them if you can kiss them, or worse, touch them.
Negotiate consent verbally
Explicitly asking for permission is the most obvious way to escalate to physical touch, and the one most commonly discussed when enthusiastic consent is brought up:“May I kiss/touch/take your shirt off…” “Is it OK if I ____?” even to say, “I really want to ____!” you should be able to read and react based on the response.
Negotiate consent nonverbally
The basic rule is: build it up slowly, and get continued, reciprocated, and enthusiastic responses before you continue to each subsequent intimate act. For instance, don’t just grab someone’s butt or thigh right away; start with non-invasive touch, like briefly touching their hand, back or arm, lightly grazing their knee with yours (and all of these should come only after you’ve already established basic mutual interest, see point #2).
Encourage your partner to say “no” (as well as “yes”) at any point.
Regardless of the main method you choose to take for obtaining consent, you can always add this to the mix. Here’s a tip—Some time early in your sexual encounter, pause for a moment and say something along the lines of “I want you badly, but I also want to make sure you feel totally comfortable with me. So if anything I do with you makes you feel even slightly uncomfortable, please tell me to “stop” or “slow down” and I’ll do it.””
-PROVIDING ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT-
Translation: Saying YES when you want to
Most of the conversations around consent revolve around obtaining consent, placing all the responsibility in the hands of the person initiating the action. But in every sexual encounter, each of us has just as much responsibility to provide continuous enthusiastic consent as we have to obtain it. It is important to let your partner know you are really into it — and you have to be completely honest about it. You must own your “yes" as well as your “no.”
Share your intentions and limitations
What are you looking for in this scenario? If you wouldn’t be hooking up unless this had the potential to be more than a hookup, let your partner know. If you wouldn’t be doing this if they had another partner, ask them whether they’re single. Don’t assume that just because you want or don’t want something that the other person is on the same page.
Let your partner know what kind of consent works for you.
And do this before or as soon as things start turning sexual. Are you the kind of person who likes to take things slow, be asked verbally before any escalation of physical closeness, and checked in with often? Tell them that. If you’re new to sex, or with a new partner, this might be the way to go. Or do you prefer the more traditional “only no means no” approach? Say “Feel free to explore my body without asking. I’ll let you know if something is uncomfortable.”
Provide continuous positive feedback
You want it, so show it! Be sure to provide continued “yes” feedback. You can do this verbally, by saying things like “yes”, “that feels good”, “I like that”, and by telling your partner how and where to touch you. Or, you can do it nonverbally, by returning their kisses or touching your partner.
Learn how to convey “no” effectively and get comfortable doing it
Saying “no” is not easy; it can be awkward, uncomfortable, or even anxiety-provoking. But you are your own first line of defense: You can say “no” gently (but firmly), either nonverbally (by moving away, moving their hand away) or verbally (e.g. “I’m not interested, thanks for asking”, “I don’t like __”, “Could you please stop? I am uncomfortable”). If the other person does not understand your subtle signs, move on to saying “no” more forcefully. Doing nothing is NOT a very clear “no”.
We hope today’s article was helpful in providing you with ways to have enthusiastic sexual experiences and understand that YES means YES. Let’s begin to change the narrative whilst encouraging women to speak up (and offer them support) when put in uncomfortable situations.
Here at The Oh Collective, we are not only normalizing female intimate health, but we’re also promoting ways to have safer intimate health relations, and that begins with consent.