The Art of Saying Yes: Why Consent is Sexy

While mindlessly scrolling through Facebook looking for something to entertain me, I came across this meme about consent:

Naturally my first thought on seeing this was “Well that’s a contradiction, consent is giving permission, not taking it away.” And then my brain went many directions because that’s what my brain does. Today is your lucky day because you have the opportunity to experience my thought process.

Consent is a big buzz word these days, especially in the sexual health/education community, and for good reason. It happens to be one of the main missing ingredients in middle and high school sex education classes in the US. Which means there are a lot of people out there whose understanding of consent doesn’t go beyond “They didn’t say no, so they’re game.” Which brings us back to the meme. Some of you may be familiar with the “no means no” movement, which started in the 1990s, and is the subject of the above said meme. What some may not know, is that there is a different movement, “yes means yes”. Potato, pahtato, right? Not exactly. While well-meaning and empowering for many, a major flaw emerged with no means no. Remember my “They didn’t say no, so they’re game.” statement? People were finding themselves in situations where they had difficulty saying or indicating “no” to sexual acts. So this led to people taking the absence of a “no” prior to a sexual act to mean yes, even when it didn’t.

Let’s dive briefly into a little history. In 1993 Antioch College pioneered an affirmative consent policy. At the time it was scoffed at by the New York Times as “legislating kisses.” In 2008 a book called “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Sexual Power and a World Without Rape” by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti came out. By 2014 California signed into law the “Yes means Yes” bill. A year later New York passed similar legislation and eight hundred college campuses nationwide were using this standard in adjudicating sexual assault complaints. Yes means yes is now the standard when it comes to engaging in sexual acts with a partner or partners. But can consent really be sexy? Absolutely, and let me tell you how.

Yes, yes, yes!

Think about it, what is sexier than your partner(s) screaming “Yes, yes, more!”? It makes sex hotter, more fun, and more exciting. It is affirming and exhilarating to know our partner(s) want more of what we have to offer. But consent before engaging in sexual acts may seem a little awkward. Aren’t people supposed to just fling off their clothes and throw themselves at each other in an embrace of passionate kisses, groping each other all over? Ok, sometimes this might happen, but my guess is that it is more often not the case. Getting consent can be as simple as “Hey, I’m really into you, what’s on the table for tonight?” or “I’m really horny, how about you?” And then there’s the check in “How are you doing? Everything still good?”

If you aren’t sure about where to start, we can refer to our friends in the BDSM community for coming up with amazing negotiation and consent practices. Before they engage in a play scene, they take lots of time to go over what will and will not happen, determine safe words, talk about emotional triggers, what role each person will take, discuss any risks, discuss safety, and determine what aftercare will look like. Consent in BDSM is engaged, collaborative and co-created, which means it always involves input from everyone involved.

While this may seem like a lot to some people, this type of open communication during times of intimacy can actually improve communication in other areas of a partnership. It builds confidence, helps partners feel more comfortable, and takes away some of the awkwardness that happens during sexual acts. You know, those “Uhh, what do you want to do next” moments? Some may fear that all this discussion takes away from the spontaneity of sex. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, have this discussion several hours before you actually get it on. It builds up desire and gives each partner something to think about all day long!

Communicating about consent can feel weird, I still struggle at times with verbalizing what I want and don’t want. Sometimes I don’t even know what I want. One thing my partner and I have is that we have been together for many years, so we are pretty good at knowing what each other likes or doesn’t like. Still, sometimes I get that deer in headlights look when my partner says, “So what do you want to do tonight?” To be honest, I get that same look when he asks what I want for dinner, but that is a whole other matter. Here are a couple tips, try looking up a list of different sexual acts and keep it handy. Or check out some sexy card games for ideas.

Consent is about communication, it is about opening up part of ourselves to our partner(s) and being vulnerable in the most intimate of ways. It is about showing respect, mutuality, giving, receiving, and interdependence. Consent should be engaged, collaborative, and co-created. When we take time to talk about what we want sexually, sex gets better. Strive for that “Yes, yes, yes!” because consent is sexy my friends!

Peace, love, and pleasure!

**Want to know more about consent? Check out one of my favorite books on the topic: Real Talk about Sex and Consent by Cheryl M. Bradshaw. While geared toward teens, it offers an excellent look at what consent should and shouldn’t look like and explains why sometimes we say yes when we mean no. (I do not get any money from promoting this book, it is just a really great book)

Carli Guzowski is a Certified Sex Coach, Clinical Sexologist, Sexual Health, and Wellness Educator, and Pleasure/Kink Activist. She is owner of Unwinding Pleasure, where her main mission is to spread messages of peace, love, pleasure, and acceptance for all. She supports her clients in recognizing the role pleasure plays in leading a more fulfilling, empowered, healthy, and joyful life. She offers Sex/Intimacy Coaching, and Sexual Health/Wellness Education and Workshops. In her free time, Carli enjoys gardening, fast cars, adventures with her family, and sparkly boots.