How to Talk About Consent

As a society we often try to avoid talking about sex too much or too openlyand this extends to consent. Sometimes we may feel like we lack the words to explain what we do want and what we dont want, or even that we lack the space to figure it out. As the national conversation about consent grows, were learning that most young people understand what consent is, and that its important, but they still dont always know how to put that information into practice. Some of the most common concerns are about feeling awkward, or killing the mood.

So, lets talk about consent, and lets get over the worry of being awkward. Read on for more of our thoughts about consent, communication, and embracing awkward.


Embrace Awkward

Often times, when we feel awkward, its because weve entered a new and unknown situation, but we still want everyone else to think we know just what were doing. The best way to dispel that awkwardness is to forget about trying to seem cool; instead, we just need to be genuine and honest.

In fact, people often find that asking for consent actually clears up awkward feelings, by making everything less confusing. With clear, verbal consent, you dont have to try to guess what your partner is thinking, or pretend you can read minds.


Asking for consent isnt just asking for permission

Asking for consent is more than just a matter of checking the boxes. Instead of thinking of consent as asking for permission, try thinking of it like this: by asking for consent, you are trying to figure out what your partner wants to do, not what theyll permit you to do. Are they having fun? Are they into this? Do they feel safe? Talking about consent with your partner is making sure youre both having the experience you hoped to have. It doesnt have to be a big conversation. It doesnt have to bring everything to a screeching halt. Just keep talking as you go. Check-in. Is this ok? Are we moving too fast? Where should we go next?


Forget representations of sex and romance in movies

We often look to representations of dating and sex in movies to figure out how things are supposed to go, even if thats a subconscious process. But movies dont always look like real life! In fact, they hardly ever do. For example, James Bond is a very poor role model. Real life is much more nuanced than the silver screen. So, forget what the movies say, because they wont tell you what your partner wants and doesnt want. To figure that out, you just have to ask your partner.


Consent goes both ways

We often talk about consent as if its one partner who makes all the sexual advances, and another partner who is advanced upon, and that its a one-way street. But sex is often more nuanced than that. Try not to think of consent as always something one partner has to ask for and that the other partner has to give. Think of it as a mutual, open, and ongoing conversation in which both you and your partner can voice your likes, dislikes, comfort-levels, boundaries, and enthusiasm.

And, if things start moving too quickly for you, its always, always, always appropriate and good to say, Lets slow down. If you and your partner arent comfortable enough to talk about sex, then chances are youre not comfortable enough with each other to have an enjoyable sexual experience either. So, take your time. Be comfortable with each other. Theres no rush.

We want to know what consent means to you, and how you talk about it. Share your experiences and join the conversation on social media using the hashtags

#BeWell, #BeHeard, #BeThere.

For more thoughts and resources on talking about consent, check out these pieces from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Huffpost.


If you or someone you know is having a difficult time and would like to talk to someone about it, there are people who want to help. For teens who want to talk to other teens, call Teen Line at 310-855-4673, or text TEEN to 839863. You can also text LA to 741741 to talk with a trained Crisis Counselor for free, 24/7. For more information check out