Preparing to engage in sexual activity in any form requires a good bit of prep work: being mindful of any STIs you or your partner could have, ensuring proper birth control, finding a safe and healthy environment, and building mutual trust between you and your partner. However, especially when we are with committed partners, we often forget that giving and gaining consent is necessary before and during any sexual encounter.
As teens, we are especially susceptible to unwanted sexual contact. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network reports that 29% of people who experience sexual assault are age 12-17, 44% are under age 18, and girls age 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to experience of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. Most of these attacks are not random: it can be the person’s classmate, neighbor, or even their boyfriend/girlfriend.
No matter whom we have sex with, consent is always required. Whether it’s our boyfriend/girlfriend, friend, or someone we just met, both partners must always consent to any
and all sexual activity. If your partner starts to do something to you or has you do something to them that you are not comfortable doing, there is no shame in saying no. No always means no – no matter what.
If a situation does make you uncomfortable, you should make your discomfort obvious to your partner by using a physical cue, like pushing them away, along with a verbal no. If they ignore your requests to stop or try to guilt you into continuing, stand firm in your decision to stop. Don’t be afraid that you will hurt their feelings or create an awkward situation. Disappointment and awkwardness will go away, but the emotional trauma of an unwanted sexual encounter can linger for years.
It’s important to remember that sexual assault can happen to both men and women. Regardless of your gender or the gender of your partner, you should always ensure that you’re both comfortable with every aspect of your encounter. If your partner looks uncomfortable with what you are doing, stop and ask them if they are okay with what’s going on. If your partner says no or expresses reservations about any of your sexual advances, respect their boundaries by stopping immediately. If you’re ever unsure of their consent,
Trust and respect are fundamental parts of any relationship – especially intimate ones. We trust our partners with secrets and responsibilities and respect their beliefs and values; but it’s easy to get caught up in the moment during sex. It’s important to know that trust and respect are necessary for healthy, consensual sex, but they also add to the experience by enhancing the emotional bond between you and your partner.
As teens, we face many challenges when it comes to relationships; but, we shouldn’t let consent be one of them. Remember: No always means no, there’s no shame in telling your partner that you’re uncomfortable, and if someone asks you to stop what you’re doing – stop immediately! Engaging in sexual activity is optional, but giving and receiving consent is not.