Ah sex, the original In-N-Out, the beast with two backs, the wham bam ham sandwich, the yankee canoodle, the Kolobian conga…and other euphemisms whose mention will prevent you from ever actually having it.
Latter-day Saints teach that sex outside of a heteronormative, monogamous marriage is the sin next to murder. How crazy is that? Like, what about child abuse or taking phone calls in the movie theater?
Despite what your abstinence-only sex education may have taught you, there are many contexts in which sex can be enjoyed. What matters is consent, respect, and safety.
Understanding of this topic can be a little murky for people who had previously equated consent with saying, “I do.” Here are some general “dos” for approaching consent (originally provided by Teen Vogue):
1. Avoid Vulnerable Partners
Age or power differences (e.g. boss and employee), intoxication, unconsciousness, or sexual inexperience may inhibit a person’s ability to properly consent. Sexual activity with a vulnerable person may make them feel regretful, coerced, or even assaulted. If a person’s ability to consent is in question, GTFO.
2. Establish reciprocal interest BEFORE thinking of physical touch
This means “flirting.” Do they seem excited about your conversation? Are they making eye contact, smiling, leaning in? If not, you should wait before trying to make physical contact. Asking to touch a person without establishing a sense of mutual interest isn’t just douchey, it’s harassment. Touching a person without establishing interest and consent is assault.
3. Negotiate consent verbally
Verbal consent is absolutely essential. If they can’t give verbal consent, they can’t engage in sexual conduct. Period. Also pay attention to the way consent is given. If they seem hesitant or if their body language feels frozen or unreciprocal, then it is 100 percent worth stepping back to discuss desires and expectations. Maybe this sexual encounter means something different to them than it does to you but they’re too intimidated to say something. If you’re mature enough to have sex, you should be mature enough to talk about sex.
Verbal consent is as easy as asking, “Are you comfortable with me touching ____?” Be specific. Just because they consent to one thing doesn’t mean they consent to everything.
Some people worry that asking too much will kill the mood. The truth is verbal consent contributes to a climate of safety and trust that makes sex all the more pleasurable for everyone.
4. Establish blanket consent (for experienced partners)
For non-vulnerable, repeat partners who have previously exchanged all other enthusiastic signs of consent, blanket consent may be granted. This should only be given after a person has consistently demonstrated genuine interest in the other’s comfort and unquestioning respect for their limits.
Blanket consent can be requested by saying asking something like, “Is it okay if I just keep going without asking about each step, or would you prefer I keep checking in?” If they offer blanket consent, make sure they know you will slow down or stop if they express discomfort for ANY reason.
Though sex can mean different things at different times, respect should be a constant. Even one night stands can be wonderful experiences if expectations are properly communicated, safety is properly ensured, and respect is properly maintained. Remember, every partner is a person with unique desires, expectations, and needs, so treat them like a person, not an object.
NEVER speak insultingly or degradingly to or about a partner. NEVER describe the intimate parts of their body or sexual performance without their consent. NEVER cross their boundaries or try to coerce them into doing so. NEVER send unsolicited intimate photos. NEVER coerce them into sending intimate photos. NEVER share their intimate photos without consent. NEVER consider yourself entitled to their body. Nobody owes you jack shit.
1. Choose your partner and setting wisely
You can afford to be picky about your partners. No sex is worth putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Try to obtain as much information about a person as possible. Be wary if they seem too pushy. Trust your instincts when you feel uncomfortable. You don’t owe anybody anything.
If you’re meeting someone from the internet, do so in a public place. If you go back to their place, make sure your phone is charged. Take note of their address, make and model of their car, and license plate number. Leave your valuables in your car. Don’t eat or drink anything while there.
2. Inform a friend
If you plan on entering a situation where sexual activity may occur, make sure someone knows where you are and who you’re with. Plan on checking in at a certain time so they know you’re alright. You may consider downloading a phone tracker app so a loved one can know your whereabouts.
It is entirely appropriate and encouraged to ask a few personal questions before sex. When were they last tested for STIs? Are they having sex with other partners? Are they engaging in risky sexual behavior? Are they willing to practice safe sex? What does this sexual encounter mean for them?
4. Use protection
It’s been said love is a battlefield, so wear protection! Condoms are about more than preventing accidental pregnancy; they, along with dental dams, can greatly reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Be wary of anyone who insists on unprotected sex, whether vaginal, anal, or oral. Your safety should NEVER take a back seat to someone else’s pleasure.
Never reuse a condom. If the condom breaks or falls off, it should be replaced with a new one immediately. In situations with multiple sexual partners, a new condom should be used with each partner.
5. Consider birth control options
There are several types of birth control that may affect each person differently. Talk to your doctor about finding the right choice for you.
6. Get vaccinated
There are several vaccines available to prevent STIs like HPV (affects 80 percent of sexually active adults), HAV, and HBV. As you consider transitioning into sexual activity, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated.
I do not advocate for a certain sexual lifestyle, only for the right of each individual to decide their lifestyle for themselves. Monogamy may work for one and not for another. Uncommitted hookups may work for one and not for another. At the end of the day, only you can decide what is right for you. There is no need for pressure and no use for shame. As long as you are communicating, being respectful, and staying safe, sex can be a wonderful source of enrichment for your life.