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When consent is a newer concept or conversation for you, it may feel awkward to start doing it. We don't have a lot of good examples modeled to us of suave and sexy consent conversations. There is usually a whole lot of the opposite. Movies and TV often sell the idea of just taking action is sexier and more daring. This is a horrible and potentially dangerous idea. It is ideas like that which have led us to our current state of affairs where at least 1 in 4 women in Canada experience a sexual assault in their life. It is ideas like that which have created the need for social movements like the #MeToo Movement. Consent is incredibly important and it doesn't have to feel awkward.
Examining Why It Feels Awkward
If you feel that asking for consent is totally awkward, you should take some time to figure out where the source of your discomfort is. Are you unsure how to ask? Is there a fear of rejection? These things are perfectly natural to feel but it shouldn't stop you from obtaining consent. As with most things in life, the more you practice something, the easier it becomes and the better you get at it. Having the consent conversation feels healthy and natural for people who are experienced. Also, a good portion of people will appreciate the consent and boundary conversation. Those who don't are usually people you want to sleep with anyway.
If a person truly is resistant to the consent conversation, it's usually because they are concerned with only their own pleasure and have little care for the well being of their partner. This is the kind of person who is just out to get what they want regardless of the feelings or consent of others. A person like this can be dangerous for others. They are more likely to sexually assault someone or push past the boundaries of agreed-upon consent. It's best to avoid them if you safely can.
How to Ask for Consent
There are lots of ways you can ask for consent. A simple, "Do you consent?" is a straightforward way. Many people feel this to be uncomfortable and clunky but if it's good enough for the Starks of Winterfell, why not you? There are still other ways to check in with your partner around consent if Game of Thrones nobility isn't your style. Depending on the context of the situation you can try one of the following:
- "Hey, is this ok for you?"
- "What did you have in mind?"
- "Where would you like things to go from here?"
- "Can I kiss you?"
Consent is all about checking in with your partner to ensure that you both are in the same spot for your desires. There are a lot of reasons why it may not always be obvious if a person is into what is happening. Many men have been convicted of sexual assault charges who just assumed their partner was into it but never bothered to check.
What If I Get Rejected?
Rejection is never fun and can feel really awful but why would you want to be with someone who's not interested in being with you? Sex is always best when everyone is enthusiastically involved. It's true that when you ask, you may sometimes get a "no" for an answer. While this is not an ideal outcome, it's still better than pushing ahead and finding out later that the person feels violated and never wanted it.
Now the argument can be made that if someone really didn't want it, then they should have tried harder to stop it. The problem with this logic is that there are a LOT of reasons why someone may not fight to stop it. These reasons could range from a fear of their safety after the rejection to feelings of futility at being able to stop it. Asking for consent solves a lot of these problems. It communicates to your partner that you care about their well-being and pleasure. It creates a safe space for people to say no.
At the end of the day, no one's pleasure is more important than the personal autonomy of someone else. It's never fun to be rejected but it's much better to share experiences with people who actually want to share them with you. It will lead to better sex, more fulfilling relationships, and a more solid reputation.
Challenge Popular Ideas on Consent & Sex
A lot of mainstream popular ideas of what relationships and sex should look like are not always promoting healthy ideals. Many of the ideals are toxic and promote abusive relationships. Never be afraid to challenge these ideas and explore new ways to do things. Keep learning about consent, healthy relationships, and communication. These are the keys to more satisfying and fulfilling sex life. To learn more about consent, pick up a copy of Got Consent? It is a detailed overview of some of the key basics to consent that will change how you approach it and really up your game.
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