When it comes down to getting jiggy with your partner, consent is a huge question mark. Often, people get confused when there are mixed signals, which may lead to unwanted sex (sexual assault or rape), even if people didn’t mean to. A simple “Let’s go over to my place after dinner” could be misconstrued as an invitation to sex, for example.
To many, consent is a simple question followed by a “yes” or “no” answer, but one of the biggest challenges with this is that it’s often awkward to simply ask for sex. Additionally, the widely perpetuated myth that when women say “no”, it means “yes”, adds unnecessary uncertainty to how the answer should be interpreted. So what are the various ways that we can encourage the act of asking and giving consent in a more subtle manner without losing clarity?
Let’s come up with a spectrum of comfort levels between any relationships.
1) Extremely comfortable (couples who are having sex frequently and already enjoy it)
Even though a couple can be in a long-term loving relationship, it doesn’t mean that we can take sex for granted. At this stage, it is alright (even sexy) to ask for sex upfront, where a “no” should not be taken personally as a rejection. It is more likely that your partner is tired, or not in the mood, or stressed. It has got nothing to do with you. Trust your partner that any rejection to sex is not necessarily an indication that the relationship is not going well or that he/she no longer likes you. Although couples have their own form of consent, they should still be sensitive to body language and cues, especially because people (and their sex drives!) change over the course of the relationship.
2) Comfortable (couples who have sex occasionally or do not talk about sex openly)
When you’re in the stage of a relationship where expectations seem to fall out of the sky, assumptions and unspoken “rules” develop. Enjoy unravelling and clarifying what these differences are, because what you think should be a given, may be completely absurd from another’s view. This is a good chance for you to strengthen communication with your partner; to discover whether the established patterns and behaviours in asking for consent might perhaps be pressurising/ not entirely mutual/ worked previously in the relationship but is now annoying. At the end of the day, you must reflect on why he/she is sleeping with you to ensure that it is out of mutual desire and not duty or pressure.
3) Neutral (Just getting to know each other or friends transitioning to lovers)
Take your time at each stag,e from holding hands, to kissing the person at the door, to hugging; so on and so forth. At any point where you feel that there might be resistance, stop and ask. “Is everything okay?”. “How are you feeling?” When it comes to asking for sex itself, “Should I go get a condom?” is one of the many great ways to suggest sex (and also making sure it’s done safely) without being too blunt at this early stage of the relationship. Other suggestions include:
– Is it okay if I ________?
– Would you be comfortable if we _______?
– I would like to ______ to you, but only if you want to as well.
4) Strangers (One-night stands or flings)
Suppose you meet someone at a bar you’re interested in (and both of you are sober), you start chatting him/her up and doing the usual courtship rituals. You are sexually attracted to the person and not sure if it’s reciprocal. It is always better to err on the side of caution; do not have sex with the person even if he/she hints at wanting sex either with body language or innuendo. At this stage, it is very easy to misunderstand actions especially when you have never interacted with the person before. Therefore, be as clear as possible, maybe almost blunt; it may be unromantic but it is better to be sure of the boundaries than to disregard the other person’s feelings. When miscommunication does occur, be the bigger person and apologise without insinuating that he/she led you on.
Consent boils down to showing respect and listening to your partner, as well as being sensitive to body language. When you respect your partner, it often makes you a more desirable lover because you exhibit maturity and understanding. Open and honest communication may seem awkward at first, but it brings relationships closer and builds trust and security in your love-making.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock and SlutWalkSG
SlutWalk Singapore proudly takes a stand against sexual violence and the bully tactics of victim-blaming, as we are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. They seek to challenge the thinking that it is acceptable to live in a victim-blaming society as we do, where we are taught “don’t get raped,” instead of, “don’t rape”.