By Eleanor Beeslaar
A critical part of building a healthy relationship is discussing and practicing consent. When people hear the word “consent” many automatically assume it refers to sexual activity; however, consent is important for many different types of intimate and/or physical activity in relationships including: holding hands, hugging, kissing, touching, sex, and more. Regardless of the type of contact or act, it is important for partners to feel safe and comfortable with what’s happening, which is why consent is crucial to developing happy, healthy, and safe relationships.
What is consent?
Consent is voluntary. It is freely and willingly given and is not manipulated or forced.
Consent is mutual. Both people in the relationship give clear verbal agreements about what they want. Consent cannot occur if only one person is willing or if it is unclear whether or not someone is giving consent.
Consent is ongoing. It is important to ask for consent every time, regardless of whether or not someone has consented to something in the past. Just because someone was okay with something in the past, does not mean you can assume they are always okay with it.
Consent is mandatory. It is critical to always seek consent. Consent is never optional!
Consent is enthusiastic! Both partners should be excited and show enthusiasm. If someone sounds apprehensive or unsure, it’s not consent.
How do I practice consent?
An important part of practicing consent is having a conversation about the wants and limits of each partner before you are physically intimate. Once you set up boundaries around physical intimacy, it is important to honor these boundaries, while also continuing to check in with your partner when things do become intimate. You may be thinking that it seems awkward to ask for consent when you’re in the moment, but this is far from true. In fact, seeking consent shows your partner that you respect them and truly value their wants and needs.
Here are some suggestions about what to say when communicating with your partner about consent:
- What are you comfortable with?
- Is this okay?
- Do you want to slow down?
- Do you want to go any further?
- Are you comfortable with this?
- How do you feel about this?
- What do you like?
The information in this post was adapted from loveisrespect.org. Visit https://www.loveisrespect.org/healthy-relationships/what-consent/ for more information.
Loveisrespect.org (2017). What Does Consent Mean? Retrieved from