Before engaging in any sexual activity with a partner, it’s important to always confirm that you have consent. Sexual consent is a mutual agreement to participate in a sexual activity. It can seem scary to speak up when you feel uncomfortable, or awkward to pause and pose the question, but it doesn’t have to be. When we speak up about our boundaries, or confirm our partner’s, we’re being clear about our wants and needs in a way that benefits our relationship with ourselves and others.
So How Do We Do This?
Consent should be informed and specific, so when checking in be clear about your ask. You can say “Can I ___”, or “Do you want me to ___”. Alternatively, you can give your partner a chance to vocalize what they want by asking “What would you like me to do?”
Respecting and acknowledging your partner’s boundaries can make them feel respected, and can also strengthen your relationship. Part of that includes checking in with your partner and confirming consent. It’s also about paying attention to their body language and anything that they might not be saying. Remember: if they seem uncomfortable or don’t say anything, you don’t have consent.
What If I Want to Revoke My Consent?
Consent is a two-way street in every relationship. It’s always ok to change your mind, or for your partner to change their mind. If you decide that this is something you no longer want to do, that’s ok. You can always explain to your partner why you’ve changed your mind if you want to (totally not necessary), or you can offer alternatives.
Remember, Consent is as Easy as F.R.I.E.S.
- Freely Given: Consent is a choice you and your partner make without pressure, manipulation, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Reversible: Anyone can change their mind at any time. Even if they’ve done it before.
- Informed: You can only consent if you have the full story. If someone says they’ll use a condom and they don’t, there isn’t full consent.
- Enthusiastic: You should only do the things you WANT to do, not things you feel you’re expected to do.
- Specific: Saying yes to one thing, doesn’t mean saying yes to other things. You and your partner should be consenting to every sexual activity, every time.
Everyone deserves to have their boundaries respected, especially when it comes to sexual activity. For more information about consent, reach out to your local Planned Parenthood or visit the Planned Parenthood website at PlannedParenthood.org/learn.