by Paige Craine
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it. This year, SAAM is celebrating its 17th anniversary with the theme “Embrace Your Voice” to help individuals, communities and the private sector understand how they can take action to promote safety, respect and equality to stop sexual assault before it happens.
We spoke to Paige Craine about her thoughts on consent and why having a sexual consent plan can help.
Assumptions within intimacy happen way too often. Just because you’ve been intimate with someone before, does not give you permission to cross those boundaries every time you meet.
Consent is continuous, ongoing verbal communication. It is saying I’m comfortable with this but I’m not comfortable with that. Consent is listening. Consent is respecting another human's boundaries regardless of your relationship. Consent is never constant and must always be readdressed and reaffirmed. Open, vulnerable communication is key and must be practiced to reach true intimacy.
At any time, you are allowed to say no. Either no to a particular level of intimacy you do not want to explore, or no to intimacy all together. No is always an option. If the person you are with is not listening to your no, then they are not respecting your safety, consent, or boundaries.
Here are some stepping stones for creating your Sexual Consent Plan :
How am I feeling? Perhaps sensitive, horny, tired, creative, sober? I include sober here because I want us all to reflect on our ability to give and receive consent. If you or the person you want to be intimate with is trashed, that’s probably not the best time to be be intimate at all.
How is my partner feeling? Starting intimacy knowing how your partner is feeling is empowering. It gives you a good read on your combined energy and boundaries for the current session.
What do we want to explore in this moment together? This helps us break down the meaning of sex. Our society is so obsessed with penetrative sex and it is often seen as the only form of sexual intimacy. In reality, there are so many ways to share your body with another person, and each level of intimacy needs open communication and consent to be pleasurable for everyone involved.
Are we using protection? Be safe and be open - this is a question we both need to know the clear answer to.
Keeping that communication going during intimacy is key. Check in and see if boundaries are being followed. Let your partner know what feels good and what doesn’t. Don't be afraid to speak out about what should continue and what should stop. Don't forget to check-in after intimacy.
This outline may seem boring, maybe even a little robotic, however, this is meant to be an outline to a greater conversation surrounding consent - and that is essential. You can take this outline and make it sexy - make it you. Be playful, be creative and make it your own! Whether you are single, dating, in a partnership or have a friend you get silly with on the daily, this sexual consent plan will aide you in keeping your mind, body and soul safe from harm.
I think one of the reasons this plan is so important is because women are taught, and often passed along, the myth that sex is supposed to be uncomfortable (especially for your first time). I want to break down that myth and really challenge our verbal skills when it comes to consent. Intimacy should not be uncomfortable, it should be enjoyable!
Own your consent ladies! Are you asking for what you want and need, and are you listening to your partner or lover about their needs? Are you expressing what you don't want as well as what you do? Our voices have so much power, and we need to practice using them.
Take these questions to the mirror, ask them to yourself. Write them down in your journal, cement them into your memory. The next time you are ready to be intimate you will have these questions ready to guide you through any assumptions or expectations.
Your consent is necessary, your boundaries are sacred, and NO is always an option.
I wrote this plan for the LGBTQA+ community who are disproportionately affected by sexual harassment/abuse and the grey areas of consent, also more specifically LGBTQA+ POC. For anyone who has experienced trauma of any kind, intimacy can be a real challenge. I hope that these clear questions might help some of you to navigate consent and consider the important questions."
About Paige: Paige is a physical, mental, and spiritual wellness professional. She is a Pilates Instructor, Writer, Certified Mental Health First Aid Peer and Counselor working with CSEC youth (commercially sexually exploited children) in Portland, Or. You can often find her at a local coffee house reading books on sexology and trauma stewardship. She graduated from University of California Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Sociology. She was born and raised in Goleta, Ca, The Goodland.