With the flurry of news stories lately, you might have seen a lot of people claiming that there is no such thing as non-verbal consent. As your sex ed bestie, I am here to let you know that is untrue.
When someone has active and open body language, that likely means they want to keep going. When they’re nodding their heads in a clear “yes” and smiling at you, or holding eye contact, those are pretty good signs that you’re both on the same page. And if someone is dodging their head to avoid your kiss or pulling your hands away when you go to touch them somewhere, that is a really good sign that you need to pause and check in.
You could ask something like, “Do you want to keep going?” or “Do you need a break?” or “Is this okay?” These check-ins show that you respect them and care about their sexual agency. It also gives space to have a conversation about desire on both ends. What do you each want out of this sexual situation?
However, neither verbal nor non-verbal consent matter if it was given under the context of pressure, coercion, or manipulation.
Sexual violence isn’t just when someone has the intent to harm someone else’s body. Sometimes, the person causing harm has no intentions of harm. In fact, sexual trauma often comes from sex that is one-sided. Meaning one person wanted to have the kind of sex that was had — usually the person with more power in the relationship — but they didn’t pay any attention to or don’t even care what the other person wanted (or didn’t want, for that matter). This zine will help you navigate how to communicate about desire, consent, and sex.
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