Consent is an important issue for everyone. Girls, boys, folks outside the gender binary, queers, straights, etc. No matter who you are, the odds are you have been or will be in a situation where consent is iffy. So here are some basic facts to help you avoid these kinds of situations.
#1: I define consent as an enthusiastic, non-coerced “yes” to sexual advances. However, just because someone is okay with doing one thing with you (e.g. kissing) doesn’t mean they’re comfortable going any further. Ask, several times if possible, before you try something new. Also, just because someone’s consented to something in the past doesn’t mean they’re okay with doing it again. Consent can be violated even in an ongoing sexual relationship.
#2 Consent can’t happen when person says “no” to sexual advances. This should be obvious, but some people don’t seem to grasp this fact. They ignore every “no,” thinking the person really means “yes” or just needs more persuading. This is not okay. No means no, always. If a person tells you no, immediately stop doing what you’re doing and check make sure they’re okay.
# 3: Consent isn’t coerced. If you pressure someone into doing something with you, they’re doing it under duress, not of their own free will. Coercion can take many forms: threats, begging, statements like “if you really liked/ loved me, you would do this thing.” Putting that kind of pressure on someone who feels unsure about doing something with you can make them feel scared, violated and taken advantage of. Never put anyone in that kind of position.
4: Consent isn’t just the absence of “no,” it’s an enthusiastic yes. If someone shuts down or freezes up during intimacy, that’s your cue to ask what’s wrong. Don’t assume anything, and don’t take their silence for a green light to go ahead.
5: A person can’t consent to sex if they are drunk or under the influence of drugs. This is especially important to understand in college, where drunken hookups can veer into the scary territory where lines are frequently crossed by someone who’s indifferent to the fact that the person they’re hooking up with is too drunk to give consent. To avoid these kinds of situations, don’t go home with a drunk person. Or if you do, don’t do anything with them besides literally “sleep over.” Sorry to be a buzzkill, but “that person I banged last week was totally wasted,” is nothing to brag about. It’s legally rape.
6: ALWAYS ASK before you do anything, even kissing. No matter what signals you think they’re giving you, or what they do consent to, it’s better to be safe than to be sorry. Even if they appear to be fine in the moment, afterwards the person you’ve hooked up with can feel as though boundaries have been crossed. Checking in can be sexy - you’re showing that you care what the other person likes, allowing them to take mastery of their own pleasure. When someone leans towards me and whispers, “can I kiss you?” it’s the sexiest feeling in the world.