Consent is a hot topic right now, and for a very good reason. We are in the middle of a revolution in communication, both in and outside the bedroom. At the workplace, you may be feeling a bit more emboldened to ask for that raise or state your opinion on a new strategy. If you’re dating someone new, then you probably spend a lot of time wondering what’s okay with your new partner. Where do they like to be touched? Do they actually like what I just did? How could I do it better?
Here’s what you need to know about verbal and nonverbal consent.
Why Consent Is Important (and Makes the Sex Better)
Asking for consent helps make your worrisome thoughts visible so that participants have a chance to weigh in. Rather than trying something without warning, consent is a great way to check in ahead of time. You’d never break into someone’s house and then ask if you can come in, right?
Unfortunately, there’s a long history of people disrespecting boundaries during sex. In fact, it’s called assault. If you don’t want to be a party to assault, ask for consent, and make sure it’s freely given.
It’s wonderful that people today feel more empowered than ever to ask for what they want and say no to what they don’t want. When you find a toy that hits the spot, use it! There’s nothing wrong with experimentation, of course. But good consent practices can help ensure that no one regrets their decisions. Part of it is generational, as the newest group of young adults grew up with easy access to the Internet and a strong sexual vocabulary.
Consent is important for everyone to practice, no matter who they’re sleeping with or why. Plus, consent can make sex even more satisfying! When you are 100% sure that your partner likes what you are doing, it makes you confident. Even better, if they ask for something specific, you’ll know that you are definitely making them feel good. It can be really sexy to be explicit with your requests in bed. Whether you call it dirty talk or something else, naming your desires clearly is an important part of great sex.
Ways to Ask For and Give Verbal Consent
It’s easy to ask for and give consent. The best way to start is by verbally expressing yourself. You can start by simply narrating what you are doing aloud, or what you would like to do. It takes a bit of bravery, but the more you practice, the easier it will get.
To begin, phrase everything like a question or a desire. For instance, if you want to get consent from your partner before doing something, instead of saying “I’m going to” you could say “I’d like to.” Then you could ask them, “Can I?”
For a more general consent conversation, try raising some questions during foreplay before things get too heated. You might know there are certain things you or don’t want to do. Maybe there’s a vibrator that you normally use. It’s okay to name your thoughts aloud while you’re getting hot and heavy. But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be dry and clinical! Make it sexy. You could say something like, “I really like it when you tug my hair.”
If you do NOT want your partner to do something, try a compliment sandwich but be super clear. It starts with a compliment: “I love what you’re doing with your tongue right now.” Then you give feedback: “Could you move that hand away from my leg? It makes me feel unsexy.” Finally, finish with another compliment or give direction: “Bring that tongue back, it feels so nice.”
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that a simple “Is this is okay?” will suffice. If you don’t like what’s happening, you can just say “No,” “Stop,” “Hold on, please,” or “Can we pause for a moment?” You don’t have to know what you do want, just what you don’t want.
Is Nonverbal Consent a Real Thing?
Nonverbal consent works best between partners that know each other well. It should never replace verbal discussions about consent, of course. But there are many people who struggle to verbalize their feelings during sex. Some trauma survivors aren’t able to verbally describe their consent during the moment. It might bring back bad memories of their assault, or it might simply take them out of their bodies and into their heads.
If you and your partner know each other well and have discussed it previously, there are plenty of ways to get nonverbal consent. For instance, you could hold up a toy or a certain number of fingers, and your partner could nod in response.
Tuning into your partner’s nonverbal responses, such as hesitation or tension, are an important part of getting consent. No one should have to speak the word “no” aloud to stop an unwanted act. Pulling you closer is a good sign that your partner wants more. Leaning back or gripping your arm could be a sign that they need a break. Respond to nonverbal cues and revert to verbal check-ins when necessary.
We promise, the sex will be better! Consent is a great practice between new partners as well as established partnerships. People change, and consent helps all parties feel confident that they are participating in a 100% chosen activity.