For the month of April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Hornet has partnered with Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of sex education in the United States, to facilitate a larger conversation around consent. The goal is to provide users with education and resources on how to communicate and practice consent in sexual situations.
Last week, in the first of our four-part series, we asked a simple question: What is consent, and why is it important? Consent seems to be on the mind of everyone lately, thanks to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, which have opened the floodgates of people looking to share their experiences and have conversations surrounding sexual assault, abuse and consent.
One looming fallacy in the realm of consent is that consent can’t be sexy. Well, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Just ask Julia Bennett, Director of Learning Strategy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
“A lot of people are worried about how to ask for consent because they think it will come across as awkward, or that it will kill the mood, or it’s a piece of paper that everyone has to sign,” she says. “There are lots of myths around what it looks like to ask for consent, when the key to asking for consent is really about making it part of what you’re doing in the moment with a person. Consent can be sexy.”
A video created by Planned Parenthood to model consent, aptly titled “When Someone Definitely Wants to Have Sex,” does a great job of illustrating how consent not only doesn’t have to be awkward, but how it can be sexy and natural, too. Just watch:
“Asking what someone wants to do can be a big part of figuring out what you want to do together,” Bennett says. “It doesn’t have to be ‘Let’s stop everything and have a totally unrelated conversation about what is and is not OK.’ Actually, it’s much better if it’s really integrated into the sexual experience of the people involved as sort of a negotiation, as you go through the experience together of what you’re both interested in doing.”
It’s also important to note that consent isn’t only given verbally. If you’re actually paying attention to your sexual partner, body language can say a lot.
“Obviously verbal consent is the golden standard, but even if someone says the word ‘yes’ or ‘OK,’ it’s still possible they’re not freely giving consent, depending on the situation. There could be coercion. There could be a power dynamic at play that makes someone feel not comfortable saying no. So body language is a really key piece of the puzzle.”
What does consenting body language look like? Well, for the most part it depends on your partner. Are they leaning into you, or do they seem to be pulling away? Are they engaged in what you’re doing in bed, or are they just kind of sitting there? Those are typically easy signs to observe, but the key is paying attention to your partner’s signals.