Is this ok?
Do you want this?
Does that feel good to you?
Should I keep going?
Should I stop?
What would you like me to do to you?
Do you want to have sex right now?
These are consent seeking phrases you should be exchanging with a partner when you are about to hook up, while you are hooking up, or when sexual intimacy is advancing to another level. You can never ask “too many times.” Being a conscientious or good lover entails more than just thinking you know when the time is right or where the g-spot’s hiding (hint: you didn’t leave it in the glove box). It involves listening to each other and respecting boundaries.
Importantly, sex and acts of intimacy should be a decision that YOU make – personally, and then verbally. If you plan to have sex, actively say so: “I want this,” and assess that 1. you have a willing partner and 2. your birth control status is on point (always carry a condom and be sure to keep it fresh– condoms can wear down over time when they are shoved into the recesses of a wallet or purse and exposed to varying temperatures.) And remember, when “birth control” is anything other than a condom, you are still at risk for STD transmission. Outside of a monogamous relationship, condom is king cobra (say that five times fast and you won’t forget it.)
If you are in a long term, monogamous relationship – even if you have had sex a million Friday nights in the back of a Honda Odyssey – it may come as surprise to you that “consent” is still “a thing.” You have the exclusive right to re-evaluate your sexual personhood and decide if it’s still something you want.
Even if you thought you wanted to have sex ten minutes ago while hooking up on the couch during an episode of Louis C.K., and then saw a commercial about plantar wart removal, it’s your right to say that you changed your mind. Consent is not a contract for life. It’s valid for exactly as long as it takes to say yes and then change your mind and say no.
In fact, sex without consent falls under the category of rape and sexual assault. This includes instances when you are unable to consent to sex: if you are asleep, unconscious, or impaired by drugs or alcohol (book club recommendation: Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer, or catch the NYT review here.)
There is no shame in being sexually active. But if you aren’t ready to say “I want to have sex with you, now put a condom on,” then you are making a bad decision. It’s that easy.
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Now watch this Indian Condom Song and never forget it.
For more resources on what it means to consent, visit www.loveisrespect.org. For a great podcast on the nature of consent, listen to This American Life episode 557: Birds & Bees, Act 1.