Healthy Relationships and Consent
Everyone has the right to healthy, consensual sexual and romantic experiences and relationships. Consent is not only sexy; it is mandatory.
Definition: a 'yes' that is freely given, when the option of 'no' is both present and viable.
Consent is not something you 'get;' it is an on-going conversation with another person (or people) about what you like or do not like, what they want or do not want. Consent is respectfully negotiated prior to and during sexual activity and can be changed or revoked at any time; it is important to check in with your partner(s) to ensure everyone is enjoying the activities. Silence, the lack of an explicit 'no,' or consent to other prior activities does not equal consent. Consent cannot be negotiated if 'no' is not a viable option, meaning if someone is coerced, manipulated, afraid to say 'no,' or otherwise forced into saying 'yes,' that is not consensual.
In our society, talking about sexual activity is taboo, which means that for many of us, the thought of talking about sex with a partner(s) seems awkward or we think it might 'ruin the moment.' However, negotiating consent actually removes awkwardness and leads to better sexual activity because everyone involved can share what they like and do not like and can better enjoy the experience.
- Clear and specific
- A step-by-step process (meaning consent to one activity does not imply consent to other activities)
Consent is not:
- Silence or the lack of a 'no'
Ready to start the conversation?
When negotiating consent, there is a lot to talk about! Consent must be informed; vague invitations do not give someone the opportunity to provide an informed 'yes,' so be clear and specific! What activities do you want to engage in and how? What activities do you not enjoy? Where and when? What are you comfortable with and what are your boundaries? What are your needs? What about condoms or dental dams or other forms of birth control and STI prevention? Sometimes starting the conversation can be difficult--a helpful and fun way to break the ice is using a "Yes, No, Maybe Chart." It includes information on sexual and romantic activities, and provides space to make notes, rate your desire to engage (or not engage) in certain activities, and discuss your boundaries, "turn-ons," and "turn-offs" with a partner or partners. The chart below was developed in collaboration with the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center at UNC.
Healthy relationships can look a lot of different ways--from you and one partner, to you and multiple partners, from romantic relationships to sexual ones--ultimately, no one can define what healthy looks and feels like to you. Whether you’re looking for a relationship or are already in one, make sure you and your partner(s) agree on what makes a relationship healthy. It’s not always easy, but everyone deserves a healthy relationship!
In healthy relationships, all parties should have equal say and should never be afraid to express how they feel. Open communication, consent, and trust are important characteristics of healthy relationships.
Every relationship has arguments and disagreements sometimes — this is normal. How you choose to deal with your disagreements is what really counts. Both people should work to communicate effectively.