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When it comes to consent, there is so much more to consider than yes or a no. It is about ongoing communication, discussing boundaries and what you are comfortable with.

One area that we often don’t think about is the effect that terminology and language can have. In the age of social media, language and terminology can often mean new words or phrases are coined then discarded a month later. It can feel confusing and overwhelming to try and keep up.

However, if you do not understand what a sex act term means, can you really consent? The answer is no and it means that we can often find ourselves in uncomfortable or dangerous situations as a result.

Here are six things to remember around consent

1 – Communication and respect

Consent is an ongoing process throughout sex between two people. It can be withdrawn at any stage and must be respected by the other person. Even if someone has consented at the start of whatever it is you happen to be into, you need to check in with them to make sure they are still okay during and afterwards. This is especially the case if you are changing activities, positions or introducing something new in the bedroom.

If someone looks uncomfortable, stop and ask if they are okay. Respect their decision to stop and reassure them that everything is fine. Making sure that someone feels safe and comfortable is key.

2- Confidence to ask

If you don’t understand a sex term – ask. There are hundreds of words out there for different sex acts from felching to cucking to shrimping. It can feel embarrassing to admit you aren’t sure or don’t know what something means but ultimately, you can’t consent to something you don’t understand fully.

A good partner will stop and explain what a sex term actually means or how they practice it. Don’t rely on a sneaky google to find out what something is because it could mean that your partner has a different understanding of it. Some acts especially those around pain or restriction require a good level of trust, respect and discussion around boundaries with partner/s ahead of time.

Want to learn more? We’ve filmed a series of videos with our resident S-expert Zoe Lloyd that can help explain different sex terms. Follow us on instagram by visiting our page to find out more.

3 – Disclosing health status

It’s important for someone to understand what they are consenting to. As well as understanding what different sex acts are and everything they entail, your partners do need to know your STD/I status too. This gives someone the opportunity to make an informed decision about birth control and their safety.

Regular testing for everyone involved is recommended and can be a quick proceedure at sexual health clinics or your GP surgery.

4 – Non verbal clues

There are lots of non-verbal ways that someone can send a signal that they are uncomfortable or want to stop. This could be anything from shaking their head, giving a thumbs down sign or holding their hands up in a stop gesture, pushing someone away, avoiding touch, moving away from you or maintaining closed body language. They may look upset, stay still or lie flat, tense up or go rigid as well as seemingly distracted or not present.

If you sense someone is uncomfortable or would like to stop then respect this and make sure you stop.

5- Drink and drugs

Someone cannot consent if they are too drunk or on drugs. That’s not to say you cannot drink and consent but if you are intoxicated then its a no. Consent can also not be given if someone is asleep or unconscious. If someone has been threatened or intimidated into having sex or performing a sex act then that is also not consent.

Unequal power dynamics are not consent either. This is when there is a uneven balance of power such as a student and a teacher. This also goes for someone underage too.

6- The importance of talking

Learning to talk about sex can help to improve the quality of sex that we have. As well as giving clear consent, discussing what sex acts you like or positions you fancy trying, it can also help us to communicate what we enjoy. The more you start to talk, the more talking about sex becomes normalised and easier to do.

Being open and honest with your partners means you can concentrate on having the type of sex you enjoy and you may find it can also be a turn on. It can also help your partner to learn what feels good and importantly, what didn’t so it can be avoided in the future.

Want to learn more about sex act terminology? why not visit our resource page to download our free guide to all the terms you may need to know. 

Want to read more about sex, consent and learning disabilities? Visit our Love Lounge page to learn more.

For help around sexual health and assault, visit the NHS support services page