Want to improve your sex life? Practice consent.

For many of us, consent can seem like a loaded word. It might remind us of past traumas or violations. It might remind us of a legal contract, one that we somehow need to extend into our sex lives. Or, it might be something that we’ve quite frankly never thought applied to us before.

Regardless of what it reminds you of, consent is key in healthy sexual relationships. This little word goes far beyond yes vs no, rape vs consensual sex. Consent is an ongoing, negotiable agreement between you and your sexual partner(s) that does not only ensure that everyone has agreed to participate, but that everyone – including you – is having fun.

When we talk about consent outside of the “yes vs no” mentality, we dive into the deeper waters of sexual pleasure. This means we’re not just saying “yes, this is fine” but “yes, this is AMAZING.” It means we’re having open and honest communication with our partner(s) about what our boundaries and desires are, and coming to a mutual decision to make sex as pleasurable as possible for all parties. There are many ways to practice consent that not only avoid unintentionally making someone uncomfortable, but could  also make your sex life better.

The Basics

 Consent should always be:

How do you get consent from a partner?

You might be thinking—how do I know what my partner wants if they can change their mind at any time? Am I supposed to ask before everything I do? When we are viewing consent from a pleasure-based perspective, we have so many more opportunities to seek consent. Asking may seem like it’s “killing the mood” to many—but some people beg to differ. In fact, asking for consent can be incorporated into your sex life as a new way to bring flirtation to the bedroom. A simple “I want to _____. Do you want me to do that?” can be a turn on for your partner in addition to serving as a way to get their approval. Of course—this only works if your partner feels safe and comfortable enough with you to be honest. There are a myriad of other ways to use verbal and nonverbal cues from your partner that can help determine whether or not they’re comfortable and having fun. You can ask them if they want to engage. You can ask them how something feels. You can pay attention to their body language. This zine by Corrine Kai and Sydney Schaviatello features many different examples of how to seek and interpret consent, a must view for someone who isn’t familiar with the practice.

It is also important to have conversations with long-term sexual partners  outside of the bedroom. Many people get carried away or feel unable to speak up in the moment, so setting aside time to have a conversation about sex with your clothes on gives you the perfect opportunity to discuss your boundaries and your fantasies in an open and honest way. In order to be a consent and pleasure superstar, you have to not only be able to seek approval from your partner(s), but be willing to explore what brings you pleasure and be comfortable expressing that.

Why does it matter?

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, it’s more apparent than ever that as a society, we need to talk about sexual assault and harassment. In cis-hetero terms, when women are seen as vessels for men’s pleasure it is easy for violence and abuse to take place. While advocating for pleasure can only really be done in safe environments, when women and femmes stress the importance of our own pleasure we challenge the culture that for so long has permitted this assault and harassment to take place. While it may seem heteronormative, research has shown that straight women are 30% less likely to orgasm than heterosexual men (who, by the way, reported that they usually or always orgasm 95% of the time). And, for reference, lesbian women reported that they usually or always orgasm 89% of the time—meaning that there is something about heterosexual sex that we’re just getting wrong.  That “thing” just might be consent.

So, if you thought before reading this blog post that consent wasn’t an issue for you, we hope we’ve changed your mind. Consent is sexy. It is so much more than just making sure that the sex you are having is consensual, it’s making sure that it’s pleasurable and meeting the needs of all parties involved. When we hold our own desires as being of equal value of our partners, that in and of itself is an act of resistance.

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