We want to be clear that if you deliberately violate someone’s boundaries or ignore their consent, it can be considered sexual violence, sexual assault, or rape. It’s never, ever okay to perform a sexual action towards someone who hasn’t consented to it. For more information, or for help, we encourage you to reach out to an organisation like 1800 RESPECT.
Consent is more than just an important part of sex—it’s absolutely vital.
Sex without consent is rape; and without consent, sex can not go ahead.
Although we all understand the importance of consent, it’s super common to feel a little awkward, strange, and even intimidated asking for consent. Many people wonder if they’re being presumptuous by asking something like, “Do you want to have sex?” or “Can I kiss you?”, and some might even worry that asking for consent ruins the mood or works against them.
We’re all about consent, so we’re about to show you how to talk about consent in a natural, respectful, and totally non-mood-killing way.
“When I talk about consent, I mean verbal and non-verbal communication that ensures everyone involved in whatever sexual thing you’re doing is willing and excited about being there,” says sex coach Georgia Grace. “Because, I mean, isn't that what you want?
“And I know that feels like a lot of words, but you can also think about it as making sure everyone is excited and willing to experience whatever you’re about to do.”
Obtaining someone’s consent is about more than just getting a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to what you’d like to do. Consent isn’t a permission slip to have sex: it’s a complete dynamic between you and another person. It’s about checking in to see that your partner is excited, turned on, happy to be with you, and eager to do something with you—whether it’s kissing, penetration, or anything else.
“We often, rightly, frame consent as something we need to teach to prevent bad things happening,” says Georgia. “But becoming someone who is actively really good at discussing consent and boundaries will make sex so much better for you and your partners! And it's important to remember that we can all become better partners through this.
“Whenever we're involved in sex, we're dealing with boundaries. We all have the capacity to violate someone else's boundaries, and we all have the capacity to make someone feel comfortable and supported as well.”
Pretty much everyone wants to be thought of as good in bed, and being good in bed is about more than just having ‘the moves’ or being able to make your partner orgasm. It’s about being the kind of person who others feel safe and comfortable around, someone who they can trust. And being that person all starts with talking about consent.
“People will often say, ‘It’s too awkward to have a conversation about consent before sex. I don’t know what to say’,” says Georgia. “And I find it interesting that talking is what most people will say is the most awkward part—not the part where you get naked, exchange bodily fluids, and rub genitals together!”
“If you find it awkward or clunky, you are human. But it’s a non-negotiable: you must speak when it comes to sex. I understand it can feel like learning a new language, so here’s a way to approach it.”
- Get used to being vulnerable. Georgia recommends practising being vulnerable, either with a trusted friend or just by yourself. Practise articulating things you want, things you need, and things you don’t enjoy so that when you say those things to someone else, it doesn’t feel so strange.
- Be the partner you’d want for yourself. Imagine the kind of response you’d like someone to have when you’re vulnerable with them. You wouldn’t want someone to pressure you, keep asking you, or roll their eyes and get annoyed—you’d want them to be understanding, kind, and supportive. Use this to help you think about how someone else would like you to treat them.
- Pay attention to body language. “If someone pulls away when you touch them —even if it’s just something like trying to hold hands—take it as a ‘no’ and let them make the next move towards physical contact,” Georgia says. “For some people, it can feel challenging to say an explicit and unambiguous ‘NO’ out loud. This is why non-verbal cues are really important for those who feel they lose their voice, don’t know what to say, or might have their mouth restrained or compromised.”
- Aim for enthusiasm. A response of, ‘Yes, I’d love to!’ is always better than a response of, ‘Yes, I suppose so’ or, ‘Yes, if you really want to’. Enthusiastic consent means someone is willing and excited to be there—we think enthusiastic consent is what everyone should be aiming for. “If you’re being intimate or having sex with someone and they look disconnected, disassociated, or like they’re not enjoying it anymore, then that’s where you need to take the initiative to check in with them and ensure everything is still fun and going to plan for everyone,” says Georgia.
- Continually check in. Very few of us are beginning sex by going through a list of every single thing we’d like to do and asking our partners to agree to it. This would be a mood killer! What works better is checking in with your partner as you go and allowing consent to be a constant conversation, rather than a once-off check. Some phrases you can use include things like:
“Do you want to take off this shirt/dress/pants?”
“Place my hand where you want it to be.”
“I’d love to go down on you, would you like that?”
“Show me how you’d like me to touch you.”
“Should I grab some protection?”
“It seems like you’re really enjoying this, is that right?”
“How do you like this?”
“I really want you to touch me here.”
“I’m so turned on by the thought of kissing you/touching you/being inside you, can we try it?”
- Remember: you can change your mind. “Allow space for others to change their minds,” Georgia says. “Just because it excited you once, or you agreed to one thing, doesn’t mean you’ve said an ongoing yes, or a yes to everything. You can change your mind and so can your partner. Remembering this also fosters space for creativity and curiosity, because you know that you can try something, not like it, and not have to go through with it.”