What if you want to kiss someone, but you aren’t sure how they’d feel?

When you want to get close to someone — whether you’re hooking up for the first time or in a long-term relationship — it’s important to know how to ask for consent.

What is Consent?

When someone gives consent, they’re giving permission for something to happen or agreeing to do something.

This means they need to know specifically what they’re agreeing to — so make sure what you’re asking is clear.

For example, “Do you want to mess around for a while? Like cuddling and making out, but not having sex?”

When and how to Ask for Consent

Always ask for consent before you begin any sexual activity, including kissing, cuddling, and any kind of sex — even if your partner consented in the past.

Ask in a way that makes it clear it would be okay if they said “no” — otherwise you might be pressuring them to do something they don’t want to do.

For example, “Do you want to go back to the bedroom or hang out here and watch movies?”

What is Not Consent?

Your partner may not tell you “no,” but that doesn’t mean they’re saying “yes.”

If someone says nothing, “um… I guess,” or an unsure “yes,” they’re likely communicating that they don’t really want to do the thing you’re asking about.

In these cases, you don’t have clear consent. Check in with your partner about how they’re feeling — or suggest another activity.

For example, “You seem unsure, so why don’t we just watch TV tonight?”

Non-Verbal Cues

Pay attention to your partner’s body language.

If they pull away, tense up, look uncomfortable, laugh nervously, or are quiet or not
responding, you should check in.

For example, “You don’t seem too into this. Do you want to stop or take a break?”

Dealing with the “No”

Sometimes your partner will say “no,” and that’s okay.

Reassure them that you’re glad they can be honest with you.

For example, “That’s okay; maybe we could do that some other time.”

Why Consent Matters

Talking about what your partner wants to do ensures sex is consensual
and makes it more enjoyable.

You’ll feel more confident about what you’re doing, and your partner will feel
comfortable getting close to you.

I Ask for Digital Consent

Consent should be a part of your interactions with others when you’re texting or using social media. Although you aren’t talking face-to-face, you should always consider how your actions might make another person feel and ask questions if you don’t know.

Texting

Just because technology connects us 24/7 doesn’t mean that your partner is always available.

Some people enjoy rapid-fire text conversations, while others only like to text to make plans.

Check in with your partner about how often you would like to text each other and what you consider a reasonable amount of time to respond.

For example, “How do you feel about texting at work? I’m cool with it, but I also have a lot of down time.”

Sharing Online

Ask your partner how they feel about you sharing and tagging photos of them and posting about your relationship online.

Find out if they’d like to see what you’re posting first, or maybe they’re okay with you sharing without asking every time.

For example, “I love this picture from our last date. Is it OK if I post it to Instagram?”

Sexting

Sexting means sending sexual photos, videos, or messages from your phone or computer.

Not everyone feels comfortable sexting, and that’s okay — there are good reasons to have concerns about sharing a private image.

It’s never okay to send unwanted sexts — even to a long-term partner.

If your partner is okay with sexting, ask them before you send anything.

For example, “I’d love to show you exactly how I’m feeling — can I send you a pic?”

Picture Pressure

Just like any other kind of sex, digital sexual interactions should feel exciting,
comfortable, and safe for everyone involved.

If someone says “no” to sending a nude photo, respect their choice and move on.

Never pressure, coerce, or guilt someone to send photos — especially nude photos.

For example, “That’s cool — I can’t wait for our date on Saturday!”

Consent Violations

If someone shares a nude photo with you, don’t share it with anyone.

Sharing intimate photos with someone they weren’t meant for is a violation of trust
and could be illegal.

It can also be a crime to store or share sexual photos of someone under 18, even if
you are also under 18.

I Ask How Power Impacts Consent

Consent can be complicated when one partner holds more power than the other. By being mindful of the ways power imbalances may impact consent, you can take steps to ensure your partner feels comfortable communicating their needs.

What is Power?

Power is the ability to influence the actions and choices of others.

Power can be obvious, like in the case of a supervisor or mentor, or it can be less apparent like when there’s a difference in sexual experience.

Imbalances of Power

Relationships have a power imbalance when one person has the power to influence things like money, a place to live, a job, or a reputation.

Having power over someone can influence how comfortable they feel saying no to sex — someone may fear negative consequences for not consenting.

When someone abuses power over a partner, they may use verbal threats or not.

Either way, consent is never possible when someone feels they don’t have a choice.

Examples of Imbalances of Power

Age differences and sexual experience: An older or more sexually experienced adult may make a younger or less experienced adult feel they need to “prove” that they are mature or experienced.

Level of ability: Some adults who have physical or intellectual disabilities, older adults, or those who need assistance from a caregiver may rely on their partner in some areas of life, but their decision-making in other areas should still be respected.

Position in society: Someone may have more social privilege than their partner — through their education, job, wealth, citizenship, or other factors.

Privilege: White privilege, male privilege, and other unearned advantages are part
of the power some of us bring to relationships.

Checking In

Before asking for consent, consider how holding a position of power might influence the situation.

Ask yourself: “Would this person say yes if I didn’t have power/authority over them?”

Make Consent Clear

If there’s a difference in power between you and your partner, your partner may feel
less able to tell you their needs.

Let them know they can tell you when they’re not interested in doing something.

Ask questions in a way that communicates you’re okay with their answer — no matter what it is.

For example, “I hope you know you can tell me how you’re really feeling – saying ‘no’ is always okay.”

© 2019 National Sexual Violence Resource Center. All rights reserved. | nsvrc.org/saam

Sexual Consent Form

The sexual consent form is a written agreement that relays in clear terms the intent of two consenting adults to participate in sexual acts together. One of the main purposes behind this agreement is to prevent rape and sexual assault or protect a person from false accusations of such crimes.

-Courtesy of eFormsSexual-Consent-Form

I Ask How to Teach Consent Early

Late childhood and early adolescence is a time when children get
messages about relationships and consent from TV shows, movies, social media, and friends. This makes it an ideal time for parents to have conversations about consent. Talking with your child now will encourage open and honest communication as they mature and enter their first relationships.

What is Consent?

Consent means asking someone for their permission to do something and accepting
their answer.

Consent shows up in kids’ lives when they ask peers if and what they want to play, if they want to sit together at lunch or on the bus, if they’d like to share school supplies, toys, food, etc.

Helping kids to ask for consent and accept rejection in these everyday ways builds a foundation for practicing consent in intimate relationships as they get older.

Talk Openly

Ask yourself: What messages is my child getting about relationships and consent?

What messages do I want them to get?

Let your child know they can come to you with questions about consent and relationships.

Answer their questions honestly and encourage ongoing conversations about respect and safety.

For example, you could tell your child, “Everyone’s body deserves respect,” or “If someone hurts us, it’s okay to talk about it.”

Teach Respect for Boundaries

Teach your child that consent means always choosing to respect others’ boundaries.

Boundaries are a person’s right to choose what is comfortable for them.

For example, “It sounds like your friend didn’t want to sit beside you on the bus today. Sometimes you don’t want to sit beside me and that’s okay. Everybody gets
to make choices about what’s comfortable for them.”

Teach How to Ask for Consent

Help your child to think about how their actions might make another person feel
and to ask questions if they don’t know.

Everyone has different boundaries, and no one should ever feel pressured to do
something that they’re uncomfortable with.

Model Asking for Consent

Show your child ways to ask for consent by modeling the words and actions yourself.

Model respect for boundaries by asking your child for consent and accepting their answer,
like when asking for a hug or sharing information about them with others.

Use teachable moments to talk about consent and respect.

For example, “I could tell your guidance counselor that grandma died if that’s okay
with you,” or “It’s okay if you don’t want a goodnight hug.”

© 2019 National Sexual Violence Resource Center. All rights reserved. | nsvrc.org/saam