Posted May 25, 2016 by Cooper Point Journal in Letters & Opinion

Body Party

Advice on Love, Sex, Relationships, and More

Dear Body Party,

My friend and I keep getting into round about discussions about consent and what it really means and how to go about enacting it in our relationships. Honestly, asking before we do anything at all with our partners seems exhausting and awkward. Can you clear this up for us? Thanks!

-Questioning Consent

Hey Questioning Consent,

Consent is actually pretty straight forward—it is defined as getting permission from your partner, particularly when you’re engaged in sexual activity—but people tend to get a little mixed up when it comes to the details. What you’re talking about, constant questions, comes from the idea of affirmative consent, a faction of radical consent. Radical consent states that not only should affirmative consent be mandatory, but that the ideas surrounding consent should permeate your whole relationship and not be confined to sexual encounters. People, regardless of their sexual activity, should have autonomy over their bodies, and our job as friends and sexual partners is to respect and help maintain that autonomy.

Radical consent can seem daunting if you’ve only ever been taught the classic middle school “no means no” variety, but it can be very easy to implement. Yes, asking questions is key, but they do not have to be awkward. You should care about whether or not our partner is into whatever you are doing! Common ideas about consent frame it as breaking boundaries or respecting them, but consent is more than that—it is being aware of not just the things that your partner is comfortable with, but what they like and dislike. Radical consent means checking in with your partner by using phrases like, “is this okay?” and “do you like this?” and, of course, “is it okay if I…?”. Radical consent is like Crossfit—it’s not an exercise, it’s a lifestyle.

While yes means yes consent is important in redefining the meaning of safe sex, many people still do not practice it in their day to day relationships, so let me be perfectly clear: regardless of whether or not your partner asks, you can always say no. Saying no can be just as liberating as saying yes. You are not required to like everything and saying no does not make you a prude or a wimp. You should always feel comfortable stopping your partners—if you do not feel emotionally or physically safe saying no, the encounter you are engaging in should not be considered consensual. Safe sex means more than just wearing a condom or using a dental dam. Safe sex also means watching out for the emotional wellbeing of your partners. And safe sex—in every meaning of the word—is good sex!

Stay Safe & Have Fun,