Monday, September 9, 2013

Are You Having Consensual Sex? (A Checklist)

If you're in doubt as to whether you're about to have consensual sex, gather some more information.

(The following is written as if you have one sex partner involved. If you have multiple sex partners involved, you need to make sure you answer the questions for every partner involved.)

1. Is your potential sex partner indicating they want to have sex with you?

Inviting you into their apartment, going to your place, and being married or in a relationship with them is not clear indication in itself.

The best indication would the other person telling you they want to. You could also ask them, but make you're not pressuring them in the process. Sometimes looks or physical signals or responses will give you an indication as well, but this far less accurate than asking.

Consensual sex is the only way to have real sex.
© Chrisharvey | Dreamstime Stock Photos
If you answered "yes" to this question, you're on the right track so far. Go on to question 2.

2. Are you and your potential sex partner both a legal age of consent in the state you're in (or country)? Or are you a teenager who is legally within the acceptable age range for consent to have sex with another teenager?

Some people say age is just a number. Not so when it comes defining sex versus rape. If you're 65 and want to sleep with 25-year-olds, if they want to too, fine. But if you're 18 and want to have sex with a 12-year-old, this is rape, my friend, no matter how much he or she says they want it. (Except in Mississippi, where this would only apply to virgins. No, I'm not kidding.)

So know the age of consent in the state you're in.

But more importantly, you need to ask yourself if your partner has a level of maturity where he or she can truly give consent to a person of your age and maturity. (And no, this doesn't mean a 54-year-old school teacher can justify raping a 14-year-old student saying she was "older than her biological age". It means that just because a potential sex partner is 18 doesn't mean he or she has the maturity to sleep with someone much older. It means that if someone has a mental challenge that prevents them from making a real choice in the matter, then it's not consensual sex.)

If you answered "yes" to this question, you're still in the consensual zone so far. Move on to question 3.

3. Are both of you sober enough to give consent?

If either of you is drunk enough that you can't make a true rational decision or have a conscious awareness of what you're doing, you're setting yourself up for rape. This applies to sex partners who are under the influence of drugs including illegal drugs and prescription or over the counter drugs that impair judgement or cause heavy drowsiness.

If you're in doubt, it's better to wait until the person is completely sober. You don't want to take advantage of someone's state or rape them.

If "yes", so far you've got nothing to worry about. Go to question 4.

4. Are you both awake and conscious enough to give consent?

Awake and conscious enough means no one is asleep or passed out. It means they're not in the process of driftting off to sleep. They are here, present, and alert.

If yes, good, good, good. Keep on going to question 5.

5. If you have a known or possible Sexually-Transmitted Disease (STD), have you told your partner and given them a real chance to back out without pressure?

If you don't have a known STD or any reason to suspect you might have one (i.e., symptoms, a sex partner or former sex partner who told you they have one since your STD last test, or engaging in high risk behavior like having unprotected sex), you can skip this question and go onto to question 6.

If not, it's your responsibilty to tell your potential sex partner, no matter how uncomfortable it is, or how  much you think they've call it off. If you don't tell them about the warts you had last week on your genitals, your ex who called you a couple weeks ago to tell you they have syphillis, or the gobs of unprotected sex you engage in, you are not having truly consensual sex because your partner does not have the information he or she needs to make his or her true decision. This could put your sex partner's health in danger.

If yes to the bold question 5, great. You can move on to question 6.  If no, now's your chance to bring it up. Otherwise, you're not ready to sex with this person.

6. Are you prepared to use condoms, birth control*, or other forms of protection that you and your partner agree on without sabotaging them?

While I highly recommend using condoms and other protection against STDs and pregnancy in sexual encounters unless you're in a committed relationship and/or trying to get pregnant, it's a choice you need to make with your partner.  This means deciding on your course of action together without pressure to go to a level of protection you or your partner is uncomfortable with. If you can't reach a suitable agreement, then you can either go with the one who wants the most protection or refrain from having sex.

Having sex without the level of protection you or your partner wants is not really consensual sex. This also means sabotaging the protection. Women with heterosexual encounters, this means taking every dose of your birth control pills when you tell your partner you're on the pill. Women and men, this means no poking holes in the condom. It means telling your partner immediately if the condom breaks. Women, if you're trying to get pregnant, it's your responsibility to discuss this with your heterosexual sex partner first.

* Not all forms of birth control protect against STDS.

If you answered "yes" to question 6, you're getting close. Only 4 more questions. Go on to question 7 now.

7. Is there any coersion, fear, manipulation, blackmail, threats, psychological tactics, or physical force being used to get your partner to agree to the sex?

If you're using any power you have over your potential sex partner to convince him or her to have sex with you, then it is not consensual sex.

If your answer is "no", this is a good response. Answer question 8 now.

8.  Is your intention to control your partner (outside of a sex play kind of control) or to give and receive pleasure from him or her?

Outside of an mutually agreed upon sex play kind of control (think S&M and dominance play), sex should not be about control, it should be about giving and receiving pleasure from your partner. If you want to have use sex to control someone, this is what rapists do. Seek out some help psychologically or otherwise, so that sex doesn't have to be about control anymore.

If it's to give and receive pleasure, you're almost there. Please move on to question 9.

9. Are you prepared to stop any time your partner no longer wants to have sex? Or anytime your partner doesn't want to do a particular sexual activity?

Saying "yes" to sex isn't an all-inclusive, all-expense paid vacation where you can simply do anything you want and keep doing it regardless of the other person involved. Your sex partner is allowed to change his or her mind. Your sex partner is allowed to want to engage in one kind of sexual activity with you but not another. Your sex partner is allowed to want sex for a period of time and then want you to stop. Communicate with him or her and watch for signs that he or she might want to stop. A few signs include telling you to stop, telling you they are not comfortable with that, telling you they're in pain or that it hurts, using a code word you've established for stopping, passing out, falling asleep, some forms of screaming, etc.

If yes, you're so close now. Only question 10 to go. Go on to question 10.

10. Is there any other reason why you might suspect it might not be consensual sex?

There's no way for me to cover every possible way it might not be consensual sex. These are some of the most common scenarios. Please use good judgment and sense. If you're going into a situation where there's a possibility you could be taking advantage of someone, that's never a good sign.  It's up to you to use good judgment and communicate with your sex partner, so that you can both have a good time and there's no sexual assault going on.

If you answered "no" to this question and made it through the whole checklist, it's very likely you're having consensual sex. Congratulations and enjoy yourself!


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