Sex (Re)Education: Let’s Talk About Consent

Bill Cosby has been making headlines recently for his testimony in a deposition about using quaaludes to drug women and convince them to have sex with him. This information comes in light of more than several women speaking out about having been sexually assaulted and raped by the former TV star. The testimony has been enough for some to be convinced of Cosby’s guilt with regard to his other alleged victims. Of the drugs, Cosby flippantly admits, “I used them … The same as a person would say have a drink.”

There are many problems with the above statement. Primarily, whether it’s a drink, a drug, or physical force, using anything to coerce another person into sleeping with you is rape. Cosby’s comments suggest a few things–that while he may not have understood his actions as sexual assault, he had a practiced approach to coercing women and getting what he wanted. It’s sadly, a very common belief when it comes to sexual assault, to understand force not as the action of verbally “convincing” someone to sleep with you, or getting them drunk, but as merely violence. The truth is that force takes many forms, and the use of any of the forms to create circumstances or an environment that would alter a potential sexual partner’s response constitutes assault.

Consent is an integral part of sexual relationships, indeed without it, you can’t really call what happened between you and the other person sex. Navigating personal and physical boundaries can be challenging, but it’s always best to engage verbally when you’re unsure and check in regularly while you are “in the act” so to speak. A lot of people might feel awkward doing this, but it’s as easy as asking someone “Does this feel good?” periodically through the hook up. Other phrases that you can use are “Is this okay?” and “How are you doing?”. Since you’re having sex with someone, you should be invested in their pleasure as well as yours so, questions like these seem like they should be on table from the jump– just to make sure your partner is having a good time.

When it comes to alcohol, different people have different comfort levels, but being a lot more sober than the person you are having sex with should give you pause and a healthy amount of concern if not trepidation. In order to consent, your partner should be sober enough to know what’s going on, and remember what happened the next morning. In other words, don’t have sex with people who are stumbling, slurring audibly, visibly confused, or black out drunk.

If there’s one rule for consent it should be that if there is any possibility that you don’t have the go ahead to have sex with someone, you might as well take a rain check and stop everything you’re doing. What’s the harm in saving sex for when you both know that you both want it? Delaying a sexual encounter because you’re unsure of if your partner is comfortable or willing to go the distance is way better than the alternative. Better safe than sorry, or you know, rapist.

Sex (Re)Education is a weekly series in which we debunk myths you learned during sex education back in grade school and high school.

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