If You Haven't Made a Yes/No/Maybe Sex List, the Time Is Now
Truly, there is nothing sexier than consent, which is why it's more important than ever before that you and your partner sit down to discuss and create a consent checklist. Figuring out which things you each say yes and no to while you're intimate with one another is of the utmost importance, not only because it shows you respect one another's boundaries, but also because it will create a more intimate understanding of your partner. And while a consent checklist sounds like homework, it's anything but. This is a chance for you and your partner to sit down and have fun while figuring out all the ways you can say yes together and perhaps even bring up the possibility of some of the items on your sexual bucket list that may not come up organically.
Consent has always, always been a crucial aspect of sexual education and growth. In light of recent cultural movements like #MeToo and Time's Up, a renewed effort is being made to understand that consent is key when you are about to have sex. It's about being safe, respecting your partner and showing your partner you care. Regardless of the nature of the relationship you have with the person you're going to have sex with, enthusiastic consent and further discussion about what you are and are not consenting to is important. In theory, you want to be on the same level with your partner, both physically and emotionally, right?
And so, with that in mind, let's take a look at the benefits of creating a yes/no/maybe list with your partner to make sure you’re both safe and satisfied when you're engaging in any kind of sexual activity.
Have you had the talk with your partner?
No, this isn't about the birds and the bees. The talk we're talking about it is sitting down with your partner (preferably with your clothes on) before any kind of foreplay or touching has gotten into the mix and talking about what you two expect to do together. Now, you don't have to go through the exact play-by-play, but just establishing that you two are both down for having sex, just engaging in a little bit of foreplay or maybe mixing it up by adding in something new is something that should be talked about. This stage is also the time to put on the table what you like to do and what you don't like to do and what you absolutely do not want to do when you have sex. Establishing those limits and opening those doors to new, exciting adventures to have with your partner will make every enthusiastic yes even better. Plus, you don't want to negatively impact your partner or your relationship by surprising them with something unexpected when they are at their most vulnerable.
Do you & your partner know what to put on your consent checklist?
Luckily, you're not totally at sea when it comes to creating a checklist; there are already plenty of checklists out there in the world you and your partner can work off into order to create one tailor-made for you both.
The checklist should be as thorough as possible. Take one look through the one devised by Scarleteen and you'll see that different kinds of sexual acts are clearly described so as not to lead to confusion. Notable points to consider adding to your checklist might include: "A partner touching me affectionately without asking first," "Being looked at directly, overall, when I am naked" or "Touching a partner sexually without asking first." There's no confusion here about what each act requires, and the Scarleteen checklist also acts as a great suggestion for formulating the first phase of your consent checklist.
Bonus: Your checklist can be divvied up into phases or stages. If you and your partner want to use something like the Scarleteen checklist as your foreplay/clothes-on section, then why not consider adding in a section that describes specific sexual acts, toys and other items for when you two are intimate with one another.
There are two worth considering as models from which to build your checklist for this phase, and they come courtesy of Autostraddle and Bex Talks Sex. Autostraddle's checklist crucially notes various in-bed activities you and your partner might want to add to your consent checklist, including things like "Masturbating in front of each other," "Phone sex" or "Blindfolding" and includes a section on discussing what you want to say to one another when it comes to giving and revoking consent.
Meanwhile, the Bex Talks Sex checklist is a simple spreadsheet with columns divided into a hard/soft yes and hard/soft no, which touches on the crucial final element of your checklist: creating a key. Not everything on your checklist has to be an out-and-out yes or no. There are likely things you may want to leave room for consideration of in the future, but right now, you're just not into it. There may be boundaries you and your partner want to keep in place now that you both might be open to renegotiating in the future. Your consent checklist should account for all the variables, as Autostraddle and Bex Talks Sex's checklists do, so there's no cause for confusion going forward.
Are you checking in?
According to a 2016 article published on Teen Vogue's website, there's a strict emphasis on you and your partner not only giving each other enthusiastic consent before you have sex, but of continually checking in with your partner as you two engage sexually. This requires that you are focused because you'll need to make sure your partner is both saying yes (or some form of that) as you go and that you're asking, "Is this OK?" "Can I do this?" or "Could I try this?"
Regardless of how long or how frequently you've been with your sexual partner, checking in is a great way to keep the good, consenting times rolling. It doesn't have to be clinical, and you don't have to turn it into something you ask every five minutes. But just making sure your partner is still good to go by reading their body language, as Bustle reminds us in a 2015 article, or asking before you move on to a new activity is the way to go.
It's not over when it's over
OK, so you've both finished and you're basking in the post-coital endorphin rush. Now what? Well, you shouldn't just leave your partner to fend for themselves physically and emotionally — you should be present and engaged. Check in with them one final time and make sure they're OK. Asking how they feel and if they enjoyed what just happened and making sure they're in the (hopefully) same good headspace as you is a great way to perform a little bit of aftercare for your partner. Remember: You two have just done some pretty intimate things together, and you've both discussed it beforehand and during; you've been through a lot! Seeing that things have a happy ending (in more ways than one) is a great way to ensure you've had a good time together.
At the end of the day, a consent checklist is another great way to keep the lines of communication open with your partner. It can act as an intimate bonding activity for you both as well as a way to establish and advocate for your own sexual boundaries. Embrace the idea of a consent checklist — it'll be well worth your while.