When people talk about consent, they often discuss it in context with one-night stands, hook-ups. or sexual assaults. The topic is often tied to random sexual encounters. As a result, the term is rarely discussed in a positive light or in terms of committed, long-term relationships. But when you’ve been with the same person for a while, you may start to take consent for granted, both your ability to give it and concede to it.
Whether you’ve been seeing each other for a couple of weeks or are approaching five years together, consent is relevant in all relationships.
So what is consent?
According to Rainn, Consent is when one person grants permission to another person to do something. This is an important part of sexual interactions with both parties being involved in the decision to participate.
The most common, and equally dangerous misconception about consent in relationships is that you don’t really need to talk about it. People assume that you don’t need to obtain consent from your partner simply because they’re your partner. Consent is ever-changing and it’s really important that you and your partner communicate openly when it comes to all things sexual to avoid any misunderstanding.
Consent in the relationship isn’t just about your sex life with your partner. It can also be about the relations you choose to maintain such as exes and friends. Obtaining consent in your relationship is communicating with your partner about the behaviours each of you are comfortable with, both in and out of the bedroom.
Many women, as well as men, have been conditioned to think that when someone has chosen to be in a long-term relationship or marriage, sex is a given. This may form a feeling of entitlement which may lead to problems down the line.
The “knowledge hub” in the form of media, portrays the popular culture image of relationships where consent is assumed and tends to leave out valuable conversations about boundaries and preferences that partners need to have as the relationship progresses to ensure they are on the same page.
Tell your partner No
At times you may feel that you have to be with your partner sexually even if you’re not in the mood. This pressure may not come directly from him, but from yourself, as you do not want to disappoint him or make him feel unwanted.
Don’t ever feel like you owe your partner sex. If your partner wants to be intimate and you’re not in the mood, be honest with him and make sure he understands that it’s your decision to make regardless of the reasons he may give.
There are certain boundaries people shouldn’t cross, but when it comes to relationships, the most important line is that between “yes” and “no.” This means not doing anything without your partner’s consent.
Talking to your partner about your preferences will help you feel safe and at ease around him. Once you open up to your partner you will feel confident in yourself, knowing that you are a better partner because you respect their choices and that they respect yours.
Marie Stopes provides safe spaces for women and supports their choices
The Marie Stopes centres offer advice, support, and help for all women. We’re also passionately pro-choice, which includes the right to choose when to have sex, and with whom.
Whatever your sexual healthcare need or concern, we’re here to help. Contact Marie Stopes on 0800 11 77 85 or make an appointment online.