Beyond Yes and No - Expanding our Vocabulary of Consent
When someone references “the talk”, there’s a pretty widely accepted meaning of what “talk”, exactly, we’re talkin’ about.
You know the one.
Whether in the context of “the talk” (aka “sex talk”) itself or through navigating life — at some point most of us picked up a particular phrase of caution intending to teach us something important: “No means no.”
Thus, our concept of consent was initiated. For many of us, the lesson began and ended right there...
Sky = Blue, Sun = Hot, No = No.
Feels pretty straightforward, right? You’d think so.
When someone says "no," that of course needs to be respected. However, it’s clear that we need to take the conversation beyond “No means no.” What other words can we use, when we want to communicate things like: “I don’t want that, but how about this instead?”
After all, the language of consent extends far, far beyond “no”. And at the crux of responsibility as far as all of this is concerned, is something quite important. That we, ourselves, are as responsible for generating consensual environments for ourselves as it is for the people we get down with.
Not sure where to start? Leading from honestly, authenticity, vulnerability, and being willing to ask questions, is a great space to move from. Check out this great video with some ideas for conversation starters. Here are some additional ideas to experiment with:
- What would you like to happen next?
- If I move a little closer to you, would that feel okay?
- I’m not really into any touching below the waist right now. What are you feeling?
- Can I kiss you?
- I’m not entirely sure what I’m ready for just yet. But it would be really helpful for me if you asked me lots of questions so I can figure it out.
- I’m really tired right now and don’t feel up for sex, but I’d love to cuddle up next to you.
- Let’s just keep kissing tonight.
- Can we explore (this) for the next 20 minutes and then check in again to see if something else is on the table?
- Can we change locations?
- I’m not sure yet what exactly I feel available for right now but it’d be great if you just asked me if (this) is okay when you want to do something new and I’ll see how that feels when you ask.
- Do you want to move to the bedroom?
The point is that consent is a really fluid thing - meaning that the buck doesn’t stop with one yes or no. It is an ongoing conversation. There is no stamp that says “Carte Blanche” unless someone explicitly says so. Otherwise, it’s our job to assume that we should check in as we go. We have so much power when it comes to our own wellbeing. And becoming fluent in the language of consent is an empowering, sexy thing.