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Consent

The focus in r/sex is being sex positive - being supportive of other people's consensual and safe choices about sex and sexual expression. Consent is a central part of what this community is about. As a result, there are a lot of things to consider in a discussion about consent - cultural and social norms, relationship dynamics, etc. - and there really isn't any way to write a FAQ post that goes into all of that and manages to do it justice. So, this section of the FAQ is going to be a basic overview where the goal is to create a baseline for the discussion of consent in this community. When discussing consent here on /r/sex, the most important thing to keep in mind is that consideration of legal standards is beside the point. Law defines legal behavior, in other words the societal floor for for what can be criminally prosecuted, but this definition does not encompass consent as an ethical concept, which is a higher standard. Consent is a "yes" rather than "plausibly not a no". We aren't focused on what someone will 'allow' to happen, but what they actually truly want to happen. In our actual human relationships (sexual or otherwise), "not criminal behavior" is an unacceptably low bar. So, for that reason, you won't see the words "rape" or "sexual assault" in this article (besides this sentence!).

Like many other topics on /r/sex, consent is all about communication - not just communicating yes or no, but also about what is being consented to. Communication is a skill and there are some things that make communication easier - familiarity with the person you're communicating with and familiarity with the topic under consideration, for example. There are things that can make it more difficult, such as intoxication or differing perceptions of the same situation, but also a fear of consequences, including social or relationship consequences. It's pretty obvious that a person can't talk about consent if - say - there is an element of consequences or intimidation in the mix. Sex positive discussions about consent are also not 'negotiations', they are more about 'discovery'. The goal isn't to find out what level or type of 'compensation' turns a 'no' into a 'yes', but to discover what condition(s) makes something desirable. Remember, sex is a shared act of intimacy. Sex is better when all people participating are on the same page and looking to make the experience fun and desirable for all people participating.

Consent Nuts and Bolts

  • With out pre-negotiation, no means no. Don't push or otherwise bully your partner.

  • Consent can be withdrawn at any time. If you aren't sure if your partner has consented, ask! Remember, attentiveness to your partner(s)'s mood and desires is sexy. And if you can't - for whatever reason - ask, then don't try the new thing until you have a chance to talk it out with your partner(s).

  • There are three main ways that a person can give consent: verbal or express consent, implied consent, and contractural consent. Consent does not always have to be verbal and consent does not always have to be made in the moment. However, if - for whatever reason - you are unsure, just ask (starting to see a pattern?).

  • When something is a Big Deal to someone, the standard for consent goes up. For example, someone who has never had intercourse and has firmly said no to it on many occasions shouldn't be taken at face value when they change their mind after a night of drinking. It's important to note that it's not about if it seems like a big deal to you, it's about if it seems like a big deal to them.

  • People talk about the fight or flight response, but it is better described as the fight/flight/freeze response. When presented with a threat that can be defeated, the impulse is to fight. When the threat can't be defeated but can be escaped, the impulse is to flee. When the threat can't be defeated and can't be escaped, the impulse is to freeze. If someone is simply not responding, it's important to be sure they aren't frozen. Again, you have to recognize that, even if you don't think there's a reason for them to feel threatened, it's not about you. When in doubt, just ask!

edit: just to be clear, a short, sex positive FAQ on consent isn't going to spend any time setting out space where someone is 'not responsible' for a lack of consent. For sure it is possible that, even in the best scenarios, someone might violate consent, but that's not the focus here. The focus isn't how someone can have reasonably mistaken consent, the focus is what is consent.