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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sex Basics and Sexual Health » Enthusiastic Consent

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Author Topic: Enthusiastic Consent
Haleigh H
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Enthusiastic consent means rather than looking for a “no,” we're making sure there’s an active “yes.” We un-do all of the awkwardess of uncertainty and amp up the hotness of getting (and giving!) a “hell, yes!”

Enthusiastic consent is saying, “Yes! I want this!” or, “No, I don’t think I want to do that,” and asking “Is this ok?” To do these things is to be respectful of not only your own bodily autonomy, but also your partner’s. It’s just common courtesy, really.

If we are all engaging in the asking and telling of what we desire than we can also clearly point out instances when boundaries have been pushed or directly violated.

What I love about enthusiastic consent is that it challenges rape culture. If enthusiastic consent is the standard then it changes the focus from what did the victim do wrong to what did the perpetrator do to make sure she was really into it.

Is this a new idea to you or something you practice?

Share with me what enthusiastic consent looks like to you and in your experiences?

How do you give/get enthusiastic consent?

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Haleigh

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Molias
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I've found that it can be really easy for that boundary to wear down for me without me even realizing until it's been going on for a while. I had a relationship that was based primarily on sexual attraction (which was fine, that's how we went into it) although he and I did like each other as people as well. But before too long it turned out that he wanted sex ALL THE TIME and it was very tough to spend time with him where sex didn't happen.
And what started to happen was that my "eh, maybe later" or "we've had a lot of sex lately, what if we just go for a walk and have a chat instead?" was met with what basically amounted to a pouting fix and lots of sighing, and I wound up having a lot of sex with this person that I didn't want to just because it was easier than putting up with the sulking that came when I said no.

Ultimately, it didn't feel like I *could* enthusiastically consent, even when I was interested in sex with him, because the lack of respect for my "no" meant that my "yes" kind of lost meaning in the context of that relationship. It was pretty terrible and to be honest I'm still dealing with fallout from that.

So yeah, long story short: I think this is a good model for navigating consent! It's just scary for me to realize how easy it is to lose the strength to enforce it in my own life.

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Heather
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I'd also pitch in that sex is often awkward. For people of every age.

And I think that's totally okay, and don't think that because there's awkwardness means there can't be enthusiastic consent. [Smile]

Heck, there can even be uncertainty and enthusiastic consent at the same time, like, "I don't know: but I know I want to try that and see if I like it!"

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Allie R
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I lacked this with my previous partner; sure, anything sexual that occured between us was technically consensual, but it would sort of "happen", or it was consistently initiated by him (he'd be all sweet, put on the moves, etc.). It took me a while for me to realize I could say 'meh, I don't actually feel like it right now'. Incidentally that was near the end of our relationship; he usually left my apartment upon me saying no to him, because there was nothing more he wanted from me. So basically, though I had never given an outright "no" till the end, I had never been able to give an enthusiastic "yes" because I was never really asked.

With my current partner, things are WAY different. We're both into making each other happy, and it's pretty much a self perpetuating give and take cycle. However, he still thinks to ask me if he can do certain things BEFORE he does them. I definitely like to talk about things ahead of time, to make sure we're both on the same page. So yes, I really value this idea of receiving enthusiastic consent.

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AAR

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Molias
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Another thought I had about this is that I think the EC model is great for all sorts of physical things, not just sex. Ever have a friend or family member who really wants to hug you when you just aren't into hugging, or into hugging that particular person? Or know someone who really enjoyed tickling friends whether they were into it or not? It turns what should be a friendly moment into something pretty uncomfortable.

I've been talking to a friend about this lately, as she's started standing up to a colleague/fellow student in her graduate program who's been hugging her when she didn't want him to. I think the focus on enthusiastic consent that's really started to happen in sexuality discussion is great but I'd love to see it spread to other places. I also think that the earlier that focus happens, the easier it may be for people to feel comfortable drawing and enforcing their own boundaries around physical touch of all kinds.
If you grow up being forced to hug/kiss family members when you aren't that into it, it seems like it's then harder to feel like you have the ability to set your own boundaries as you get older, in sexual and nonsexual situations alike.

I am really into hugging but I've started asking pretty much anyone before I hug them, even if they're people I've had a hugging relationship with in the past.

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Haleigh H
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Molias I think your on to something. Having and enforcing boundaries should start at a young age, although its never too late. Thinking back on it. I'm not sure I felt like my body was my own and I was in charge of what happened to it. I certainly don't remember anyone telling me that was the case.

When I talk to young people about consent its really interesting to hear all of the different scenarios they come up with trying to figure out when you have consent and when you're crossing your partner's boundaries. Their questions are really thought out and genuine but sometimes its clear the questioner isn't practicing enthusiastic consent. Sometimes we struggle to see eye-to-eye and on those occasions I ask what would be healthy, is it healthy to force your partner to do something they don't want to do. The answer to this question always challenges the group. Its just a really interesting conversation to have.

I'd love to hear some honest, thoughtful, creative, awkward ways people talk about sex and get that enthusiastic yes.

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Haleigh

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Patricia H
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Hi Haleigh, great topic post! [Smile]

I just wanted to expand on Molias's last post by saying how issues of consent and personal boundaries come up in all our relationships, romantic/sexual ones being just a subset of the whole gamut, and that enthusiastic consent can extend beyond just the physical, e.g. politely asking someone to stop hugging you when it's not consensual. I'm sure we've all had days when we'll ask friends, loved ones, and/or just people around us to give us space, to respect our privacy, or even to not take personally our decision to not hang out with them today. It's from moments like these, where we practice issues of consent and setting up personal boundaries in non-sexual situations, that we become prepared and comfortable in more challenging situations, sexual/physical ones notwithstanding. But more importantly, too, is that the issues of consent and boundaries are symptomatic of a healthy dose of respect for the self and for others.

And, too, Molias brought up an excellent point about asking for permission before doing anything, for both parties. It is never wise to take someone for granted and merely assume consent; moreover, a simple, "May I...?" can speak volumes in terms of respect, openness, and just overall class.

I also agree with you that having and enforcing boundaries should ideally start at a young age; Scarleteen had posted a link to an article a while back that I felt encapsulated that idea on their Facebook page: http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/20/living/give-grandma-hug-child

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Molias
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Patricia, I LOVE that article. Thanks for sharing. =)
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Haleigh H
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I totally agree. Great article too.

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Haleigh

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Haleigh H
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I thought of something else that I feel like I see and hear a lot. "No means no," I get that we should respect someone's no. BUT, I feel like there are a lot of ways a persons says no that isn't the word no. For example, things that also mean no: I don't know, I'm not sure, silence, changing the subject, turning away, becoming rigid and/or tense, let me think about it, etc. I would love for the conversation about consent to move away from "no means no" and towards "yes means yes." What do you think? What would this really look like? Anyone have any experiences with this?

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Haleigh

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Jacob at Scarleteen
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I realise reading about this that for me it's a a really scary subject. Thinking back on events and critiquing how good or bad I have been at observing or seeking enthusiastic consent really risks a realisation that difficult sexual experiences could be worse than I thought. Which despite being important, makes it quite hard to think about head on.

But, delving into it I think some of the best enthusiastic-consent-seeking behaviour I've experienced has been with people I feel really comforable and compatible with, where consent is able to mix with a desire to enjoy pleasure together and communicate where both of us are coming from. Seeking to find things that feel good for them and me. For me, it's what really nice explorative sex should be like. So when it's happening, enthusiastic consent isn't something I have to think about so much, because it's already part of my ideals... I'll just be thinking "this is great".

Whereas consent or enthusiastic consent is really useful for me in thinking about what went wrong in situations that didn't feel so great, because I or the other person, or both of us weren't seeking consent in a particularly healthy way.

[ 03-03-2013, 10:58 AM: Message edited by: Jacob at Scarleteen ]

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Jacob at Scarleteen
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I also have come to understand the role that compatibility needs to play... If I'm finding it hard to communicate with someone, but I'm into them, I've realised now that just isn't a good situation for me. Whereas if the communication completely clicks and I can really freely understand and express myself with someone (which sometimes means they need to be queer or a personality type similar to me) I know they're someone with whom enthusiastic consent can be easy. It takes more than just mutual attraction to tango!
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Haleigh H
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I hadn't thought about it like that either. Reading your thoughts I could definitely think of sexual situations I was uncomfortable in and same thing, enthusiastic consent was missing. I think I'm in the same boat in that I didn't really feel comfortable or safe being myself with that person.

At first I thought enthusiastic consent was pretty straight forward but by talking about it I'm learning that there is so much to it. AWESOME!

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Haleigh

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Haleigh H
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I just watched this video describing how we can think about sex as a jam session. You can watch it here, Jam. It doesn't talk about enthusiastic consent outright but I definitely see enthusiastic consent being part of it.

What do you think?

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Haleigh

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