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Sexual consent is a big deal. It’s also very important. There’s no doubt it’s being discussed more these days than it used to be, which is certainly a step in the right direction.

As you’ve found your way to this article I’ll assume you’re already thinking about it, which is a good sign! The trouble is, although in reality it’s really quite simple, sometimes it can seem more complicated than it is.

To try and make things easier, we’ve created this list of 3 things that are required to ensure you’re having consensual sex.

But first, let’s clarify – what is sexual consent? Unfortunately, at least when I was in school, it wasn’t something they cover in sex education. In fact, there were a lot of problems with sex education, but that’s for another post.

Put simply, consent is an agreement made between two partners to engage in a sexual act. That doesn’t just mean intercourse – consent is also needed for hugging, kissing and touching. The agreement must be based on words or actions that both partners understand and it can’t just be assumed.

Everyone involved must have the ability to consent

All parties must be physically and mentally capable of providing consent. It’s important to note that everyone must be over the legal age of consent, which varies between countries and states.

If someone is intoxicated, through their own doing or not, they may not be able to provide consent. For example, if someone is drunk and this makes them incapable of entering into a clear agreement, the sex isn’t going to be consensual.

The “yes” must be given freely

If an individual is under pressure or being forced to say “yes”, then it doesn’t count. This may seem obvious but this point shouldn’t be brushed past quickly. The pressure could be physical or mental.

For example, if someone believes there will be negative consequences if they don’t say “yes”, they are being pressured. Negative repercussions could be anything, such as blackmail, physical harm or emotional harm.

If the other person feels they are unable to say “no”, for whatever reason, then they are being pressured.

Saying things like “If you don’t have sex with me, I’ll tell everyone…” or “If you don’t have sex with me, you have to move out…” counts as blackmail. In fact, any sentences that begin with “If you don’t have sex with me” should be avoided.

It might not be this explicit, however, as it doesn’t have to be verbal. If any negative repercussions are even implied, then the other party is being pressured.

Consent must be active – not passive

Consent cannot be assumed, and consent for one thing (such as kissing) does not constitute as consent for another (such as sex). Equally, just because an act has been consented to in the past, does not mean it is consented to in the future.

For example, a girlfriend or boyfriend may have given consent earlier that day, but if they’re passed out drunk later on, they most certainly do not give consent.

Another important point to raise here is that a lack of a “no” does not constitute as a “yes”. If someone cannot say no because they’re asleep, they are not saying yes.

Consent matters

To summarise, consent is very important. It’s not just about staying within the law, but also about having decency and respect for other human beings. It’s also crucial for a healthy sexual relationship.

Checklist for consent:

  1. They must be physically and mentally able to give consent
  2. They must be able to do so freely, without pressure
  3. Their consent must be active and explicit

If you’re unsure whether or not you have consent, chances are you don’t. The best thing to do in this situation, is ask. You might think saying it out loud isn’t sexy – but it’s definitely more sexy than the alternative.

This post was written by Ed Morley, a writer for Custom Condoms, a company that specialises in creating custom printed condom packets, enabling brands, charities and individuals to spread their message through the medium of condoms.

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