How To Ask For & Give Consent Before Sex Without Feeling Awkward, According To A Sexpert
Giving and receiving affirmative consent before hooking up or having sex (also known as "yes means yes") is always important. Now more than ever, it's imperative that you explicitly ask your partner for their verbal consent before engaging in any kind of sexual activity. And of course, you should also outwardly express that you are consenting to the situation at hand. Understanding how to ask for and give consent before sex may sound simple, but when you're in the heat of the moment, actually having the consent conversation can feel awkward, distracting, or just too intense. Don't let those feelings stop you from discussing consent with your partner. The more you practice asking for and giving consent, the less uncomfortable it will become.
As a reminder, affirmative consent means that all partners clearly agree to engage in sex. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, and "silence or lack of resistance" does not imply consent. Additionally, a person can't consent while intoxicated, and partners have to consent every time — regardless of whether they've consented to similar behavior in the past. You may have also heard the term "enthusiastic consent." Enthusiastic consent is a little different from affirmative consent, as it goes beyond simply saying yes. It's about ensuring that both partners are not only OK with what is happening, but are actively enjoying it.
Now that you know what consent entails, you're probably still wondering how to go about asking for and giving consent before sex. Here's how to do it, according to a sex educator.
1. Own the awkward.
"Own the awkward," says Dr. Logan Levkoff, relationship and sexuality educator. "Consent is the hallmark of any good sexual experience. Sure, consent is a legal issue, but beyond that, the best type of sexual experiences are those where someone is concerned and respectful of our boundaries so that we can feel comfortable while also being vulnerable and fully engaged in a sexual experience."
Yes, asking for and giving consent can be awkward — and that's OK. Enduring a little bit of discomfort during a short conversation is always preferable to being put in an uncomfortable position (or making someone else feel unsafe).
2. Be genuine.
One concern you might have about asking for consent is sounding "lame" or being judged by your partner. No one should ever judge you for trying to establish a safe space. If they do, you're better off not having sex with them anyway. When asking for and giving consent, the best thing you can do is to just be yourself.
"The problem most of us have is that we are afraid of sounding less than cool. Conversations about sex don't have to be cool, they have to be genuine," says Levkoff. Don't worry about what you think you're supposed to say or do. However you want to approach the subject is fine, as long as you both feel good about the experience in the end.
3. When in doubt, ask again.
When discussing the importance of consent, women are often at the forefront of the issue. But the ability to say yes or no shouldn't be limited to one sex or gender. "There is an assumption that only women want to (or do) say no. That stereotype is problematic because it creates a system where men are made to feel like they always have to be desirous and interested, willing and able. Men have every right to say no, too," says Levkoff.
If you're ever unsure whether your partner has given consent, ask them again. Levkoff suggests saying, "I just want to be certain. Is this what you want?" It's better to be 100 percent sure that they're OK with what is happening, so don't be afraid to double check. "A partner that is concerned about someone's boundaries is actually the best type of partner," says Levkoff.
When talking about consent, own the awkward. Respect your partner's boundaries and speak up if you're ever unsure how they feel about the situation. As long as you're genuine, your partner will appreciate how careful you're being.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.