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Consent is about more than just saying “yes”: it’s a continuous dialogue between you and your partner about what you want and don’t want throughout your sexual relationship. It’s about agreeing to be sexual with someone and being open and honest about your boundaries. In this mini guide, we’ll look at how you navigate sexual pleasure safely and communicate your feelings about sex openly with your partner. 

Understanding consent 

In any sexual relationship, your decisions must be made with no pressure – you should do what you want to do, not what you think is expected of you. You can change your mind at any time, even in the middle of a sexual act: you have the final say over what you would like to do with your body at all times. 

It is important to highlight that safe sexual interactions extend beyond the physical realm. They must inherently be non-exploitative and non-abusive. Respecting boundaries and fostering open communication ensure that individuals engage in intimate relations that are not only physically safe but also emotionally nurturing, creating an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. 

While verbal communication is explicit and direct, the absence of a vocal “no” does not imply an enthusiastic “yes.” Silence during intimate interactions can convey many different emotions and states of mind, ranging from uncertainty to discomfort. 

Non-verbal cues like body language can be used to ensure that both partners are comfortable throughout the experience, and is an important part of consensual encounters. However, non-verbal cues can be ambiguous and subject to interpretation. What may seem like a clear signal to one person may be misread by another? Discussing your likes and dislikes is vital.

Consent also extends to emotional and psychological boundaries. It’s not only about how your partner touches your body, but it can be how they speak to you. During a positive sexual experience, you should always feel comfortable, safe and without fear of judgment. 

How to start a conversation about sex with your partner

Talking about sex and sexual preferences can make you feel uncomfortable and emotionally vulnerable. Many of us feel embarrassed and afraid that our partner will make fun of us or shame us. We often go through many scenarios of all the things that could go wrong. 

To start a conversation with your partner, you must feel emotionally safe first. Take a deep breath and remind yourself: that your partner is most probably thinking the same thing. You have good intentions: your goal is to deepen your connection with your partner – sexually and intimately. 

Begin the conversation in a comfortable and private space, and when the conditions are right: don’t try to talk with your partner when either of you is stressed or distracted. Only start conversations when you both have the time, mood, and energy to properly have them. It can also help if you imagine talking with a friend rather than your partner, and you can use humor to lighten the mood.

Assure your partner that you want to share and understand what you both like, and not pass judgment on each other’s desires. Acknowledge the cultural challenges you might face. For example, you could say: ”I know this might be an awkward conversation. But I would like us both to feel comfortable talking about it. Can we talk about what we like and don’t like in bed?”

The more honest you are with each other, the better equipped you both are to have an enjoyable sexual experience. Encourage a gradual approach. You can start asking: “What turns you on the most? Is there something you’ve always wanted to try?” You can then choose to explore this together. 

Be straightforward about your feelings and boundaries. You can use “I” statements to express your thoughts, like: “I’ve been thinking about our intimate moments, and I want to talk about some boundaries that are important to me. I’m comfortable with …, but I’m not comfortable with … ” 

Explain your reasons to your partner. For example, “This makes me feel more secure or respected.” Remind your partner that you can both say “yes” or “no” at any point. Be attentive to your partner’s comfort and reactions too.

We all have internal struggles when it comes to sex. If your partner is having a tough time, be understanding and know they might be working through their own issues. It’s a journey you’re both taking together, and the key is to cultivate an atmosphere of trust and understanding. Tell your partner you appreciate their willingness to talk about sexual preferences and boundaries. You can say for example: “I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about this with me. It means a lot.”

How to talk about safe sex 

Consent is also about agreeing on methods of contraception, protection, and safe sex practices. Safety should always be a priority. Practice safe sex by using condoms and go for regular STI check-ups.

Both partners share the responsibility for safe and healthy sexual experiences. Knowing about the different contraception options gives you the tools to make choices that align with your reproductive health goals. Talk about contraception methods that you are currently using or considering to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Be open about any preferences or concerns you may have, and encourage your partner to do the same.

You can share any relevant information about contraception and safe sex practices, which may include details about different contraceptive methods, their effectiveness, and potential side effects. You can open up the conversation by saying: “I’ve been reading about different contraceptive methods, and I learned …. What do you think? Do you have any concerns or preferences?” 

Regular STI testing is important – think of this as going to your doctor for a general health check. Talk to your partner about this, especially if you haven’t done so recently. Be open about your own testing history and encourage your partner to share theirs. You could ask, for example: “I think it’s important for us to make sure we’re both healthy and prevent any potential health risks. When was the last time you got tested? I want us to make sure we’re looking out for each other.”

Based on your conversations, agree on the protection and safe sex practices that suit both of you. This may involve combining methods or choosing one that aligns with your preferences and values. 

Safe sex leads to a happy sex life. It involves open communication, respecting each other’s boundaries, and a commitment to ongoing consent. Talking honestly about these things contributes to healthy, and enjoyable sexual relationships.

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