Sex + Love

Age of Consent

Sex involves a lot of “yes” and “no” questions.

Not every sexual situation is going to be had in the context of a relationship, though. Soon after my first boyfriend became my first ex-boyfriend, I found that the same rules apply to scenarios where I attached my face to another person’s whose middle (or even last) name I didn’t know! (ESCÁNDALO.) These experiences taught me plenty of frank, direct, flirtatious, and gentle ways to make consent a part of every hookup, regardless of how well I might know my co-hooker-upper. How you decide to approach the babes of your consensual and highly sexy future is up to you, but here are some pointers on how to score and feel great about it, how to make sure these future-babes are equally jazzed about what’s going on, and what to do if things take a too-intense turn and you want to set them back on track.

If someone is touching you in a way that feels like too much (how you determine this is, as with most things related to sexual desire, highly subjective), tell them to change what they’re doing, or to stop, if you prefer. If you’re all right with the former, pull away a little and say something like “Do that [more slowly, or gently, or however you’d like them to change it it], please.” No matter what you say, don’t couch it in language like “I don’t think I want to do that yet” if you’re actually sure you don’t want to do that yet. You don’t have to water down what you know in your heart/parts to be true, and your boundaries are not up for renegotiation unless you say, and mean, that they are.

In one of my frenches of yore, nothing much was “happening” that wasn’t kissing, on the surface, but the francophile in question had me pressed up against a wall in a way that I found a little too impassioned, even though I was otherwise enjoying the festivities. Getting specific about what wasn’t working for me righted that weirdness: “Hey, can you back up a little?” goes a long way, and not in the sexually figurative sense. She got the message that I wanted to SLOW RIDE, TAKE IT EASY in that instance, although we had hooked up in explosive, grabby, and generally raunch-as-hell ways before. When dudes have rammed their tongues down my esophagus, which has happened a solid handful of times in my life, saying, “Can you be a little gentler?” has been similarly effective.

If you say, “I like it when you slow down,” and then that person doesn’t, I advise you to bail—and this advice extends to not just kissing, but every kind of sexual contact. First and most important: Physically separate yourself from this person, since your comfort and safety come first, regardless of whatever the hell they’re doing or saying to imply the contrary. Then, if you feel comfortable doing so, let them know why you’re bailing, because they should be aware that their supremely jerky behavior is the reason they’re about to be alone. Then, unless you have anything more you’d like to say, just leave.

Consent also includes protecting your physical health. You should always use some kind of barrier method that prevents STIs, like a condom, if you’re having sex. To be extra-safe throughout your encounter, you should also periodically check to make sure that barrier method stays in place, too. People can be surprisingly and infuriatingly boneheaded about this! Once upon a night that started out promisingly, I caught someone I was with trying to remove a condom without telling me. What a nightmare, right? When he explained that he assumed I’d be “chill about it,” I freaked. How dare anyone treat anyone else this way—and then be an idiot bro who tries to project his grossness onto me BY USING THE WORD CHILL AS AN ADJECTIVE. Yo, I became a banshee. I fucking hate that guy, and I wish I could tell the world his name so that he could see exactly how chill I am.

On the other end of the consensual spectrum, a recent hookup asked me if I’d gotten the Gardasil shot (an HPV vaccine). This sounds a lot less cool than it was, but trust me! I was kissing this person for the first time, and, even though it was unclear whether things would go further, he wanted to let me know before they did that he carried the virus, so any decisions I made that evening would be informed ones. “That’s awesome of you to tell me,” I said, a little too impressed. His response was even better: “It’s not! I just think you have the right to know whether I could potentially be giving you something like that.” That is exactly how to be! In case anyone tries to tell you that pausing a sensuous sexperience to ask questions, provide information, and/or make sure everything is cool with your partner “kills the mood,” let me tell you, honesty made me like him even more, which is usually the case with any kind of sexual encounter—or life-encounter in general.

Sex, like every other way of relating to another person, is at its very greatest when you and those you’ve chosen to hang around with are honest, listen to each other, and generally make a point of keeping kindness and respect at the forefront of your minds. I know that part won’t be hard for you. I hope that, even though hooking up with other people can be unpredictable, you go into every situation knowing and trusting that, whatever your boundaries are, they’re exactly the right ones to follow. You know what you want—and so should anyone who has the privilege of being on the other end of whatever that means for you. Go get it. ♦


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  • Lucy June 17th, 2014 9:02 PM

    ARS you’re like everyone’s cool big sis

  • decemberflower June 17th, 2014 9:10 PM

    I just did a project on consent at my school!! You can see it here:

    You rock, Amy Rose.

    • flawedpoet June 19th, 2014 7:18 PM

      I wish my school did projects like this! This is the coolest

  • Abby June 17th, 2014 9:51 PM


  • Moxx June 17th, 2014 10:53 PM

    “Switching to protection-free boning”
    That is so many kinds of wrong!!!

  • Me_Magalloway June 17th, 2014 11:07 PM

    This is such an important concept for every person to understand, and this article put it beautifully!

    I also really appreciated Charlie McDonald’s video on Sex and Consent, seen here:

    Thank you for this article. It’s absolutely perfect.

  • flocha June 18th, 2014 4:10 AM

    that is all <3

    • honorarygilmoregal June 18th, 2014 2:08 PM

      Yes! I love Jack and Dean, and that video is excellent.

    • alesssurprise June 19th, 2014 12:49 AM

      YES ♥

  • eva-stark June 18th, 2014 7:02 AM

    this is so so important. it’s never enough to talk about consent.

    there is one thing tho

    ”consensual sex” is just sex.

    there is no such thing as ”unconsensual sex” because than it is no longer sex, but rape.

  • honorarygilmoregal June 18th, 2014 2:15 PM

    Amy Rose, you rock at giving advice.

  • magicalgirley June 19th, 2014 2:54 PM

    This article is awesome- I wish that stuff like this had been in the jackassy teen magazines I read when I was younger.

    • flawedpoet June 19th, 2014 7:19 PM

      I totally agree. Rookie is so important

  • Augusta June 25th, 2014 11:48 AM

    I’ve been angry for so long, but reading this article has made me realize why. The things boys have done to me me have made me feel so bitter and angry and hurt and betrayed, but now I realize WHY I feel that way and I don’t feel irrational anymore and it’s such a relief. Thank you so much for this.

    • Amy Rose June 25th, 2014 1:41 PM

      Me too, Augusta. Love you.

  • FlamingIgnuana July 27th, 2014 12:00 AM

    I admire a lady who uses “myriad” correctly, yes!