This story was first published on September 13, 2022. This was republished on September 13, 2023.
This story is part of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. Check out the rest of the stories here.
There’s a popular myth that outright asking for consent takes away the mystery of sex or even kills the mood.
Sexual violence researcher and advocate Brodie Joyce says people who think this probably just haven’t learnt how to communicate during sex.
“This a product of our culture and society where sex is still a taboo topic,” she says.
“Some parents don’t want to talk about sex with their kids, some teachers feel uncomfortable talking to their students. So it’s no surprise some people haven’t learnt how to communicate with the person they are having sex with.”
So in the spirit of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, we are learning some hot ways to communicate consent in English and te reo Māori with translations by Te Wairere Ngaia.
Sexual violence researcher and advocate Brodie Joyce says learning how to tell someone what you do and don’t like comes with experience, confidence and trust. Photo: Supplied.
The good news is getting enthusiastic consent, which is the presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “no” doesn’t have to sound as robotic as some TV shows like New Girl have painted it.
During the main character’s virginity story, her date says: “I’m going to freak you towards the bed, do I have your permission?”; “May I take off your dress, do I have your permission?”; and ‘“Maybe I could try the abdominal area, is that OK, may I have your permission?”
While this approach may work for some, there are so many other fun ways to get consent.
You’ve probably done some without even realising.
Gender and sexuality counsellor Dee Morgan says a reason why asking for consent can be misconstrued as unsexy is because it’s not something that is often modelled to people.
Dee Morgan says learning how to give enthusiastic consent can bring excitment into someone’s sex life. Photo: Supplied.
“In movies, people’s eyes meet across the room and then suddenly they are waking up next to each other in bed and sex assumed but a lot of the communication is skipped out,” she says.
The same can often be said for porn where very few words are exchanged before it’s all on.
Morgan says a lack of exposure to scenarios where consent is being given in a fun and playful way leaves people in the dark about how it can happen.
So here’s a list of sexy ways you can ask for consent:
“I think the really vital part with any of these questions is you have to be willing to hear a ‘no’ as well as wanting to hear a ‘yes’, otherwise it isn’t a genuine question,” Morgan says.
“So many of us are actually not prepared for ‘no’. This is why I think it's important to really highlight that a no is not necessarily a personal rejection. Someone could be saying no to that specific question or sex act, so listen to what they want instead.”
Morgan says gentle teasing is another great way to get enthusiastic consent.
“If you are in the middle of a [sex act] try pausing and then asking, ‘what would you like?’,” she says.
“In that question there is room for the person to say ‘keep going’, ‘go a bit faster’ ‘go a bit harder’ or they could ask you to stop or try something else.”
Morgan says you can make consent playful by making the person wait after they have told you what they want. Or continue doing the act for a short period of time and then stop again and ask, “like this?”
“You can make all of this suspense and waiting part of play which keeps things exciting and unpredictable,” she says.
Ongoing encouragement and reassurance
Rape Prevention Education defines consent as a continuous process. This means it’s important to check in with your partner throughout sex, not just at the beginning.
Morgan says people can have fun by giving consent constantly.
Saying “fuck yes”, “don’t stop” or “keep doing that” under your breath not only communicates consent, but it also lets the other person know you like what they are doing so that they continue.
Joyce says it’s really important not to assume anything at all, especially for those who hold some form of power or dominance in these situations.
“Do not assume that a person wants to do anal just because they've done it with someone else. Or just because you've done oral with each other, that now means they automatically consent to penetrative sex,” she says.
“When it comes to heterosexual relationships, for example, there are different power dynamics there.”
Joyce says typically a woman may feel less confident being vocal because society has often placed women in more passive or subservient roles.
“So I think the onus of ensuring safety does come from the more dominant person,” she says.
Talk about safe words and signals beforehand
Morgan says setting boundaries and safe signals before sex is really important, especially when verbal communication might not be possible, like during blowjobs or consensual choking.
“Clearly deciding these signals beforehand means there's no room for misinterpretation,” she says.
“Some people hold something in their hand and if they drop it there's a really clear indicator they want to stop.”
Joyce says you could also try tapping someone three times to communicate you want to stop.
“There are so many things you can try to find something that works for you,” Joyce says.
“Using humour is also a really good way to break down the awkwardness you might feel. Ultimately having the confidence to explain to someone what you like and don’t like develops with experience and trust, so make sure you are listening just as much as you are communicating.”
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