Consent is everything
“In the worlds of kink, BDSM, and sex positivity, consent is one of the absolute cornerstones of all of our personal interactions.”
Consent is the cornerstone of everything we do
In the worlds of BDSM, kink, and sex positivity consent is one of the absolute cornerstones of all of our personal interactions in everything we do. And while we might speak of consent in these sexually areas, consent is not limited to these areas of our lives.
What is Consent?
In its broadest terms, consent means actively agreeing and giving permission for something to happen, or to participate in an interaction with another person(s). It seems that consent should be a foundation of the way that our societies run in everything we do, but unfortunately we are all aware that this isn’t the case.
So when we begin speaking specifically about the worlds of BDSM, kink, and sex positivity it is very important that we have a culture of consent as the minimum baseline to even step onto the playing field. Consent in all of these areas mean that all parties are agreeing to the personal interactions with others. And when we are talking about personal interactions we are referring to:
- Touch of Any Kind: Whether that touch might be considered platonic such as shaking hands or offering a hug, or touching someone’s arm, leg, or shoulders. Or whether that touch begins to move past platonic touching such as offering a massage, or offering a kiss, offering a massage, or more.
- Participating in any Form of Relationship: All of our personal relationships (friendships, lovers, partners, etc.) should be based on consent – particularly ensuring that all partners involved have the informed consent to continue to be involved in the relationship.
- Sexual Activities: Having consent in sexual seems like it would be a “No Brainer” but, sadly, it is not part of our regular culture. Consent is an active agreement between the people being sexual with each other. Consent lets someone know that sex is wanted. Any form of sexual activity without consent is actually sexual assault or rape.
- Kink or BDSM Play: When we start talking about engaging in kink or BDSM activities with other people, consent also becomes critical as the acts that we do (impact play, bondage, power exchange, etc.) cannot be engaged in without these activities bordering on being considered abusive or assault.
Let’s Try To Keep It Simple
Let’s focus this conversation in on sexual consent, which is an agreement between all of the parties involved in to participate in a sexual activity.
Before we agree to engage in sexual activities with other people, it would seem to be important to know whether they want to have sex with you, to understand the boundaries and/or limits, to discuss what they might want and don’t want, to understand their safer sex practices and current STI status. After all, consent and asking for consent are all about setting your own personal boundaries and respecting those of your partner(s) — and checking in before, during, and after if things aren’t clear. And let’s not forget that everyone must consent to having sex — every time — for it to be considered consensual.
Already this seems like it might be a lot, and we haven’t even started talking about what we might like to do. Can’t we just skip this and get busy?
No! Without consent, sexual activity (including oral sex, genital touching, and vaginal or anal penetration) becomes sexual assault or rape. So let’s do this right!
Consent Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
The fact is that asking for and gaining consent doesn’t have to be complicated. And we are going to thank Planned Parenthood for their own work here and use the model that they presented.
Consent is as easy as FRIES:
When we are having discussions around consent, we can all remember the FRIES acronym and ensure that the conversations we are having with other are ensuring the following:
- Freely Given. To be able to provide consent, people must ensure that it is freely given. Consenting is a choice people make without the feelings of pressure, manipulation, coercion, and must be able to be given without the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Reversible. Consent is an ongoing discussion between people, and can be reversed at any time and for any reason. Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime. Additionally, consent should not be considered an open ended agreement. Even if you’ve done it before, and even if you’re both naked in bed someone can choose that they are no longer consenting. So ensure that you have consent discussions every time.
- Informed. To be able to provide consent, people must have all of the information needed to make that decision and provide agreement. Meaning, you can only consent to something if you have the full story. For example, it someone chooses not to disclose their STI status, or if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, the person being asked for consent doesn’t have enough information to provide their full consent.
- Enthusiastic. When discussing consent, we need to ensure that everyone is providing an enthusiastic “Yes” in their response. And it’s important that we understand anything short of “Yes” is a “No” — maybes are a no; I’m not sure is a no; maybe later is a no. Remember that consent must be freely given. When it comes to sex, you should only do stuff you WANT to do, not things that you feel you’re expected to do.
- Specific. When we discuss consent, we need to be clear and specific about what we are asking / or being asked to provide consent to. Saying yes to one thing (like going to the bedroom to make out) doesn’t mean you’ve said yes to others (like having sex).
You Have the Final Say Over What Happens to Your Body
Creating safe, healthy personal relationships — whether they are platonic, sexual, or kink / BDSM focused requires that we create and honor a culture of consent. Each of us has the personal responsibility to ensure that we understand the principles of consent; that we are engaging in ongoing consent discussions with the people on out lives; and that we seek and honor the consent of those that we engage with. Consent really is the cornerstone of everything we do.