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Who’s the person who should voice their desires and asks for a partner’s own wants or watch out for signs of sexual consent? Everyone. Not just one person, or one gender or one person with a given kind of body or of a given age. Obviously, someone has to make the first move sometimes and put it out there. Who does is usually who gets the gumption to first. In a healthy sexual relationship where both people share mutual feelings of sexual desire, mutual desire to enact them (even if not always at the same time or on the same days) and both feel ready to fully participate in sexual activities with a partner, there tends to be a lot of back and forth, rather than sexual initiation, and initiation of consent, being one person’s doing.

What can consent-in-words and non-consent tend to sound like, whether we’re putting our desires out there, saying we don’t want or aren’t sure about, or providing an answer to someone else’s voiced wants?

some common verbal signals of consent and non-consent

What can consent sound like? What can non-consent sound like?
Yes No
I’m so sure I’m not sure
I know I don’t know
I’m excited I’m scared
Dont stop! Stop
Whoohoo! Yippee! Hot damn! Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! [silence]
More! No more
I want to. I want to, but…
I’m not worried Wait, I feel worried about…
I want you/it/that I don’t want you/it/that
Can you please do… Can you please not do…
I still want to I thought I wanted to, but…
That feels good That hurts
Mmmmmmmm. [silence]
Yes Maybe
I love you and I love this I love you/this, but…
I want to do this right now, like this I want to do this, but not right now/this way
I feel good about this I don’t know how I feel about this
I’m ready I’m not sure I’m ready
I want to keep doing this I don’t want to do this anymore
[insert praise to your deity of choice here] [no such praise]
This feels so right This feels wrong
YES! [silence]

READ: 6 RULES OF SEXUAL CONSENT

Over time, people who have sex together will tend to get more comfortable with each other, and will get to know each other better, and so they may use less consent-in-words and start using more nonverbal cues. That’s generally okay so long as it feels okay to everyone involved, but it’s a lot trickier than words, because body language is often a lot less clear. Sometimes people try to have sex right from the start using only body language as communication. While it can work sometimes, more often it results in either someone getting hurt, having boundaries or lines crossed, or in people just not connecting well.

some common nonverbal signs of consent and non-consent

Possible nonverbal signs of consent Possible nonverbal signs of non-consent
Direct eye contact Avoiding eye contact
Initiating sexual activity Not initiating any sexual activity
Pulling someone closer Pushing someone away
Actively touching someone Avoiding touch
Nodding yes Shaking head no
Comfort with nudity and other ways of being vulnerable sexually Extreme discomfort with nudity of being otherwise vulnerable sexually
Laughter and/or smiling (upturned mouth) Crying and/or looking sad or fearful (clenched or downturned mouth)
“Open” body language, like relaxed, loose and open arms and legs, relaxed facial expressions, turning towards someone “Closed” body language, like tense, stiff or closed arms and legs, tight or tense facial expressions, turning away from someone
Sounds of enjoyment, like a satisfied hum or enthusiastic moan Silence or sounds of fear or sadness, like whimpering or a trembling voice
An active body “Just lying there”

 


If you and a partner are moving more towards nonverbal sexual communication, talk about it. Looking at a list like the one above, do you and/or your partner feel like these things are true for each of you? Do either of you know nonverbal cues or responses you tend to have when you want something sexual or don’t that you can share with each other to make this kind of communication easier? Maybe you even want to some up with a safeword, or stop-word, to use when you want to be expressly nonverbal: one word or gesture you can use to say stop clearly that both agree means stop.

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