To this day, my partner teases me about our first time and how we initially agreed to have sex.
I remember how our second date began in a dimly lit Israeli eatery. As the restaurant neared closing, our palettes were satiated, but our desires only grew as we leaned in closer. I stared, my gaze darting from her darkening eyes as she squinted trying to place my humor, to the wetness of her full lips parting and curling as she broke into laughter.
Throughout the night, we openly and honestly shared that we were both sleeping with other people, and that we practiced safe sex by always using condoms with our partners, and we slowly learned that we were both becoming more and more excited to finish the bottle between us and finally get to my flat.
Once there, we started slowly. Our bodies relaxed as we kissed on my sofa, pushing harder against each other, and then making out until I asked if I could wrap my hands around her throat. She enthusiastically said yes. As we pulled at our clothes, I paused for a moment and uttered the quote that would lovingly haunt me to this day. I looked at her deeply and said, “do you want to go inside?” to which she laughed and said, “Inside where? Your bedroom? Are you asking if I want to have sex?”
Learn From Mistakes
No one is perfect, and while I tried to be flirty, fun, and considerate, I wasn’t explicit enough in asking for consent. Consent is the most important part of every sexual encounter, and it’s crucial to make sure that you and your partners are clear about your boundaries and desires.
The Wheel of Consent
The Wheel of Consent is a model that defines two aspects of every interaction. Every action is done by someone and done for someone. When I asked to hold my partner’s neck, we both understood that I would be doing the action, but I should have clearly stated that this kind of touch gave me pleasure; the action was for me. It just so happened that she also received pleasure from this kind of play, but at the time, this was not clear.
This model enables a host of new types of interactions. As an example, you may agree to let a partner do something to you for your pleasure, but that same action can also be for their pleasure or even the pleasure of someone else!
Affording time to build anticipation can help set the stage for a more enjoyable and satisfying sexual experience for everyone involved.
While everyone has sex differently, the essential piece is to communicate clearly before and during any intimate encounter. I didn’t know about the Wheel of Consent when I first met my partner, and I’m very fortunate that she was able to say what she wanted and we avoided any major misunderstandings.
So, what exactly does consent and safer sex communication look like? Consider the following:
1. Begin before you get into bed!
It’s important to trust your partners and feel a level of comfort with them before you start anything. This can help make it easier to have honest and open communication. For example, on my date, we made sure to not shy away from talking about sex at the restaurant. Try saying what you would like to try, and what you definitely don’t like. Doing so only adds to the anticipation.
2. Be clear and direct about your boundaries
Say how you feel if at any point something doesn’t sit right or if you want to try something new or different. Remember, consent is a constant conversation and you can say no to any sexual activity that you’re not totally comfortable with.
3. Use "I" statements to express your feelings and desires
Instead of saying “You’re doing it wrong,” you can say “I would really like it if you did this other thing.” Instead of saying “You like it when I choke you right?” say “It turns me on to watch you choke. Can I do that to you?” This helps to keep the conversation focused on your own feelings and experiences and how you like to give and receive pleasure. It’s also pretty fucking hot.
4. Watch out for nonverbal cues
It’s not only about what your partners are saying, but also about how they’re acting. If your partners seem uncomfortable or hesitate at any time, check in with them! Ask if they’re alright so that they have the opportunity to restate their boundaries.
5. Do not be afraid to ask for what you want
Your partners might say no, but it’s very sexy to be clear about your desires and preferences. This can help make the experience more enjoyable for all of you.
6. Talk about safer sex practices
It’s important to talk about and agree on safer sex practices before engaging in any sexual activity. This can include using condoms, dental dams, or other barriers to help reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections. It’s also ok to ask about STI testing history!
7. Remember that consent can be withdrawn at any time
Just because you’ve agreed to a certain sexual activity at one point, doesn’t mean that you’re in a binding contract if you change your mind. Check in with your partner and make sure that they’re still comfortable and willing to continue.
Having a conversation about consent and safer sex practices and coming to an agreement is essential for positive and mutually enjoyable sexual experiences. By being clear and direct about your preferences, boundaries, and desires, and by being sensitive to your partner’s verbal and nonverbal cues, you can be more confident that you and your partners are on the same page.