misconceptions about consent teaser
misconceptions about consent teaser

Hornet x Planned Parenthood: Dispelling Some Common Misconceptions About Consent

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In an attempt to facilitate a larger conversation around consent among the LGBTQ community, Hornet has partnered with Planned Parenthood this April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The goal is to provide users with education and resources on how to communicate and practice consent in sexual situations.

Previous installments of our four-part series tackled “What is consent, and why is it important?” and the idea that “Yes, asking for consent can be sexy.” In this third installment, we’d like to dispel some of the more common misconceptions about consent.

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Consent isn’t different depending on the gender of the people involved.

“Consent is by definition genderless,” says Julia Bennett, Director of Learning Strategy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “It’s about making sure that whoever is involved and engaging in any sexual experience is on board with what’s going to happen and really interested in what’s happening, and making sure everyone’s sexually having a good time.”

Consent is reversible.

“Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing at any time,” Bennett says. “So even if you’ve done it before, even if you’re both naked in bed, whatever the situation is, you can always change your mind.”

Consent doesn’t have to be awkward or a mood-killer.

“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,” says Bennett. “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.”

Consent isn’t only given verbally.

If you’re actually paying attention to your sexual partner, body language can say a lot.

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.

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But even a ‘yes’ or ‘OK’ during sex doesn’t always mean there’s consent.

“Even if someone says the word ‘yes’ or ‘OK,’ it’s still possible they’re not freely giving consent, depending on the situation,” says Bennett. “There could be coercion. There could be a power dynamic at play that makes someone feel not comfortable saying no.”

That’s all the more reason why body language is key.

Consent for one sex act isn’t necessarily consent for a different sex act.

Just because your sexual partner has consented to one sex act — say, oral sex — that doesn’t mean they have consented to a different sex act, like penetrative sex. Now, that can sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

“There are lots of things that happen in a sexual encounter, and you do need consent for all of them,” says Bennett. “There are lots of ways to get consent, though, or to ask if someone is interested or OK with something. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation every single moment along the way about this article of clothing or where can I put my hand. It can be a very subtle, quick check-in, and it should naturally be part of the sexual experience.”

Safer sex and consent are linked.

“A lot of people don’t think about safer sex as part of consent, but it absolutely is,” Bennett says. “Consenting to have sex without a condom versus consenting to have sex with a condom are two very different things, and being clear about what someone is consenting to is really essential.”

If someone wants their partner to use a condom during sex, and that partner doesn’t, there is not full consent in that situation. “Being really clear about having safer sex and then actually following up on that and doing it, and making sure that whatever you agree to is what you do — that is a huge piece of consent.”

This is the third of a four-part series on consent created in conjunction with Planned Parenthood for the month of April, designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.