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By Rebecca Grandahl

Sex is an act of many masks: the first time experiment, the late-night hook up, or the routine act of lovemaking in a dedicated partnership. Really, it’s a primal activity that we self-convinced “civilized” humans are made to do, and therefore, there’s practically a million ways to do it. Regardless of the parties involved, there is always one element that can never be forgotten nor misunderstood. That element goes by the name consent.

Many people have seen the video comparing consent with tea, but if you haven’t, watch it here. The concept is smoothly communicated through a brilliant metaphor, which is that you wouldn’t force someone to drink a cup of tea if they didn’t want to. The same goes for sex. Here’s a simplified list of how consent works.


Consent is given through an explicit “yes” every time you go into and have a sexual encounter. Consent must be given by both parties, and it must exist for the duration of the entire sexual encounter. If at any time consent is rescinded by either party, the sexual encounter stops. Do you have to verbally say “yes” all the time? Not necessarily! Consent can be given through other ways, as long as it is very clear and given in the moment.


If you want to have sex with someone, say yes when they ask if you like what they’re doing. You can say “yes” continually, express if you like something, or give other forms of positive encouragement that suit your style. You can also use body language, such as pulling them closer, touching them back, or smiling. There are many ways to express consent, which is part of what makes it fun!


The other side of the coin is listening. This doesn’t just mean waiting to hear if someone likes what you’re doing, it also can mean asking your partner if they enjoy what’s going on. Ask them, “Do you want to do this?” or, “Does this feel good?” Pay attention to the body language that your partner expresses. If a partner avoids your gestures or pushes against you, stop what you’re doing and ask if they’re okay.


Anyone who has consumed any form of drugs, including alcohol and marijuana, cannot consent. They are not in a normal form of consciousness, which means they have a skewed sense of reality and cannot fully understand what is going on. Even if they express a desire to engage in sex, this is not a true form of consent because their judgment is impaired.


If you come across an unconscious person, make sure that they are safe. Do not have sex with them instead, because this is called rape. Unconscious people cannot give consent to sex at all. If someone consented to sex and then they fell asleep, do not begin to have sex with them. They are unconscious. They do not know what is going on. If you are having sex with a partner and they fall asleep during it, stop having sex with them immediately.


This one can be confusing and be blindsiding for many people who went through the work of turning someone on and are now being told no after an initial yes was given. However, just because your partner was okay with you performing oral sex doesn’t necessarily mean they’re okay with you performing vaginal sex. What is more, if someone asks you to stop at any time during a sexual encounter, this is always valid. Always. A “no” is never invalid. It is always taken seriously.


When a relationship begins, there’s no contract that you sign handing over your rights to consent to all sex being had at any possible time. You don’t agree to have sex every Wednesday night at 7 pm. You don’t agree to have sex in a month. You don’t agree to have sex ever. You agree to have sex when you agree in that moment. Just because you are dating, engaged, or married doesn’t mean you consent to every possible future sexual encounter that could possibly happen in that relationship.


If you flirted with someone for two minutes one night or for years over time, that doesn’t mean you can have sex with them. People often change their minds, so even if this is annoying, they have every right to not give consent.


Many people see consent as an annoyance or a hindrance to sex. This is totally false! There is nothing sexier than having someone ask for you to be intimate with them when you want to as well, or for someone to say “yes!” when you ask if they feel ready to have sex with you. Consent is not a bad thing at all! It’s the key to a healthy sex life, and to positive relationships.

Sex is a fun, natural part of life. Thankfully, consent doesn’t have to be hard at all. Communicating with your partner is a fun part of having sex, and something that must always be practiced. As a matter of fact, sex isn’t even sex without it— it’s rape. There is nothing fun, attractive, or seductive about rape and sexual assault. So why wouldn’t you include consent as a normal part of any sexual encounter?


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Writers of the Boston University chapter of Her Campus.
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