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Heads Up: Sex Must Start with Consent

The idea of having sex can be both exciting and nerve-wracking! You may ask yourself, “What am I supposed to do?” or “Will my partner like this?” Most of your questions may be about pleasure and performance. These questions are important! But it’s also important that you check-in and ask yourself:

  • “Do I want to have sex?”
  • “Where do I want to have sex?”
  • “How do I want to have sex?”
  • “Do I trust this person?”

It is your right to decide when, where, and how you do it. It is also your right to decide who you do it with. This decision isn’t just limited to vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It also applies to sexual activities (like kissing, being touched sexually, and hugging).

It is also your partner’s right to decide these things for themselves.

How will you know if your partner wants to make out, have sex, or hang out? Ask them! An example of asking your partner would look like:

  • “Can I finger you?” If they say “Yes!” you can finger them. If they don’t respond, seem uneasy, or freeze up, the answer is no.

Other examples include:

  • “Can I touch your chest?”
  • “How do you feel about going down on me?”
  • “Could we use a sex toy?”
  • “Are you in the mood for anal?”

To make sure you are on the same page as your partner, a good rule of thumb is: If it’s not a yes, it’s a no.

This is known as consent. Consent is defined as “an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity.” Consent doesn’t just have to be when a person says “yes” or “no” to a particular sexual activity. Consent can also be non-verbal, such as through body language. However, non-verbal communication can sometimes lead to misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions. To be sure, stop and ask.

You should never feel guilty for saying “no.” You should also not feel forced to do something you do not want to. If you are the person asking for consent and receive a “no,” it can be difficult and may make you feel like you’re being rejected. Click here to understand how to deal with feelings of rejection if your partner says no and how to accept it.

It’s normal for you to want the person you like to like you back! You might think that for the person to like you, you need to say “yes” to whatever they want to do. Maybe you’re not interested in doing that sexual activity they’re interested in or maybe you don’t want to have sex. It’s okay if you do not want to! Don’t just say “yes” because you want them to like you or because you’re nervous about hurting their feelings.

It might feel awkward to say “no”, but that can be resolved by talking to your partner about what you like, what you don’t like, and your boundaries. Click here to learn how to embrace the awkwardness and improve your communication skills.

Sex must start with consent. Remember: If it’s not a yes, it’s a no.

To learn more about consent, check out these resources:

Author: Stephanie Paz is a Tigua Indian of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The University of Texas at El Paso and is working towards a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Promotion from New Mexico State University.

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