If you’ve had your eyes on the ground on campus, you may have noticed UBC’s blatant attempts to make you better in bed. They may have euphemised it with their clever use of emojis and you may not even realize you're getting the single, end-all, absolute best sex tip you'll ever get. And what might that be, you ask?
Bottom line: Consent is the permission a partner gives you to do sexy things. It’s a definite yes, freely given, revocable at any time and comes from a place of mutual respect.
If you do not have permission, you cannot do sexy things.
So if that's the bottom line, why isn't this article over already?
Consent isn't about checking a box that says, “asked if it was okay,” or about your moral standing as a person. It's about understanding how you affect the people around you and making sure that you do so in a way that accommodates people other than yourself.
There are two reasons you should live, breathe and dream consent.
The first? Well, 80 per cent of sexual assailants hurt acquaintances, partners or spouses. Many of them say they don’t think they did anything wrong. One of the letters Brock Turner’s friends wrote in his defence includes the question, “Where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists.” Which is incredible. Kind of like saying, “It’s not like all floods are caused by water. #notallwater.”
It's never the job of the victim to not get hurt. It's the responsibility of everyone to not hurt people. The better you are at reading when something's off, the better you are at stopping people from getting hurt.
The second? That's literally all it takes to be good in bed. You can master all the techniques you like, but even that one you have to really stretch before trying isn't going to do anyone any good if your partner's not into it. Somebody in a consent-happy mindset asks their partner how to please them better, helps them feel safe and relaxed, and doesn't focus solely on their own pleasure.
So what does this look like?
- Looking for positive signs that they're into it. If they're participating enthusiastically and giving you positive verbal feedback (“Yes!” is a pretty great example) and physical feedback — kissing you, trying to touch you, pulling you closer — you've got good signs! Affirmative consent means you've got a definite go-ahead — yes means yes. Silence is not affirmative and the the idea that, “you didn't tell me I couldn't, so I did,” is a pretty terrible excuse for anything after the age of two.
- Checking in. If I gave you consent in the past — whether it's 15 minutes ago or 15 years ago — you can't assume that still holds. It also doesn't matter whether you met 15 minutes ago or got married 50 years ago — your partner will always want respect the thousandth time just as much as the first.
- Being prepared to stop, slow or not start at all. Never expect sex 100 per cent because it's not just your choice that matters.
- Communicating a whole lot. Communicate about every new thing you try, about what you're doing right now, about what you want to do and definitely about how your partner feels about all of the above. And don’t forget to look at each others’ faces!
Every partner you have will be a unique individual with their own preferences, fears, anatomy and ways of communicating. Intimacy means bringing all your baggage to the table, being accepted and accepting your partner’s baggage. You can’t do that if you don’t talk.
Reddit and Yahoo answers are full of people asking what to do about partners who get upset when turned down for sex. I’m not saying those aren’t valid feelings — it’s normal to feel hurt by rejection. But my feelings don’t overwrite my partner’s and they don’t stop me from controlling my actions. Coercion can take a lot of forms, but remember — you can never feel bad enough to justify raping somebody.
Maybe you'll have a partner who wants to tie you up or get held down. These links should help you have some conversations to keep your kinky ass a safe one. Do you like the idea of asking your mom to cut you out of bondage ties because something went wrong and you forgot the scissors? Yeah, me neither.
Power imbalances normally make consent impossible, whether you’re talking a CEO/secretary imbalance or a drunk/sober imbalance. When they’re agreed-on — like in a dominant-submissive scenario — they still make everything more vulnerable. Be very sure you’ve talked about boundaries. Pushing one could leave somebody feeling really hurt or violated, and you don’t want to find out you did something they didn’t want because you didn’t understand when they wanted you to stop.
Asking for consent — checking in, showing respect and making sure sex is a mutual act — is sexy as hell. Half the time, it’s basically dirty talk and if you need some ideas, check out any of these links. Try whispering, “how do you want me?” in somebody’s ear when things start getting heavy. Is there really anything hotter than somebody invested in your pleasure?
Never forget — you do not owe sex to anyone and you are not entitled to sex from anyone. Sex is a privilege, and it comes with the responsibility to respect and look after the people you’re intimate with. On a very basic level, this means looking for a clear answer to a simple question — “Do you want to have sex with me?” On a different level, it means being attentive to your partner's needs and paying attention to what’s working and what’s not, which is the heart of being good in bed.
Rape culture can and will be defeated by radical respect — one enthusiastic, sweaty, “Oh, yes!” at a time.