How to Get Consent—and How to Ask For It

It can be hard to ask for something—help, advice, even an extra ketchup packet sometimes. But asking gets us one step closer to what we want, and that is what consent is all about.

NO MORE is proud to join the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in celebrating Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) with their I Ask campaign. Asking for consent is healthy, normal, and a necessary part of everyday interactions—and that includes in personal relationships.

The truth is that is feels easy to use consent in small everyday interactions, versus our most intimate and often most vulnerable moments. We explored this last year after Babe.net published a piece detailing an anonymous woman’s account of being violated by the comedian Aziz Ansari. That piece tipped off an important, and sometimes frustrating, online and offline discussion of what consent means and how to ask for it—or even whether or not it’s needed.

We won’t rehash that debate, because we—like so many others celebrating SAAM —believe consent is important at each and every step of a sexual encounter. Talking openly about sex is integral to understanding consent, and to learning how to communicate, understand, and respect sexual boundaries. Unfortunately, sex is still a very taboo subject — but if we can’t talk about sex with our clothes on, how are we ever going to be comfortable talking about it with our clothes off?

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We know the past several years have brought some incredible change in how society addresses sexual assault and domestic violence, but there’s always more we can do to keep pushing for a better, safer world for all of us. That’s why the NO MORE community is continuing to take action where it counts.

That includes engagement with the companies and services we use every single day—which is why we’re proud to partner with Uber, local law enforcement, service industry, and local rape crisis centers on a new campaign—“Stand up, Don’t Stand By”— to promote safety and help prevent sexual assault before it starts. 

Going out is supposed to be about friends and fun, but sometimes that’s not the case. That’s why we’re working across all sectors to launch a coordinated effort to stop sexual assault before it starts by encouraging friends and other bystanders to step in and intervene when they see something. The end goal is to ensure respect, safety, and fun are all a part of going out—from the club door to the car door to the front door. 

The new campaign, which will appear inside bars and around metropolitan areas, is initially focused on two nightlife hubs—Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles, California—and includes messages and educational tips for friends out on for a night on the town, nightlife staff, and Uber drivers as well as outdoor billboards rolling out in Las Vegas and Los Angeles next week. At the same time, participating bars have received a staff training, run by the local rape crisis centers, to help identify individuals in need or incidents that require intervention. Interested in participating? Request a training here

   

Given NO MORE’s dedication to getting the issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse out of the shadows and encouraging everyone, from all walks of life, to be part of the solution, this ongoing partnership with Uber offers a huge opportunity to raise awareness, support prevention initiatives, and ensure that potentially lifesaving resources are prominently available.

The new “Stand up, Don’t Stand By” campaign follows the 2017 announcement of a multi-year commitment as part of Uber’s “Driving Change” campaign that includes both internal and external sexual assault and domestic violence awareness and prevention initiatives. This reflected a partnership with us and a number of organizations that are part of NO MORE’s coalition, including Raliance (the coalition of leading sexual assault organizations: California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence and National Sexual Violence Resource Center), the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Women of Color Network, Inc., Casa de Esperanza, A CALL TO MEN, and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

NO MORE is committed to working with individuals, organizations and corporations that are truly interested in bringing about change. To make progress and to address a deeply embedded culture of violence, we want – and in fact need – to be in as many boardrooms, classrooms, and living rooms as possible, as well as on the networks and platforms where people live, work and play.

This has been our philosophy and guiding principle since we launched in 2013. We set out to create a powerful, visual way to express support for ending domestic violence and sexual assault. We sought to unite anti-violence organizations into a coalition. And we developed PSAs, as well as other marketing tools, to make our voices even louder and stronger.

In just a few years, NO MORE has successfully brought together the largest coalition of advocacy groups, service providers, governmental agencies, major corporations, universities, communities and individuals, all under a unifying symbol in support of a world free of violence. Nearly 1,000 organizations and 75,000 individuals have joined NO MORE. Hundreds of schools have NO MORE groups, and another almost 30 local city-wide, state-wide and international NO MORE programs have been born. Thanks to our partners, our PSAs have gotten more than 4.4 billion impressions.

But, of course, we have only scratched the surface. Even without the recent spotlight, we know that much more work needs to be done to change the fact that, on average:

  • 1 in 3 women experience sexual assault or domestic violence at some point in their lives;
  • 1 in 6 men experience sexual abuse before the age of 18; and
  • 65% of victims who come forward say no one helped them.

We’re thrilled to continue our important work with Uber. This is one more way we will come together to fight sexual violence, and to say: NO MORE.

VISIT DONTSTANDBY.ORG   LEARN MORE ABOUT UBER’S GLOBAL COMMITMENT

Thanks to all the partners that made the #DontStandBy campaign possible—Uber, Oberland, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Los Angeles Police Department, The Las Vegas Rape Crisis Center, and Raliance.

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Casa de Esperanza, in partnership with NO MORE, is proud to announce that DECIMOS NO MÁS is currently exhibiting a strong public presence through a four-panel ad covering more than 7,000 square feet in New York City’s Times Square which started Monday, March 12 and will finish on Monday, March 19.

The advertisement features a 30-second video wherein a mother reminds her teenager that healthy sexuality is about more than just sex – it’s also about respect, consent, and appreciating differences. Watch the advertisement video below.

DECIMOS NO MÁS, a bilingual sister campaign to NO MORE, was created to encourage and provide guidance for parents and caretakers to have meaningful conversations with children and youth about healthy communication, healthy relationships, and healthy sexuality.

At WeSayNoMas.org, parents and advocates can find resources, materials, and information about how to encourage, start, and enhance conversations with their children and young adults about navigating relationships, boundaries, respect, sexuality, and interpersonal communication. For parents, DECIMOS NO MÁS provides tools in English and Spanish such as conversation starters, mock scenarios, and practice cards, in addition to several pages of information that encourage critical thinking around topics such as consent, addressing confrontation, understanding boundaries, and whether it’s too late to talk to children about sex and relationships.

Additionally, DECIMOS NO MÁS offers free, openly usable tools, including social media graphics, infographics, and website banners for advocates and organizations to spread to their networks, put on their materials or websites, and co-brand with their own logo. NO MÁS also has 30-second radio and video PSAs that are co-brandable and available to use in your communities. For more information about co-branding, please email Rebecca De León at deleonr@casadeesperanza.org.

The advertisement was produced in collaboration with Joey Horton, a freelance Graphic Designer and Motion Graphic artist based in the Dallas area. He is currently finishing a degree within Emerging Media and Communications (EMAC) at the University of Texas at Dallas’ School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communications (ATEC).

Click here to see the ad video in English.

Click here to see the ad video in Spanish.


DECIMOS NO MÁS is able to provide free violence prevention resources in English and Spanish to Latin@s from a culturally relevant lens thanks to sponsorships from Uber, the Avon Foundation for Women, the Verizon Foundation, and donations from people like you.

If you would like to contribute to NO MÁS, please consider making a donation here.

Proceeds from NO MÁS products in our store also help fund the campaign and provide more resources to families and advocates across the country. To browse the NO MÁS products in our store, click here.


About Casa de Esperanza

Casa de Esperanza, founded in 1982, is a leader in the domestic violence movement and a national resource center for organizations working with Latin@s in the United States. As a leading national Latin@ organization, Casa de Esperanza builds bridges and connections among research, practice, and policy to advance effective responses to eliminate domestic violence and to promote healthy relationships within Latin@ families and communities. The organization provides innovative prevention and intervention services, supports and community engagement approaches and through its national project, the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities (NLN), it provides training and technical assistance to practitioners and activists throughout the U.S. and in Latin America, organizes national and regional events, engages in federal and state public policy advocacy, and conducts research on issues that affect Latin@s in the U.S. and abroad.

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After Nassar, East Lansing T-shirt designer offers help with ‘No More. #MeToo’

This article originally appeared in the Lansing State Journal:

EAST LANSING – By day Austin Pabian works as a graphic designer for an education group. By night, he creates “drinking team” tanks and T-shirts for fraternities and other party crowds at Michigan State University.

Now the 23-year-old entrepreneur is using his skills to promote the #MeToo movement. Upset at the revelations of sexual abuse of gymnasts and other athletes by former MSU sports doctor Larry Nassar, Pabian decided to fashion teal-colored T-shirts for men and women in time for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.

The T-shirts cost $15 each, including mailing costs, and Pabian will donate all profits — about $10 a shirt — to Lansing sexual assault awareness groups. One shirt reads “No More. #MeToo.” A second version has a more graphic adjective inserted between “No” and “More.”

Pabian said he was stunned listening to the impact statements of more than 200 survivors over nine days of court in two counties.

“I was baffled. As I’m sure most people can agree, I had no idea that was going on,” he said. “It was shell shocking.”

Pabian’s girlfriend, Robyn Lowes, pursued gymnastics throughout childhood and was on a club team at MSU. She graduated last year. She knows some of the Larry Nassar survivors and looked up to other of the gymnasts.

The January impact statements affected her deeply.

She cried a lot. Pabian wanted to help her.

“He kept saying, ‘What can I do? What can I do?’’’ Lowes recalled. “He said, ‘I wish I could do something,’”

He found that something by combining the teal T-shirt with the #MeToo movement…

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE. TO ORDER A TEE, VISIT FIREWATERAPPAREL.CO/METOO.

ORDER A TEE

 

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Starting the Journey of Healing from Sexual Assault through Writing

Elena Sánchez is an eighteen-year-old senior at River Falls High School in River Falls, Wisconsin. She is an artist, writer, survivor, and an enthusiast of all things involving music. Through her writing, Elena is finally finding her true voice and sharing her story.

I wrote this poem during my transition from silence to finally speaking out about the sexual assault I experienced as a child. I kept my assault hidden from my entire family for twelve years, until July of 2017.

This poem exemplifies the whirlwind of emotions, loneliness, and suffering I experienced all the while keeping silent. I reached a point in my life where I began to question why I continued to silence myself instead of speaking out…I see now that it was because I was still that scared little girl. I have finally broken through the walls I enclosed myself in many years ago, and I am no longer scared, ashamed, or controlled by the dark memories that haunted me from the shadows of my mind. I believe that writing is the artistic equivalent of bleeding—for me, it was time I let myself be truly honest, and bleed.

This is my story of transitioning from that scared little girl, to a woman finally confronting her past, and embarking on the slow journey of healing.  I hope this serves as an outcry to those who are afraid to speak out. You do not need to hide any longer, and you are not alone.  

Sitting Down and Bleeding…For the First Time

The veil of suppression has been lifted.

Years of silence now lay in shards of glass on the ground,

Yet I still lie awake with memories of your eyes following me

From the shadows.

 

My proclivity to run from the past

Has been hanged.

Every experience, emotion, memory,

Come flooding in all at once.

 

I now welcome these waves.

I allow them to seep into my

Cracks and holes born from

Years of breakage.

 

I am my experiences.

I am strong.

I am transcendent.

I am a survivor.

If you or someone you know needs assistance, counseling, or referrals to local advocacy centers, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or click here to chat with an advocate online. You are not alone.

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Parenting in the Digital Age of Pornography

 “There’s nowhere else to learn about sex — and porn stars know what they are doing.”

This rather disturbing quote comes directly from teen featured in “What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn,” a recent cover story in the New York Times Magazine.

In this time of more open dialogue about consent, and sexual assault, harassment and misconduct, looking at how porn influences young people—the very people who have the power to change the cultural norms that allow for this behavior—is critical.

As a culture, we have become desensitized to sex and violence due in large part to the ubiquitous portrayal of sexual violence in video games, movies and media. Thanks to the Internet, pornography that was once hidden in the back rooms of video stores, available only in sketchy areas of town, or hastily stuffed under mattresses became readily accessible around the clock, and today pornography is consumed by the masses. Add smartphones and other video recording devices to the mix, and porn is just as easy to create.

In addition to increased access, the content of mainstream pornography has become increasingly violent and graphic in nature, with explicit, high-res images replacing the blurry, pixelated sex videos of the past.

With the average age of first exposure to pornography around 13 years old, kids are simply unprepared to distinguish the messages they encounter in porn. Without the knowledge or understanding of what a respectful, mutually-agreeable, intimate relationship is, pornography then becomes a major source for youth to learn about sex.

It’s naive to assume that uninformed viewers with little sexual experience will not be influenced by these messages, especially when the majority of pornography is consumed by boys and young men. Research has shown a correlation between the consumption of pornography at an early age and incidence of sexual violence.

Exposure to pornography creates unrealistic expectations for both women and men when engaging in sex, and that could very well be a driver of sexual assault among young people.

So, what can be done?

Love it or hate it, pornography is deeply entrenched in our culture. Installing rigorous parental controls on devices might prevent kids from seeing it for a time, but at a certain age, it will be beyond a parent’s control.

Adults need to talk openly with young people — male and female — about pornography so that they know what they are watching is choreographed and made up. Regardless of how difficult, uncomfortable and downright embarrassing this conversation might be, there are some ways to approach it:

  • Take a “no shame, no blame” attitude from the start so it’s a two-way conversation rather than a lecture.
  • Acknowledge that what you are about to discuss may be difficult for both of you.
  • Think about the message you want to convey before you start talking but be ready to go where the conversation takes you — retaining the no judgment approach.
  • Reference media or video games, but don’t denigrate them. Instead use them as a jumping off point to explore how your kid thinks the hyper-exaggerated violence and sex may influence other kids’ views of what healthy, mutually satisfying intimacy is.
  • Remind kids that racy or not, both parties should enjoy sexual experiences and feel comfortable telling each other what they like or don’t like.

We can get this message out via social media and the Internet, but to reinforce this message, parents need to have these discussions with their sons and daughters as early as they feel is appropriate.

By now most parents know they have to talk to their kids about sex, and drugs and alcohol, and many more know, that they need to include healthy relationships in these conversations. Speaking openly and preemptively about healthy intimacy versus what’s seen in pornography is a natural extension of those talks.

Connect with kids so they make good, informed decisions — because the potential cost of staying silent is too great.

Visit Break The Cycle for tips on how to start a conversation with teens about pornography. Start talking to your children about healthy sexuality using the NO MÁS campaign’s tools for parents, available in both English and Spanish. Additional resources for talking to teens about healthy sexuality and relationships are available on Planned Parenthood’s website.

Jane Randel is the co-president of Karp Randel LLC and co-founder of NO MORE and Amy Sánchez is the chief executive officer of Break the Cycle, a social justice advocate and community leader.

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#LoveBetter Playlist: 7 Love Songs to Cozy Up to This Winter

Written by One Love Foundation Writer’s Corps member Julie Oltman in partnership with NO MORE. One Love is a foundation dedicated to teaching young people about healthy and unhealthy relationships.

Whether we like it or not, winter is here. The days are short and the air is frigid; we’re in the midst of the coldest months. But since we’ll be here for a bit longer, we might as well enjoy it. That’s why we’re sharing our very own #LoveBetter playlist, comprised of intimate, cozy love songs that pair perfectly with a seat by the fireplace and a warm blanket – and remind us what healthy relationships look like.

“Love and Some Verses” – Iron & Wine

One of the more gentle tracks on Iron & Wine’s 2004 album, Our Endless Numbered Days, “Love and Some Verses” is a simple yet graceful expression of compassion. In few words, the song creates a dream-like image of a deep, meaningful romance. And let’s face it… there’s something about Sam Beam’s voice that just calms the soul.

Why this inspires us to #LoveBetter: While “Love and Some Verses” paints the portrait of a fairytale romance, Beam sings of commitment and communication, eager to express himself to his partner: “Love to say this to your face / ‘I’ll love you only’”

“The Wine We Drink” – Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors 

“The Wine We Drink” is uniquely personal in that Drew Holcomb not only wrote it for his wife, but sings it together with her. It’s a song about the little things; the often forgotten things that can define a relationship. The lyrics are a reminder that the world has flaws, and people have differences – and these imperfections can be the thing that makes your relationship work.

Why this inspires us to #LoveBetter: It’s important to note that no relationship is perfect. Holding out for that storybook romance or trying to force perfection can lead to an unhealthy relationship. Communication and compassion are key here: cherishing the little things that make your partner unique can lead to a stronger, closer relationship. “It’s in the wine we drink / Dirty dishes in the kitchen sink / And the lights go out ‘til the sun comes up, we are not alone / You are the one thing that I know”

“Unconditionally” – Katy Perry

A beautiful departure from the upbeat pop music we love, Katy Perry’s ballad, “Unconditionally,” perfectly captures the compassionate love we feel for someone we really care about. The lyrics are a reminder that no matter what we believe our flaws are, the right partner will make us feel comfortable in our own skin.

Why this inspires us to #LoveBetter: No one is perfect but the right partner will accept you, flaws and all. Making sure you’re confident and comfortable with the person you’re with is the hallmark of a healthy relationship. “Unconditional, unconditionally/ I will love you unconditionally / There is no fear now/ Let go and just be free/ I will love you unconditionally”

“The Universe” – Gregory Alan Isakov

Gregory Alan Isakov has an interesting knack for bringing up a practical point in a song full of metaphors. “The Universe,” from Isakov’s 2013 The Weatherman, offers an optimistic view of an imperfect world. It’s easy to get caught up in the negatives of this world – but a strong, compassionate connection between two people can be all the encouragement necessary to turn those thoughts around.

Why this inspires us to #LoveBetter: Respect and loyalty are two signs of a healthy relationship, and Isakov demonstrates them in “The Universe.” It’s important to know that while your relationship won’t always be easy, your partner should value you and have your back even in the hard times. “The Universe, she’s wounded / But she’s still got infinity ahead of her / She’s still got you and me”

“First Day of My Life” – Bright Eyes

“First Day of My Life” conveys a feeling of truly seeing, feeling, understanding someone for the first time. Frontman Conor Oberst is known for his vivid, emotional lyrics, and this fan-favorite certainly pulls on the heart strings.

Why this inspires us to #LoveBetter: Healthy relationships don’t just happen…. they take work. Both partners must be willing to work together to build a strong relationship, and it’s important to know where you and your partner stand on that fact. “I’d rather be working for a paycheck / than waiting to win the lottery”

“In Your Arms Again” – Josh Ritter

Throughout his 20 year career, Josh Ritter has mastered the art of storytelling through song. While the lyrics in “In Your Arms Again” are pretty straightforward, they convey a strong message of the power of being together.

Why this inspires us to #LoveBetter: Equality and independence are vital pieces in building a healthy relationship. You shouldn’t have to put your dreams on hold or miss out on doing the things you want because of your partner. In a healthy relationship, both partners encourage each other to be the best people they can be. “All those plans I had / All they did was hold me down / Those plans I had / They can’t hold me back / Now that I am back in your arms again”

“XO” – Beyoncé

From her start with Destiny’s Child to her mega successful solo career, Beyoncé has always lent her voice toward championing equality (especially in relationships). In XO, the songstress turns her attention to the joys of being in the moment with a partner—a difficult feat in the age of information.

Why this inspires us to #LoveBetter: It’s easy to become wrapped up in our devices instead of paying attention to our partner however It’s incredibly important to be present and engaged when you’re spending quality time with your sweetie. We don’t have forever / Baby daylight’s wasting / You better kiss me /Before our time is run out”

Everyone deserves a healthy relationship. Click here to learn more about how to improve your relationships—romantic, friendship, familial, and more. And check out how One Love reimagined Valentine’s day to bring awareness to unhealthy relationships.

Want to help us continue the conversation and inspire others to #LoveBetter? Add your favorite songs about healthy relationships to the #LoveBetter Spotify Playlist below.  (Not sure how to add songs? Click the green Spotify logo below to open the playlist in Spotify, then follow and add songs to the playlist!*)

*Please note that we reserve the right the remove songs.

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February is a month most of us associate with love. Because domestic violence and sexual assault is NEVER a sign of love, Pat Pierce Collection selected NO MORE as their charity spotlight for the month of February.

LEARN MORE HERE 

 

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Left: US Olympic’s Gymnastics Team: Laurie Hernandez, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and Madison Kocain / Right: Judge Rosemarie Aquilina

I pledge my allegiance to over 150 women who stood up in Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s courtroom, found their voices, stepped into the national floodlights of attention and gave themselves an experience in courage; a sparkling courage that is rippling out to us all. What grit! What moxie! What lightning bolts of inspiration is each and every one of them.

Another set of accolades I send out to Judge Aquilina. Armed with her judicial power she fostered an incredibly important act of empowerment in this 21st Century movement for resistance to and elimination of the sexual exploitation that has existed as long as history has been recorded.

Both sides of this equation are absolutely necessary for the eradication of sexual exploitation in all its horrendous forms: Survivors standing tall, with cameras rolling, telling their stories, and a representative of the power base clearing the room, providing unlimited space and time for those stories. Take as long as you need to say all you want to say she told them. How can I even express the vast importance of that level of validation? It has ramifications – the yet to be seen results and consequences of these acts of courage and use of power.

How many survivors witnessing these acts are being fed a dose of validation and inspiration? I love that these women are standing – heads held high atop strong spines. Such a grand contradiction to the years my spirit lived well into my thirties crouched in a fetal position doing all she could to hold down my father’s crime because of his oft- repeated threat, ‘You tell anyone and I’ll kill you.’ I’m certain each time a survivor stands up and proclaims their experience a thousand sister and brother survivor’s spirits unfold, take a deep breath and have a good stretch. I wish I could stand before each and every one of these amazing women, look them right in the eye and say “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

The responses Judge Aquilina offered after the victim statements were a grand about-face to the all-too-often victim blaming that happens. She underscored statement after statement with praise, gratitude, and support for the women who came forward. Things like, “The military has not yet come up with fiber as strong as you” calling them “heroine” and “superhero” and “Mattel ought to make toys so that little girls can look at you and say, ‘I want to be her.’ Thank you so much for being here, and for your strength.” What really choked me up was when she said, “Leave your pain here and go out and do your magnificent things.”

Where, dear goddess, did this cowboy-booted judge come from? No matter – all that matters is she is here, now. Here for these young women who survived childhood sexual abuse, here for the millions of us like them. Here too, as a shining searchlight for all who have power – to follow her stellar example and use that power for the greater good, in the battle to end this epidemic.

One thing about the man Lawrence Nassar, I believe he wasn’t born an abuser. Whatever brought him to commit his crimes – like all abusers – must be purged from our culture for this epidemic to be stopped.

We are living not just a #METOO / Times Up moment – it is a movement and the gymnasts and judge are major engines in keeping the momentum going. You can, too. Join by giving gratitude to the doers, financial support to organizations serving survivors and your voice anywhere and everywhere you can use it. Come on along – this is one hell of a ride!

 

Author Bio: In 2009 Donna founded Time To Tell with a mission to spark stories from lives affected by incest and sexual abuse to be told and heard. She wrote and performs her one-woman play, What She Knows: One Woman’s Way Through Incest to Joy, which is based on her own experience of surviving incest and what she did to make her life worth living. Her book, Healing My Life from Incest to Joy, a narrative of the choices she made and experiences she had that helped her heal from her childhood trauma, will be released by Levellers Press in Fall of 2017. For more information, go to www.timetotell.org.

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This blog was updated on January 24, 2018.

“One thing is undeniable: The need for more education and conversation around consent is critical.”

As you’ve probably read or heard, reporter Katie Way published a story on Babe.net detailing an anonymous woman’s account of being violated by the comedian Aziz Ansari. Since then, the article has sparked a fierce debate around the meaning of consent and sexual assault. Regardless of where you land on the spectrum of reactions to Babe.net’s story, one thing is undeniable: The need for more education and conversation around consent is critical.

Numerous articles have talked about this, but they haven’t addressed how to do it.  And, it should be noted, most of the dialogue has only centered around heterosexual, cisgender sex. 

Talking openly about sex is integral to understanding consent, and to learning how to communicate, understand, and respect sexual boundaries. Unfortunately, sex is still a very taboo subject—and if we can’t talk about sex with our clothes on, how are we ever going to be comfortable talking about it with our clothes off?

To help you wade through the often murky waters of consent, we’ve provided some questions that could lead to open, honest, and vulnerable discussions about sex, consent, and communication with your friends and people you have sex with. 

  1. Think about your expectations when you go home with someone or bring someone home for the first time, whether it’s after a first a date or a night at a bar. What do you think will happen sexually?
    Some people think that going to someone’s house means you want to have sex. Some people may just want to hang out and maybe make out, but not do much more. Instead of assuming, ask the other person what they’re thinking, because you may not have the same expectations. 
  2. How do you talk about your sexual boundaries with someone, especially the first time you hook up?   People communicate differently about what they want to do when they hook up, and it’s best to be upfront about what you do and don’t want to do. For example, if someone is trying to go down on you but you’re not ready or interested in reciprocating, you can say that (i.e., “I love that you want to go down on me but I’m not ready to return the favor so how about we stick with what we were doing?”). Not everyone is comfortable being that direct early on so they may use nonverbal cues to communicate. But one person’s nonverbal cue to keep going can be another person’s nonverbal cue to stop. To help make sure you don’t cross a boundary, ask questions to clarify and ensure consent (“How are you feeling?” or “Is this okay with you?”). If there’s anything other than an enthusiastic yes, you need to stop. 
  3. How are you supposed to tell if someone is interested in one thing but not interested in another thing if they don’t explicitly say so? The best way to know if the person you’re with is comfortable is to simply ask. But when it comes down to it, many people don’t verbally ask for consent because they’re worried it will kill the mood or be awkward. If you initiate something without verbally asking for consent (i.e. unbuttoning someone’s pants), you should proceed with caution and be extra sensitive to the other person’s nonverbal communication. For example, if you move someone’s hand towards your penis to show that’s what you like and they move their hand away, you should assume that they didn’t want to do that—and definitely don’t move their hand back. While there may have been numerous reasons why they moved their hand away, unless you ask, it’s best to assume they’re not comfortable and not consenting.
  4. Why are you afraid to be honest about your comfort level during sex? Often times, people are afraid to communicate what they want during sex.  Fears can range from not wanting to offend the person you’re with to not wanting the sexual experience to end to feeling physically unsafe. You might even be afraid because you don’t want to admit you don’t know what you’re doing. By talking about your fears with friends, you’ll realize you’re not alone and can figure out ways to be more confident and less uncomfortable when the time comes.

  5. What’s the best way to be told that you’re doing something the person you hooked up with doesn’t like? Given that some people don’t speak up because they don’t know how the person they’re with will react – it helps to know how the other person accepts feedback. Some people prefer direct and straightforward communication (i.e., actually saying, “I don’t want you to go down on me, but I wouldn’t mind if you used your hands”) while others are more receptive to subtle redirection (i.e., redirecting someone’s hand away from one part of your body to another). Awkward as it may feel talking about it, knowing how to give and receive feedback will help you communicate with whomever you’re with more effectively during sex, especially when you’re navigating your first time being with them.

We are only scratching the surface with this discussion. If you want to be a part of the post #MeToo cultural shift, continue to challenge yourself to have awkward, vulnerable, and honest conversations about sex with your friends, romantic partners, and hook ups. When men and women begin to understand each other and how the culture has shaped our ways of communicating about sex, we will live in a healthier society free of any unwanted sexual encounters—from bad dates to rape.

 

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