As I mentioned in my last post, I had sex for the first time here in Portland. Since I only moved here last July, it really wasn’t too long ago. In my time here, I’ve learned so much about consent and have been so shocked about how respectful and aware folks have been. I oftentimes say I’m so “lucky” to have had these experiences, when really it’s just acknowledging that sex can really be about pleasure and feelings. It’s realizing that sex should ideally be pleasurable for all people involved.
This takes communication, since we are not mind-readers to anyone else’s feelings except our own.
Here are my tips on all of the above that I’ve picked up along the way:
- I don’t like to be told what I should and I shouldn’t do, but considering the importance of consent and communication, I think this is an appropriate way to write this piece.
- I’ve used the word partner here, but this is not referring to relationship status, just who someone is having sex with.
- Additionally, due to the irrelevancy, I haven’t mentioned much around specific anatomy or body parts.
1. Do be honest.
I think sexual experience can be something people don’t want to disclose to potential partners for many reasons, but I think it boils down to fear of not meeting someone’s expectations. In my opinion, I think it’s great when someone is honest if they’re new to something so that everyone is on the same page.
2. Speaking of pages, don’t assume your partner is on the same page as you about what you’re doing
Sometimes it can be easy to assume that what you like is what your partner will like. I think this can be even more common in queer relationships, if people have similar anatomy. There may be an assumption that because you enjoy something (being touched a certain way, in a certain place, etc.), that your partner(s) will like it too. However, this is not always true.
3. Do talk.
Instead, talk! When I first told my mom about how I talk with the person I’m having sex with, she was super shocked. There seems to be this idea that talking ruins the mood and that folks should talk beforehand or after, but not during. I think checking in to see how things feel or just expressing a like for something makes sex even more enjoyable for everyone.
4. Don’t be afraid to speak up
Don’t be afraid to speak up about what you want or don’t want. As Krystyna Hutchinson said in the Ted Talk How Much? “…you can decide that you no longer want to do it after dinner, or after dessert, or after your top is off without feeling guilty.” While I think sometimes there is this pressure to please sex partners, don’t be afraid to speak up and say no. Or, on the other hand, don’t be afraid to speak up and talk about what feels good to you.
5. Ask Ask Ask.
This 5th piece of advice is probably the most important, and possibly the most helpful to think about regarding consent.
Have you been tested? Can I see the results? Sex education y’all! Many schools don’t include sex education for queer folks, oftentimes just catering to the majority of heterosexual students. This leaves protection and information on how to have safer sex up to queer folks to navigate (thank goodness for the internet). I think there’s a stigma around using protection in the queer community because there is oftentimes (but not always) no risk of pregnancy. However, queer folks can still contract STDs so asking if your sex partner has been tested is a great idea. This opens up the conversation about whether you decide to use protection or not. Seeing test results in physical form (or online) can put one at ease if they worry about contracting something. This is really an ethical and very personal decision, but I find it really important to talk about.
What do you call your body parts? This is such a rad question! Some folks don’t like using gendered terms for their body, and it’s awesome when this is openly communicated with sex partners so every feels comfortable when talking about their body. This may be because of a trans or queer identity, in relation to gender dysphoria. However, it’s also just a great way to start a conversation about what feels good to you. For more information about trans identities and sex, check out this video.
Is there anywhere you don’t like being touched? It’s also important to be aware that not everyone wants to be touched in places you might like being touched. This might be specific areas of certain parts, but could also be a place completely. For example, someone who is uncomfortable with their chest might not want to take their top off, and you should respect that. This goes back to recognizing that not everyone likes the same things.
I think this is one of the questions that people think “ruins the mood.” I beg to differ. I think it’s great to check in with whether your partner is enjoying themselves because sex should be pleasurable for all involved. Like in the video linked above, this doesn’t have to be verbalized. Partners can agree to use taps or safe words like red, yellow, green instead. The cool part about this is that it helps you learn about one another, and sometimes it doesn’t have to be asked because you already know.
Finally, trying new things! The great thing about being open to communicating about sex with partners is that it opens up the door to try new things. When you’re more open about pleasing other(s) sexually, I think it makes trying new things exciting because it gets easy to talk about all the possibilities.
This piece was a long time coming. While it does have some focus on the queer community, sexual consent is for everyone having sex, regardless of your sexuality or gender identity. I hope this is helpful in starting dialogues around sex and having a healthy relationship with partners!
This piece was mostly written from personal experience, but feel free to check out the additional resources below.
Ask: Building Consent Culture by Kitty Stryker
What You Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Guide to Sex and Safety by Jacklyn Friedman
What Does Consent Really Mean? by Pete Wallis, Joseph Wilkins, Thalia Wallis