There is a lot of information floating in the news lately in Missouri and elsewhere around issues related to consent and relationships, and we’ve gotten a lot of questions from readers about giving and getting consent, power dynamics, and healthy relationships.
It’s important to understand that when it comes to sex, consent is not a one-time act – it is an ongoing agreement. A person can revoke consent at any time for any reason, and sexual assault or exploitation can occur even in ongoing relationships.
The four videos below will give you a broad overview of consent, and also give you a few scenarios to help you understand better if your partner is giving consent, or what to do if your partner is unsure or doesn’t consent.
What Does Consent Mean?
Consent consists of five characteristics. It’s freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific. Everyone is clear and informed about what their consenting to. No one feels pressured into consenting, or feels bad or guilty about saying no. Everyone is honest about the situation regarding topics like birth control, STDs or the status of the relationship. And consenting to one activity or sexual encounter now isn’t consent to all future encounters. The only way to know if you have consent is to ask each and every time, and then listen to the answer.
How Do You Know When Someone Wants to Have Sex?
Although plenty of talking may be involved in consent, enthusiastic consent isn’t always defined with a vocalized, emphatic “yes.” Enthusiastic consent is when both partners are clearly into what’s happening. How do you know if your partner is clearly into it? Pay attention to their body language, respect their signals and listen closely to what they do say. If your partner is clearly into it, there should be no doubt about it.
What if Someone Isn’t Sure If They Want Sex?
Consent is reversible, and consenting to one activity or encounter doesn’t mean your partner is consenting to everything. If your partner seems unsure or uncomfortable, pause and check in. If you’re unsure or uncomfortable, pause before moving forward and talk to your partner about what’s going on. Just because your partner isn’t totally into it doesn’t mean they aren’t into you.
What If Someone Doesn’t Want to Have Sex?
Sometimes, your partner isn’t in the mood or isn’t interested in a particular activity at the moment. Or they’re just not into you in an intimate way. Rejection sucks, but it’s important to handle the situation with courtesy and respect. Pay attention to your partner’s feelings and honor their limits. As stated, just because your partner isn’t into it now doesn’t mean they aren’t into you or they’re not into it at all.
Remember, someone who is too drunk, too high, passed out or asleep cannot consent. If someone can’t consent, you shouldn’t be doing anything with them at all.
Overall, consent is when a person freely agrees to do something. When it comes to sex, consent is needed every time, no matter what. As the videos show, consent doesn’t have to be hard, awkward, or confusing. In fact, consent can make things clearer, easier and more comfortable.
Jesse Lawder is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.