Sunday, December 23, 2012

Consent is more than just sexy

When you enter a relationship, a partnership or a marriage, it always starts with a question. Will you be my significant other? Will you be my domestic partner? Will you marry me? Relationships start with consent, and sex is no different. Whether you’re waiting until marriage, waiting for the right partner or already sexually active, consent is and will be important.
Unfortunately, sexual education rarely mentions consent, and even more, rarely emphasizes it. We learn how to protect our bodies, how to avoid STDs, how to prevent pregnancy, and how to know when you’re ready for sex. But when sex becomes part of a casual or romantic relationship, it’s not just about our bodies and our needs and our wishes, it’s about you and your partner’s body and needs and wishes. It’s about consent.
Consent ensures that you and your partner are sharing a fun experience. Consent ensures that your partner doesn’t feel uncomfortable. Consent ensures that your partner wants to have sex.

So, what does consent look like?
Consent is voluntary. It’s saying yes to sex because you want to, not because your partner wants you to. You have the right to wait until you’re ready, even if that means until marriage.
Consent is enthusiastic. It’s “YES! I want to.” You can feel certain and safe in your decision.
Consent is informed. It’s being able to make an informed decision about having sex. You’re awake and sober and aware of your actions.
Consent is a process. It’s choosing what you want to do and when you want to stop. You can consent to oral sex without consenting to other kinds of sex.
Consent is dynamic. It’s able to be withdrawn. You can consent to sex in the morning but not consent at night.
Consent is earned. It’s never automatic. You are never owed sex, and you never owe anyone else sex, regardless of your relationship status.

How can you make sure you and your partner both consent?
Use your words. The best way to know if your partner wants to have sex is to ask. A simple “Would you like to do [sexual thing] right now?” works. If your partner says no, respect their decision. Remember that “maybe” or “not now” doesn’t mean “yes.”
Talk it out beforehand. Before having sex, talk about your expectations. What are your boundaries? What are your partner’s boundaries? What are your turn-ons? What are your partner’s turn-ons? How can you make your partner feel comfortable? Talking about it might seem awkward, but knowing your partner’s likes and dislikes will make sex more enjoyable.
Talk it out during. Especially if it’s your first time with this partner, or with any partner, you won’t always know what parts of sex you like and don’t like. If something makes you uncomfortable, tell them. If you want to do 
something different, tell them.

Read their body language during. If your partner is afraid of hurting you, they might have sex even when they don’t want to. Rely on their body language to tell you if they want to have sex. A partner who just lies there, seems upset, avoids eye contact or is tense, might not be consenting. If you notice this, stop and ask them if they really do want to have sex.

Also, if you ever want to talk to someone your own age more about all of this, if you have any questions, fears or just need to talk, Teen Link is open every night from 6 - 10 p.m. We have an online chat service, or you can call us at 866.TEEN.LINK or 866.833.6546.

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