20 July 2021
Can I touch you there? A Pocket Guide to Consent
When it comes to relationships and consent - better safe than sorry. With this approach, sex researcher Lisa Moroz has created a guide for ensuring that you always have your partner's consent, without killing the mood.
Being touched by someone you don't like most likely is one of the worst feelings ever. It doesn't matter which gender you belong to; you could still be disgusted, terrified, angry, or just uncomfortable. Maybe you'd be straightforward enough to push this person away, or perhaps you'd be crippled by fear. Now what would happen if your date actually asked for your consent before reaching for you? Well, we imagine you would cordially decline and save yourself the trouble.
Or consider the following scenario. Would you rather go on a date with someone who asks you out politely making sure you are excited about the whole idea? Or with someone, who pulls you to a random bar without ensuring you're actually down for that? While the second option appears weird and rude, the first is just... good manners. So why do we think it's strange to ask for consent when hugging, kissing, or doing something in bed?
There's a perception out there that asking questions like “Is it okay if I kiss you?” or “Can I touch you there?” is an awkward thing and will kill the vibe. But why would it? If someone asks you these questions, doesn't that mean they care about you? And if we consider "Do you wanna have sex?" to be equivalent to "I value you" there won’t be any awkwardness when asking for permission ever again.
Here’s how you get partner’s consent at any time and any place:
While texting on a dating app
Imagine, you've been chatting with someone on Pure and it seems like they don't mind having sex (online or real). But hey, let’s take it slowly! You might think you are on the same page, however you still should get your partner’s consent before sending nudes or an explicit voice note. Here are a few things you can ask before you move to the next base. "I love talking to you! I'd love to get to know you better, especially what you like to do during sex. Would you like that?" or "Wow, things are getting hot. Can I send you my nudes?".
Consent is a firm "yes" or an excited "I'd love that!". If your partner is unsure, take it easy and just wait until they're ready.
At a bar
You see someone cute in a bar. How do you make sure he or she is actually interested? Consent is as simple as tea. You can start with, "Hi! I thought you looked nice and I'd come over and introduce myself. Do you mind?". And you don't have to buy someone a drink to get their attention. A polite question is always better for a start. If everything goes well and you feel like the sympathy is mutual, you should still be getting consent before attempting anything else. "You have beautiful lips. I'd like to give you a kiss. Is that okay?". If you hear an enthusiastic "Yes," you know what to do. And if it's a "Yes, but ..." or something else, take a step back. Also, pay attention to what state the person is in.
If someone is drunk, they will not be able to give consent, which means a clear NO.
On a date
If this is your first date and you don't know your date well, you must obtain consent. For instance, suppose you meet your new date for dinner and lean in to hug them. Instead, here's something else you can do. Say, "Hi, it's nice to meet you! Can I give you a hug?". If the evening goes well and you feel like this feeling it's mutual, ask, "I had a great evening with you and I feel like we made a connection. Would you want to continue this evening with me? We don't have to have sex, we can just talk and cuddle", and you have to mean it!
It's crucial for guys to understand that some women say "yes" without truly meaning it. This comes from gender socialization: from a young age, girls are taught to be nice and polite, to smile and not to cause any trouble. "I know some girls have a hard time saying no since that's how they were raised," you can say to be sure your date isn't just being kind. “If you don't wanna do something, you can tell me. I respect that. For me it's important that we both feel comfortable."
When having sex
Just remember that you should always ask permission to do something with the other person's body.
Make consent an essential part of sex, just like taking off your clothes or wearing a condom. "Do you feel like having sex?" is a great place to start. It's also appropriate for both, new lovers and couples who have been together for a long time. Even if you've been married for 10 years, you can still change your mind. The same rule applies to group sex. You need everyone's consent.
If you want to undress someone, you can ask, "Can I take your shirt off?". When you're ready to move from petting to oral sex, ask, "I love it when you give me a blowjob. Do you feel like doing it now?". If you want to switch positions, say, "Do you want to do it from behind?". And, of course, if you're tired or bored (which is totally fine), say, "Hey, I think I am not in the mood today. Do you want to watch a movie instead?".
The purpose of consent is to establish a safe space which gives us the possibility to feel comfortable with someone and actually have good fun. It helps people in relationships trust each other and protects them from potential violence. And sex that is driven by total intimacy and trust is much more sensuous. Truly, the sky's the limit.
Feel free to adjust these examples to fit your approach or the situation! Or here's a quick formula: Tell your partner what you want, ask if they want the same thing; emphasize how important it is for you to be sure you are on the same page, and ask the question again.
*This article was originally published in Russian.