Consent & Healthy Relationships
Consent: a clear and unambiguous agreement, expressed in mutually understandable words or actions, to engage in particular activity.
If you are going to engage in sexual activity, you need to know how to give and get consent. Consent is not an option and is foundational to a healthy relationship. Communicate with you partner and make sure you both are comfortable with what is happening. Sex can be empowering and it is empowering through consent. Make it pleasurable for both you and your partner: ask before going forward! Make sure your partner is enjoying what you are doing. Listen to your partner!
When trying to determine if consent is given, reflect on these ten way to distinguish consent!
- Consent is fundamental – You must obtain consent before engaging in or going further with any sexual activity
- Consent requires communication – Verbal communication before engaging in sexual activity clarifies consent. Discussing your own and your partner’s sexual desires, needs, and limitation provides a basis for a positive experience
- Consent is affirmative – Listen for a clear and positive agreement. These factors don’t count: the absence of “no,” silence, relying solely on body language, flirtation, coercion, martial or relationship status, power differentials, clothing choice, or a person’s past behavior. “Yes!” is a statement of consent
- Consent is voluntary – Consent must be given freely and willingly and may not be valid if one person is being subjected to emotional or psychological pressure, intimidation or fear
- Consent must be unimpaired – A person who is impaired in any way, asleep, or mentally or physically incapacitated, either through the effects of drugs or alcohol or for any other reason, is not capable of giving valid consent. Using alcohol or drugs may also seriously interfere with the initiator’s judgment about whether consent was sought or given
- Consent is impermanent – Consent at one time does not imply consent for the future; it must be freely given every time
- Consent is always retractable – Consent is subject to change and can be withdrawn at any time. Consent must be clear at each stage of a sexual encounter: consenting to one sexual activity does not imply consent to further activity
- Consent is autonomous – A current or past relationship, such as dating or marriage, does not override the need to obtain consent
- Consent is equitable – Consent is invalid when the initiator holds authority over the partner, such as in an academic or workplace setting or when on participant is under the legal age of consent
- Consent is essential – Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault
Many people want healthy relationships in their lives, but defining a healthy relationship can be tricky. Relationships are informed by one’s cultural identity, relationship history, and a range of factors and so they can vary in terms of closeness, purpose, and meaning. Relationships are a necessary part of healthy living, but there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. Relationships, from acquaintances to romances, have the potential to enrich our lives and add to our enjoyment of life. However, these same relationships can cause discomfort, and sometimes even cause harm. While these tips tend to focus on intimate partnerships, relationships can include a variety of types such as: family, friends, professional, mentorship, etc.
Below are some ideas to consider when reflecting on how to achieve healthier relationships in your life.
Communication is a key part to building a healthy relationship. The first step is making sure you both want and expect the same things—being on the same page is very important. The following tips can help you create and maintain a healthy relationship:
• Speak Up. In a healthy relationship, if something is bothering you, it’s best to talk about it instead of holding it in.
• Respect Your Partner. Your partner’s wishes and feelings have value. Let your significant other know you are making an effort to keep their ideas in mind. Mutual respect is essential in maintaining healthy relationships.
• Compromise. Disagreements are a natural part of healthy relationships, but it’s important that you find a way to compromise if you disagree on something. Try to solve conflicts in a fair and rational way.
• Be Supportive. Offer reassurance and encouragement to your partner. Also, let your partner know when you need their support. Healthy relationships are about building each other up, not putting each other down.
• Respect Each Other’s Privacy. Just because you’re in a relationship, doesn’t mean you have to share everything and constantly be together. Healthy relationships require space.
Creating healthy boundaries is a good way to keep your relationship healthy and secure. By setting boundaries together, you can both have a deeper understanding of the type of relationship that you and your partner want. Boundaries are not meant to make you feel trapped or like you’re “walking on eggshells.” Creating boundaries is not a sign of secrecy or distrust — it’s an expression of what makes you feel comfortable and what you would like or not like to happen within the relationship.
Remember, healthy boundaries shouldn’t restrict your ability to:
• Go out with your friends without your partner.
• Participate in activities and hobbies you like.
• Not have to share passwords to your email, social media accounts or phone.
• Respect each other’s individual likes and needs.