What is consent in sex?
Everyone has the right to sexual self-determination. Everyone has the obligation to respect the sexual boundaries and related wishes and desires of others. A person who is severely intoxicated or sick, sleeping or passed out cannot consent to sex. Sex without consent is a rape. No one’s dressing style is a message of sexual desire or unwillingness.
If you want to have sex with another person, ask about it. Good way to speak up can be to tell one another about your own feelings and sexual desires. You can talk about it by asking: Do you feel like having sex? Would you like to have sex? May I kiss you? What kind of sex do you enjoy? May I touch you? Do you want to touch me?
Depending on the situation, you may get the answer yes, no, I do not know or not now – by asking we make sure that the sexual boundaries of both of you become visible.
What is essential in consent is that those having sex have a common understanding of what kind of sexual acts are committed, if any. Consent is often obtained naturally and even spontaneously. But, if you have doubts about whether your partner wants the same things in sex as you – ask and make sure.
After all, obtaining consent is about asking questions, giving answers, articulating thoughts and feelings, and telling what feels good and what does not.
Communication is particularly important when:
- sexual acts are done for the first time.
- sex partners are not very familiar with each other.
- forms of sex change. If, for example, oral sex feels good, that does not mean it is okay to move on to vaginal intercourse.
- changing sex positions.
- agreeing on using or not using contraception.
- trying something new in sex, like bondage, sex toys, or role playing.
Talking about your own desires is not always easy because by telling about yourself you reveal something very intimate. Since we do not read each other’s minds, we can only find out each other’s wishes and desires by communicating.
Everyone has the right to refuse sex
Getting consent once does not mean you can have sex next time as well. Every sex act (for example, kissing, caressing, oral sex, hand sex, vaginal intercourse or anal intercourse) requires consent.
Even if the last time you had caressing sex or anal sex, that does not automatically mean that you will do so the next time.
If you have had sexual experiences in which you have wondered whether your sexual boundaries have been crossed or you have crossed your partner’s boundaries, do not process it alone. You can find free online services relative to sexual services for young people here.
You can refuse sex at any time. Also when:
- sex would have been agreed upon in advance
- you were naked
- contraception has been acquired or is already in use
- you are already having sex
- some form of sex or position feels uncomfortable or painful
- you change your mind for no reason whatsoever
Authors: Youth Service Experts, the Family Federation of Finland
The Family Federation of Finland, Youth Group blog post: Lupa koskea – mikä on suostumus, “Permission to touch – What is consent”.
Lang Jennifer: Consent – the new rules of sexual education, 2018, Althea press, USA