Sexual Consent Guide: How To Not Be A Dick In A #MeToo World

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A couple talking

I was excited to go on my first Tinder date with Brett. He was a musician with beautiful curly hair who had the same taste in coffee and African music. During our online conversations, I expressed I preferred to get to know people before getting too sexual, but I let him know if he played his cards right, I would be all about an end-of-night makeout session.

Brett showed up at the cafe and was just as attractive as his pictures. He smiled and kissed me on the cheek, letting his lips linger for a little too long. We grabbed coffee and chatted about Fela Kuti, cultural appropriation, and hair-curling products.

I decided I was into him, so I let him walk me home, and we sat in the park outside my house and made out for a while.

He was a great kisser, and just as I was starting to enjoy feeling his lips and his tongue on mine, I felt his hand begin to move up my thigh. I subtly pushed it away because we were in a park, and I wasn’t ready to get our genitals involved just yet.

After a couple of minutes, he again started feeling his way up my skirt, and I again pushed his hand away. He then told me he had magical hands, and if I “relaxed and let him,” he would make me feel really good.

Note to the fellas – telling us to relax is almost as bad a move as telling us about your magical hands or penis.

I felt uncomfortable and pressured, so we left the park, and despite him telling me I was making a mistake by not inviting him up – I said goodbye to the pushy, curly-haired boy for good.

So What Happened?

The vast majority of us only want to be hooking up with people who are into us – so why are there so many misunderstandings when it comes to sexual consent? Why did Brett think it was ok to ask me in five different ways if we could take things further?

One reason is our culture around obtaining consent has changed since we exposed the failures of the older system. It used to be socially acceptable to pressure people into sex, as it was thought of as part of the dance of seduction.

However, in recent years, we have deepened our understanding of the neurobiology of trauma and sexual violence. Through the #MeToo movement, we have learned about how violations of consent aren’t usually strangers in alleyways, but are our friends and partners not noticing or caring about our verbal and nonverbal indicators, we aren’t enjoying what’s going down.

We are now exploring that vast grey area between enthusiastic consent and saying a clear no, and hopefully, my guide can help you ensure that the person you are hooking up with is willingly and enthusiastically engaging with you.

How do we do better?


Talk About It

Discuss boundaries before, during, and after a sexual encounter.

Before meeting Brett, I told him I prefer to know someone better before sexually engaging. I said that so he could enter our encounter knowing what was open for exploration during our first date and hoping that would lead him not to pressure me or ask to come up to my place right away.

A couple talking

Everybody has preferences regarding how fast things should get sexual and what sexual activities they enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with having any preference. But pushing someone into doing what you want if they are not on board is where the problem comes up.

  1. If it’s an online date, you can express what you are looking for before you meet someone. If you are looking for a one-night stand and the other person is looking for a relationship – perhaps you should not meet them.
  2. While you are hooking up, whenever the encounter escalates, you must check in with your partner to ensure they are enjoying themselves. For example, if you are making out and you want to start to feel someone’s cock or breasts – the clearest way to make sure they are on the same page is to ask them.

Especially in a first hookup, verbal communication is the most straightforward way to check-in. You can ask in a sexy way – for example:

  • “Your breasts are so beautiful. Would you like me to lick your delicious nipple?”
  • You can also check more broadly, “Mmmm, kissing you is making me so hot; what would you like to do next?”

When a sexual encounter is complete, you can check in with your partner. I often ask my partner to tell me his favorite and least favorite moments. It’s helpful for the future so we can do more of what they found arousing and maybe cut out any unenjoyable moments.


Don’t Pressure Anyone. Ever.

If Brett played his cards right, he could have gotten laid relatively soon. Pressure is about the least sexy feeling, and whenever I feel pressured to do something, it makes me not want to do it (even if it’s something I was initially interested in doing!).

Also, if you ask someone to do something more than once and they eventually give in and say yes, you don’t know if they are doing it because they genuinely want to or because they feel like they have to. Especially in situations where the person who is doing the pressuring has more physical strength or power, the other person might say yes because they don’t feel like they can say no, or they think you are going to force it anyway, so they might as well make it less painful.

When I’m facilitating my workshop on sexual consent, I ask to borrow one of the student’s pens, telling them to say no. After they say no, I continue to ask, “Can I use your pen?” “No.” Can I use your pen?” “Nope.” Can I use your pen?” “No.”

It’s entirely ridiculous to ask to use someone’s pen more than once, so there’s no reason we should accept this type of pressure when it comes to sex.

So, how do you make sure you don’t pressure someone? You can verbally ask once. If they say no, let them know you are open to it, and they can let you know if they change their mind. If you are asking non-verbally, be very conscious of their non-verbal response, and if there’s any indication other than a fuck ya – don’t move forward.

Nobody should ever feel like they have to sexually engage with anyone EVER. Just because they said they wanted to hook up when you were dirty talking online doesn’t mean they have to get down when you meet. And just because you hooked up in the past doesn’t mean they have to hook up in the present.

Just because you started hooking up doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind.

Our job is to check in with our partners to ensure they enjoy themselves throughout an encounter.


What Is Consent?

Consent is defined as a verbal or non-verbal agreement between two parties of legal age to engage in sexual activities. The consent is not only for the sexual act itself but also for both parties to understand the personal boundaries of the other party [1].


Active vs. Passive Sexual Consent

There’s a significant difference between someone sitting there and not moving and actively enjoying a sexual encounter. You may not realize if someone is experiencing trauma because the most common response is to freeze. When someone is frozen, they don’t say no, they don’t run, and they don’t cry – but they feel trapped, so their body shuts down.

I think of the example of sexual assault in a dorm with their friend on the bunk above them. There are sexual abuse cases where folks have not called out to their friend because the thinking part of the brain is turned off, and the animalistic part of their brain says that freezing is the safest way to move past this moment. As a result, if their body language signals disengagement and non-present, immediately stop and check in with them.


Know Your Power

There are inherent power differences due to several factors, including physical strength, financial power, and age. Assuming everybody is over the age of consent, I believe people with differing power dynamics can sexually interact. Still, it needs to be done without the person with power taking advantage.

For example, having your boss seduce you is kind of creepy because you may feel like if you say no, you will lose your job. However, if you are so into your boss that you want to seduce them – it’s not a great idea, but I would assume that your boss would only agree if they were genuinely interested in the encounter.

A couple having a discussion.

If you have more power, don’t take advantage of it to get laid.

It’s imperative we only sexually engage with people who genuinely want to be with us. If you are active in looking for one’s verbal and non-verbal signals, working towards becoming comfortable talking about sex, and not being a pushy fucktard – you are sure to have fun and consensual interactions.

Getting comfortable with these communication techniques is also helpful when introducing sex toys in the bedroom, engaging in dirty talk, and other fun, sexy activities, so consensual sex is a Win-win!

Niki Davis-Fainbloom

Niki Davis-Fainbloom
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