Let’s be honest: Consent does not begin in the bedroom. It begins with that first physical interaction with the person you probably met over the weekend.
Oftentimes, we have not met this person prior or don’t know them as well as some of our closest friends. This makes it difficult to understand how they want to receive affection. I’m sure everyone has heard the traditional consent talk in which you were simply taught, “no means no.”
However, because not everybody is verbal, this approach is not the only way to create consent. And asking up front, “Uhhh, hi, do you want to have sex with me?” can be awkward as all hell.
Because of the awkwardness involved in creating consent, the person initiating sexual activity is likely to assume the other person is comfortable moving on to the next level, and as long as they are not saying “no” or seems OK with what’s happening, the initiator will keep proceeding. But silence or the absence of a clear “yes” is not consensual sex.
The fact that young men and women aren’t learning about affirmative consent until they are freshmen in college is terrifying. New York is one of only two states (California being the other) with a definition of affirmative consent. This piece of legislation removed the antiquated “no means no” ideology and replaced it with “yes means yes,” requiring that consent is clear and continuous with each new level of sexual activity.
Asking for consent doesn’t have to be awkward or ruin the mood when you have to stop making out to ask, “Is it OK if I put my hand on your breast?” like the way we were taught in high school.
Consent can be sexy.
If you and your partner have already established that you both are comfortable seeing each other naked, you can turn consent into foreplay. Asking questions like “Can I take your shirt off? Do you like it when I go down on you? Do you want to do me?” ensures all parties are into it and also might turn the other person on and want it even more.
Everybody knows a little something about the late-night text, “Hey, you up?” Sometimes writing what you want and what you’re both into is a creative way to create consent, and plus having consent in writing is a bonus. But you should be wary of this approach. The person may have wanted sex while you were texting, but by the time you get in the bedroom, they can change their mind at any time. It’s also not a good idea to have sex while both parties are heavily intoxicated. Consent cannot be given while two people are incapacitated. My general rule of thumb is if you think you’re above the legal limit to drive, you probably cannot give consent.
Pay attention to body language. That can be one of the biggest indicators if a person is diggin’ it. Motioning where you want your partner to touch you or placing their willing hand where you want to be touched is a way to avoid awkwardness during sexual activity. But like I said, there has to be a clear and present “yes.”
Don’t let feelings of awkwardness or nervousness prevent you from asking for consent. In a society where sexual assault is pervasive, especially across college campuses, it’s important to understand consent and the fact that it is not always the responsibility of the male. Men can be victims of gendered violence, too.
Let’s create an environment in which consent is created, not obtained.
Email Cardinal Points at firstname.lastname@example.org