By Eleanor Beeslaar
In today’s blog we will be talking about healthy boundaries in sexual relationships in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Healthy boundaries are a critical part of healthy and safe sexual relationships, especially because sexual assault often occurs within intimate relationships or by an acquaintance. In fact, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (2018), 51.1% of female rape victims report being raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance, and 52.4% of male victims report being raped by an intimate partner.
What do healthy boundaries in sexual relationships look like?
First and foremost, healthy boundaries in sexual relationships always involve clear consent. Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault or rape. It is imperative to ask for and receive consent before engaging in any type of sexual activity. Before we move on, let’s define what consent is. Consent is freely given, meaning you are not being pressured or manipulated, and you are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Consent is informed, which means you can only consent to what you know. For example, if you and your sexual partner agree on using a condom and they do not use one without your knowledge, there is not full consent. Consent is specific. This means that just because you consent to one thing, does not mean you consent to everything. Consent is enthusiastic! You should only do things that you want to do. Finally, consent is reversible. You can change your mind about sexual activity at any time, and you can say no to things you have consented to in the past.
Now that we have a better understanding of what consent is, let’s talk about how to practice consent in sexual relationships. When engaging in sexual activity, it is important to always ask for consent and receive a clear and enthusiastic “yes” from your sexual partner. Another important part of consent is to check-in and communicate every step of the way, even after you get consent initially. You can do this by asking questions like: “Is this okay? Do you want to keep going? Are you comfortable with ______?” By asking these questions and checking in with your partner, you are creating a safe and comfortable space, which can lead to a happier, healthier, and safer sexual relationship.
A great way to create a foundation of trust and safety in any sexual relationship is to talk about what you and your sexual partner like and dislike, what you want, and what your limits are, before engaging in sexual activity. By having this conversation ahead of time, you can set boundaries and ensure that both you and your partner will feel safe, respected, and comfortable with one another. This conversation should also be ongoing, as boundaries can change over time. We encourage you to keep the line of communication open and check-in with yourself and your sexual partner about what you both want and what your limits are related to sexual activity.
We hope this information has been helpful and encourage you to have open and honest conversations about your boundaries in your sexual relationships!
National Sexual Violence Resource Center (2018). Get Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics