Consent is important in all types of relationships, but when it comes to sex, it's critical that everyone involved understands what they're willing to do. The best way to ensure this happens? By asking!
Below are some guidelines on how you can check in with your partners and ask them for consent before engaging in any sort of sexual activity together.
If you're like most people, your first instinct when it comes to asking for consent is to follow a scripted phrase you read somewhere: "Can I kiss you?" or "Do you want to have sex?"
While these sound good in theory, they often fall flat in practice because they don't take into account that consent is not a single use, this-reply-applies-forever, checkmark.
So what's better? Ditching the scripts entirely—asking for consent doesn't have to be complicated; it can just be as simple as: "Can I touch you here?" or “Would you like it if I kissed you here?” followed by whatever else comes naturally in that moment. It might take some practice before everything feels natural—but remember: it's worth it!
While it's not necessary to check in with your partner every minute you engage in sexual activity, it can be a good idea to keep an open line of communication. Don't be afraid to be vocal, the more you talk about what you want and how things are going, the better you'll understand each other's desires. If something isn't working for them—or if they're enjoying something you're doing—you can address that right away.
This is also a good way to ask about new things: "Do you want me to do this?" or "Is it OK if I try this?" This sort of checking-in is important because we all have different levels of comfort when in a vulnerable position, it's just good manners to ensure your partner has time and space to express their thoughts!
Remember we said not to be afraid to be vocal? According to many a survey, people who engage in dirty talk with partners report higher sexual satisfaction rates. Consent check-ins shouldn't be formal or rigid, you can have fun with the things you say to your partner as a mental complement of any physical action you're engaging in.
You can start small: talk about what you're enjoying, describe how being close feels like, ask for what you want next. It doesn't stop there, you can also use body language cues like neck kisses, whispers or nods as signs that you're fully on board with what's happening.
If you're worried about making someone uncomfortable during a sexual encounter, take things slow and really pay attention to their body language. If they're saying yes in one way but their words or behavior contradict that message (like moving away from your touch), stop immediately!
This may seem like common sense, but when we're aroused or turned on by someone we might not be constantly aware of their gestures, it's an intentional decision to take the time to notice these small details. If they went quiet while kissing; if they moved stiffly against us; whether our partner moved out of our reach... all these things are signs your partner might not be as comfortable as we think. It's time to check-in and ask if they'd like to do something else.
You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, and neither should your partners. It is important that you are both clear about your boundaries and discuss beforehand how to pivot or stop if an action made the other uncomfortable.