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Understanding Consent

Reflections by Paul Paiva,   © 2022 CoCreative Intimacy
Resources1 compiled by Paul Paiva


1.  If you are afraid to say NO, although you want to stop because your partner might get upset, then your CAPACITY for CONSENT may be DIMINISHED.

During dinner - Let's go home and have sex!

During sex - It is ok to change your mind and say NO.  


2.  Consent must be obtained at every sexual encounter2.


3.  It is not possible to have have full consent with someone who is incapacitated due to being asleep, drunk, or on drugs.


4.  Sex with someone who is asleep, blacked out, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, is incapacitated rape.


5.  Consenting once does not imply precedent.  Consent yesterday does not imply consent today.  Implied consent is not always clear and must be carefully navigated.  Freely-given consent is reversible


6.  During a sexual encounter, you are allowed to revoke consent if you want.  If your partner asks for a reason, an acceptable response is No means no; I don't need a reason.


CONSENT is easy as FRIES3







  • Freely-Given.  Consenting is a choice you make without pressure, manipulation, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  If this is with your boss or teacher, it likely is not freely-given.  
  • Reversible.  Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime. Even if you’ve done it before, and even if you’re both naked in bed, while you are doing it.

  • Informed.  You can only consent to something if you have the full story. For example, if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, there isn’t full consent.

  • Enthusiastic.  When it comes to sex, you should only do stuff you WANT to do, not things that you feel you’re expected to do.  

  • Specific.  Saying yes to one thing (like going to the bedroom to make out) doesn’t mean you’ve said yes to others (like having sex).


These guidelines are from CONSENT. The New Rules of Sex Education. Every teen's guide to healthy sexual relationships
by Jennifer Lang, M.D.
See book review, and get book

(Although the author writes for teenagers, I believe this is excellent for adults, too.)

  1. Can you speak openly and without shame with your partner, about your wants, needs desires, and boundaries?
  2. Are you comfortable walking into a drugstore and openly purchasing condoms and lube, without any shame?  Do you know how to properly use a condom?
  3. Do you feel comfortable talking with a doctor or health provider about STD testing and pregnancy prevention?
  4. Can you say NO when you mean no, and YES when you mean yes, and stick with your decision, even if your partner slowly or abruptly pressures you?
  5. Can you imagine being physically intimate with a clear mind, without a need to get high or drunk to get through it, or without feeling self-conscious or ashamed?
  6. Do you understand that having sex with a partner does not make them "yours" - sex doesn't imply commitment to a relationship, and they may break up with you after the sexual encounter?
  7. Do you really understand the mechanics of sex, including your anatomy, your partner's anatomy, and how they interact?
  8. Have you experimented with self-touch (masturbation)?  Do you know what you like and what you don't like?
  9. Do you accept the experience may not go as you imagine it will?  Do you have a support system to lean on to process your emotions?
  10. Can you trust your partner to respect your thoughts, feelings, and ownership of your body, and to not abuse this incredible privilege?  Can you trust yourself to do the same for them?

Even some sexually experienced adults cannot answer YES to all of the above!  These are great guidelines, do the best you can to prepare yourself.

by Jennifer Lang, M.D.

  1. AGE.  Are you or your partner under 18?  If under 18, are you within 2 years of your partner?
  2. ABILITY.  Are you and your partner of similar abilities?  Is one handicapped, older, or has developmental differences?
  3. POWER.  For YES to be meaningful, a NO must be an acceptable alternative without any control or coercion. Is your partner an authority figure - teacher, coach, boss?  This may be coercion, not consent.
  4. ALCOHOL or DRUGS - these can affect your judgement or memory.  This can be INCAPACITATED RAPE.


1Above cartoons are from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.  Captions are mine.
2Implicit consent is possible, although this must be carefully navigated.  For example, a married or long-term relationship of consent.  Nevertheless, even in this case, either party reserves the right to change the implicit consent to an explicit NO.  Thereafter, you now have reason to believe that implicit consent is no longer.  
3From Planned Parenthood.  Some embellishments from Paul.