What Every Man Needs To Know About Sexual Consent
Sparks were flying at the party. The conversation flowed. There was definite flirting. You shared a couple of drinks, and then a couple more. A little kissing and grinding on the dance floor. You’re into this woman. And you think she’s into you too.
Fast-forward a few hours, after she accepted your invitation to finish the evening with a nightcap at your place. But the heat you felt when you first started to make out has slowed down. You’re on your bed, half-naked. You’re buzzed. You’re turned on. You really, really want to have sex.
But there’s a nagging voice in your head holding you back. Is she not into you? Is she just quiet in bed? Is she drunk? Is she sleepy?
Your next move defines who you are as a man — and possibly your future. Do you have consent?
1. What Is Consent?
In this scenario, she’s not saying no. But she’s not saying yes, either.
This is not consent, despite what you may think. Consent is not the absence of NO. It’s the presence of YES.
Silence does not equal yes. Moaning does not equal yes. Drunken stupor does not equal yes. Asleep does not equal yes. The only thing that equals yes is yes, whether she’s saying yes out loud or saying yes by actively participating — taking off her clothes without being asked, taking off your clothes, guiding your hands, etc.
Consent is simple and unmistakable. It’s not something that needs to be interpreted through a thousand emotional and psychological filters. There really isn’t any gray area when it comes to consent. When you have it, you know.
You need consent for every sexual act, every time you have sex. If someone wants to kiss you, it doesn’t mean she wants to go down on you. If someone goes down on you, it doesn’t mean she wants to have intercourse. If she slept with you last weekend, it doesn’t mean she wants to sleep with you tonight. Even if you’re in a long-term relationship, you need consent each and every time.
Consent can be given and taken away — in the same sexual encounter. That’s not being a tease. That’s a person’s right to their body. If your partner started doing something that you didn’t want, you have the same right. If consent is taken away, stop what you’re doing — immediately. Some signs that consent is being taken away:
“Can we stop?”
“I’m not really into this.”
A push on your shoulder.
Suddenly going quiet.
If you sense that she’s not as into it as she was a few moments ago, you should stop immediately and ask your partner what’s up.
These are the basic elements that define consent. You can read more about them through this fact sheet from the National Violence Resource Center and its It’s On Us campaign.
2. Why Consent Is Sexy
Consent might sound legalistic and dry and unfun. But in reality, consent is sexy. It’s raw. It’s enthusiastic. It’s hot. When you have consent, you know for sure that your partner wants to be with you. She finds you sexy. She craves your touch. She’s totally into what you’re doing. Consensual sex is the sexiest kind of sex there is.
You and the woman of your dreams are having wild, crazy sex. You’re turned on. She’s turned on. She’s getting closer and closer to orgasm. Your touch, your hands, your moves are giving her so much pleasure.
And all the while, she’s saying, “Yes, yes, YES!”
“I think about consent as a way to communicate with my partner during sex. It’s how we both know we really, really want to be having sex with each other,” says Erin O’Callaghan, a senior at University of Cincinnati.
Why would you want to have any other kind of sex? While consent is mandatory when it comes to sex, it’s also a key element of desire — the HELL YES you feel when a partner is 100% into you.
3. Sex Without Consent Is Rape
Consent isn’t just sexy, it’s also mandatory. More and more, men and women are calling out non-consensual sex for what it is: Rape. Though the definitions and consequences vary from state to state, any sexual activity without consent is sexual assault. This is a crime for which you can be charged, convicted, sent to jail, and then required to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life.
Sexual assault is a crime for a reason. It’s one of the worst traumas that a human can endure. Regardless of gender, sexual violence leaves a lasting impact on a victim’s life. Survivors are more likely to face PTSD, depression, anxiety, and even physical health problems too.
Unfortunately, given the state of youth hookup culture, consent and alcohol do not mix. If you drink and drive, you’re taking a risk that you might harm yourself or others. The same is true when it comes to sex. Just because someone is drunk does not mean they’re consenting to sex. In fact, a partner under the influence of drugs or alcohol cannot give consent. Even if she says yes, you can still be held legally responsible for sexual assault. It’s not “regrettable sex” if she was too drunk to consent; it’s sexual assault, and you can be held legally responsible.
If you’re drinking, your judgment is impaired — as is your ability to ascertain consent. As a rule of thumb, if you’re too drunk to drive, you’re probably too drunk to have sex. Wait until the morning when you’re both sober, and able to provide an enthusiastic yes. It’s not worth the risk of harming someone else, and being responsible for rape. When consent is unclear, stop and get clarity. If you’re pressuring or cajoling a partner to engage in sexual activity, you’re out of bounds. If a partner’s resistance or lack of consent turns you on, you should seek professional help to stop yourself from hurting others.