Sexual Health Week 2018: Recognising consent

Confused by consent? For Sexual Health Week 2018, FPA, the sexual health charity, have provided some tools to communicate clearly, and a good understanding of what consent is.

Learning ways to ask whether a partner is enthusiastic and excited about having sex with you is key to a healthy sex life. Some people worry that asking for consent might ‘ruin the mood’, but it can actually be a fun way to turn consent into an essential start to any sexual activity.

banner ad

Asking for consent
Ways to ask for consent include:

Do you want me to…?
Would you like it if I…?
Is it OK if I…?
How do you feel about…?
Do you want to try…?
Do you want me to keep going?
It’s surprisingly easy and sexy to ask someone ‘can I kiss you?’ or ‘do you want to have sex with me?’

Don’t be afraid of being direct. Being honest is the best way to understand what you both want.

Refusing consent
What can often be more difficult and make people feel awkward is not giving consent, and it’s important to be equipped with ways to do this too. Ways to say ‘no’ include:

I would prefer not to…
I would rather not…
I don’t know how I feel about this.
I don’t think I’m ready for that.
Maybe another time, but not now.
I would prefer it if we…
I would feel more comfortable if…
I don’t want to do this any more.
This isn’t working for me.
Sometimes, refusing consent can be intimidating, or confusing if you’re unsure or would like to say yes in the future, but remember that you always have the right to say no.

It’s also OK to change your mind about saying yes at any point during sex. There is never a point of no return.

Checking for consent
If at any point the other person seems unsure about carrying on, stop, and don’t engage in any further sexual activity.

Asking for consent until ‘no’ becomes ‘yes’ is not enthusiastic consent – asking once should be enough. Respect the answer you get.

Reading people’s body language (non-verbal cues) is another great way to check for consent.

Signs of consent include things like:

direct eye contact
actively touching someone
pulling someone closer
nodding yes
smiling
moaning or sounds of enjoyment
saying something feels good
saying yes

Signs of not consenting include things like:

looking away
avoiding touching someone and being touched
pushing someone away, moving away from their touch
shaking their head no
looking sad or fearful
silence or a trembling voice
not moving, freezing and laying still
saying or sounding like, they’re in pain
saying no, or maybe
Everyone has different ways to say yes and no, and if a partner’s behaviour seems unenthusiastic, out of character or unusual then stop engaging in sexual activity and check how they’re feeling.

If they’ve consumed drugs or alcohol and are very intoxicated, wait until the next day when they have sobered up to engage in any sexual activity.

These examples aren’t an exhaustive list, but are a way to start conversations on consent.

For more resources about consent, visit the FPA website.