“When I ask you if you want to do something, you know it’s always okay to say no, right?”
“Let me know if you get uncomfortable, okay?”
“How do you feel about (x activity)?”
(When someone’s insecure about having said no and asks if it’s okay/if you’re mad or upset they said no) “I’m disappointed, of course, but I’m really glad you were willing to tell me (no/that you were uncomfortable/etc.). That’s really important to me. Thank you.”
“I’d ALWAYS rather be told no than make you feel pressured or do anything to hurt you or make you uncomfortable.”
“I care about you, so when something I do hurts you or makes you uncomfortable, I want to know, because I don’t like making you feel bad.”
“Wanna do (x)? It’s okay if not, but I think it would be (fun/worthwhile/prudent).”
(When starting a social phone call): “Hey, are you busy right now?”
(When confirming plans made earlier): “Hey, are you still up for doing (x) at (time) on (day)?”
“Can I vent a little about (x)?”
“Can I tell you something (gross/depressing)?”
“Are you comfortable talking about it?”
“Do you think you could talk me through this problem I’ve been having? If you have the time and emotional energy of course.”
“It’s okay if that doesn’t work for you.”
“I’m interested in spending more time with you. Would you be interested in doing (x) together on (y day)?”
“No? Well let me know if you ever want to do something else.” (leave it open! don’t nag! let it go!)
Consent culture - it’s about way more than just sex!
Givepeople as much freedom as possible to make their own choices without pressure or control.
Even children deserve as much autonomy as allows them to remain safe and get their needs met - remember, you can’t train a child to make good/safe/healthy choices without ever giving them choices. A child who is taught to respect consent is a child who doesn’t assault people! A child who knows they have a right to say no is a child who knows that someone who infringes on their autonomy isn’t supposed to do that.
A consent-conscious relationship is a healthier and safer relationship, and a person who is aware of and deliberate about asking for, giving, receiving, refusing, and being refused consent is a healthier and safer person.
You are allowed and encouraged to say “This feels bad to me for [x] and [y] reason. I would like to do [z thing] instead if you are comfortable with it!”
I will never, ever, ever, punish you for saying “No” to me. I will never be angry at you for expressing your discomfort.
You never have to feel guilty for denying a request of mine. Whether it is “No, I would not like to share my headphone ear bud with you.” or “No, I do not want a hug from you right now.” or “I do not feel comfortable committing to this life decision.”
You do not owe me, or anyone, emotional or physical services. You do not have any obligation to do anything in return for anyone.
Everyone who matters will still love you even if you aren’t “convenient” for their use.
If you set a boundary and someone else is disappointed or angry or upset, that reaction does not mean you’re not allowed to set boundaries or that it was wrong of you to do that.
If you ask someone for something and they say no, that does not mean you shouldn’t ask for things or that it was wrong of you to ask. Saying no to something, even if you really want it, is not (by itself) an attack on you, either.
There will be times in every good relationship where one person says no to what the other person wants. And there will be times when that answer feels bad to the other person.
That can be uncomfortable, but it’s healthy and good to be able to say no to each other. It’s healthy and good to ask each other for things and give the other person the chance to say yes or no. It’s healthy and good for each of you to be able to hear “no” and accept it even when it’s disappointing.
It’s healthy and good to own your emotional reaction and make sure you both agree that being upset is a normal and manageable feeling, not a crisis that requires someone to give up their boundaries.
“sex positivity” was a mistake. it’s not being utilized in a way that lets people (especially young girls, people of color and lgbt people) have proper access to information about sex and STDs, consent, or rape culture but instead it just promotes a “fuck whoever you want whenever you want and never think about the consequences!” mindset. it leads to a lot of minors making god awful decisions and then regretting them later with nothing they can do about it. it leads to “being open about your kinks is progressive!!!!” which in turn ends up with men pressuring women into violent sex and saying that if she was a #Real sex positive feminist, then she’d have sex with him how he wants her to.
sex positivity should’ve been used to promote education of safe sex, to lessen stigma around sex (especially between sga and trans individuals), to give sex workers a voice, to spread proper information about STDs and prevention and treatment, and to teach about rape culture and consent. but as with most movements like this all it ended up being was a red lipstick and black heels “fuck the patriarchy” type thing while doing literally nothing progressive! and of course i’m not saying there’s nobody who does this, but with the way the sex positivity movement has gone, i doubt these people have the energy to try and have a loud enough voice in a community spewing the opposite of the message that should be gotten across.
I really can’t stress enough how important it is to talk to your friends, family members, and partners regularly about their right to set boundaries, even ones that inconvenience you.
We absolutely live in a hierarchial abuse culture where people can and do impose their will on each other in a million tiny ways. A lot of people just expect it - they’ll make choices according to the assumption that you, too, are invested in controlling them to whatever degree - because unless you consciously make a point not to be, it’s possible that you are.
In a healthy relationship people ask for consent often - “Do you want to do this?
Are you comfortable with this? Is there anything you think we should
change about this plan?” And then, they clarify that negative answers are totally normal and okay.
Checking in can sound like, “Hey, you know I love doing X but if you ever don’t want to you know that’s okay, right?” It’s paying attention to nonverbal cues that someone is uncomfortable and giving them an out - “You don’t seem excited about this party, I want you to know it totally won’t be a big deal if you’d rather not.”
In a healthy relationship there’s a huge difference between “no” and “you shouldn’t have asked”. “No” is normal and expected and it’s assumed that sometimes it will be the response. There’s an intentional effort not to punish each other for not always giving each other what you want.
Normalize “no” in all your relationships. Seek it out! Give people extra opportunities to say no! And accept it. Recognise that it’s a good sign when your loved ones feel safe enough to not agree to things they don’t want out of fear of your reaction.
Just - check in. I don’t care what kind of relationship it is, don’t assume people know it’s safe to say no to you unless you remind them and show them regularly. Making space for healthy boundaries is one of the most important things to communicate with the people that you care about.
Does anyone else fill up with dread when you realise your guy friend has a crush on you, because you’re now going to be socially obligated to provide him with lots of time and emotional work if you don’t want to suffer social sanctions for not fulfilling your gender’s role of managing men’s feelings?
Men who are attracted to women routinely make their crushes a problem for the women they’re aimed at. Many men see a woman’s interest as a given and are offended when they don’t automatically get it. If they possess the basic understanding that they’re not entitled to her interest - which is honestly pretty rare - they still generally feel entitled to her time and emotional work.
They expect explanations, a chance to ask often-invasive questions about her lack of interest, and perhaps even a chance to convince her to “give him a chance”. They expect to be let down in the gentlest, most complimentary way possible, to have their feelings managed every step of the way by a woman who did not ask for this interest or the job of guiding him through his feelings about it.
This is one form of male entitlement, a near-ubiquitous form of misogyny that’s so embedded it often goes unnoticed. Men, think critically about the expectations you have of a woman you’re interested in. Are you trying to make processing your feelings her responsibility, or are you managing them on your own like a respectful adult?
No one likes to be rejected. But your interest in someone doesn’t obligate them to comfort you, provide you with therapy, or listen to heartfelt confessions they don’t consent to listen to. Your interest doesn’t mean they owe you.
Find someone who consents to giving you that emotional work; don’t demand it from someone you’ve trapped in an awkward situation. Let “no” be enough.
in consensual sex you can stop at any time for any reason
in consexual sex if something happens that makes you feel uncomfortable or weirds you out, you can walk out of the door and get out of there without any consequences, without having to explain yourself
in consensual sex you never have to explain why something is uncomfortable or why you don’t want it done to you
in consensual sex if you even think about wanting to stop, you don’t have to think twice before saying it out loud
in consensual sex nobody should ever be telling you “you’re spoiling the mood” or “don’t be like that” when you’re unwilling
in consensual sex, nobody should ever be talking you into something you said no to
in consensual sex, nobody should be trading future favours in return for you agreeing to something you don’t want to do
in consensual sex, you should never be forced to demonstrate how much you trust your partner by letting them do whatever they want
in consensual sex you never have to shut down your instinct that something is wrong
in consensual sex, nobody should ever be doing something to you that you mentioned, implied, or explicitly stated you don’t like being done to you
in consensual sex, you should never be made to feel guilty or not good enough
in consensual sex, you should never have to expect emotional abuse, insults, pressure, guilt and shame if you refuse to participate or do as you’re told
in consensual sex, nobody should ever try to push, break, or crush your boundaries
in consensual sex, nobody should ever make you feel like you need to reconsider or push at your own boundaries
in consensual sex, you shouldn’t feel fear, not at any point
in consensual sex, you shouldn’t feel like your relationship with this person depends on what happens in bed
in consensual sex, you should never feel like it’s not okay to say no to something
if you can’t say this is true for your sexual experiences, it wasn’t consensual sex.