Make an Appointment: info@empoweryoutoday.ca |

  • No is Always No. Only Yes, is Yes: Sexual Consent

    Consent of any type is a key ingredient for a successful and thriving relationship. When consent is not respected, safety can never be established. Consent should never have to be complicated. When you say No to someone, they are responsible to trust that your No means exactly what it sounds like. Just, No. “No I don’t want to go to grandma’s on Sunday.” “No I don’t want to go to that party tonight.” “No I don’t like it that way.” “No I don’t like when you do that.” No is clear and unambiguous. N.O. And as such, this powerful 2-letter word needs to be treated with the respect it deserves. This is true for all consent, however in this blog I want to explore the topic of No is Always No. Only YES, is Yes: Sexual Consent

    Consent is Only In the Moment

    Educating Yourself On Matters of Consent

    Please take time to continue educating yourself and others on the importance of sexual consent. After reading this blog. maybe you want to head on over to Manitoba’s Province of Manitoba | You Are Not Alone project. It’s an excellent resource!

    Importance of Your Own Sexual Consent Being Respected

    In the blog Consent Can Only Be Given In the Moment I spoke to the importance of your own consent being respected by your partner. In the same way as in that blog, I am writing this content through the lens of you respecting your partner’s consent, however it is equally just as important that your partner respects your No, as No. And only Yes, as Yes.

    If your partner does not respect your No as No, you may want to speak to a professional to explore ways to navigate this painful situation, and what your best options are for moving forward. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us any time if you would like to speak to one of our warm and compassionate therapists.

    No is Always No for Sexual Consent. Only YES, is Yes

    At it’s simplest as well as the deepest, most fundamental levels, sexual consent is really that simple. No is always No and only YES, is Yes. When your partner says No, you stop. If your partner withdraws the No and offers a clear Yes again, then the Yes is back on, unless the No returns again at any point. Seriously folks. At the most basic and also the most complex levels, sexual consent comes down to this: No is always No, and only Yes, is Yes.

    No is Always No. No is Never an Invitation to Coercion

    There is no space for coercion. It’s only ever: No is No, and only Yes, is Yes.

    It is quite clear that No, means No. When No is expressed via verbal and auditory language or via a signal or via an expressed body discomfort, there is no ambiguity of your desire for what you want and need in that moment. You need whatever is happening to stop immediately. However, consent can legitimately shift throughout the entire sexual experience. Yes can shift to No. This could be due to reasons such as your partner having a normal physical discomfort, or your partner having a flashback from a previous sexual trauma. This is why, if your sexual partner hesitates, that could be an early sign that they may not have fully consented to the next steps, or that their consent may be shifting. Give them time to choose. There is no rush when it comes to consent. No is always No. Only YES, is Yes.

    No Is Always No. Only Yes, is Yes

    Ways to Say No. Or Yes

    Can No, or Yes, ever be said in ways other than by way of spoken word? Let’s explore through an example.

    Your Partner’s Tears

    If your sexual partner starts to tear up during a sexual experience, is that a sure No? The immediate answer is always: It’s certainly extremely important to err on the side of that assumption if you’re not sure what tears mean for your sexual partner in this moment. Your partner may very well be saying No in that moment. And then again, maybe not.

    If you’ve not previously agreed on ways No can be communicated, you might automatically assume your partner’s tears are tears of discomfort. If you are unsure, stop immediately and check in with them; to clarify the meaning of their tears. Because, tearing up during a sexual experience can mean different things to different people at different times. In other words, for one person tears would nearly always mean No, for another person tears would rarely mean No, and for yet another person tears can sometimes mean No, and sometimes mean Yes.

    For example: For your sexual partner, today tears could mean “this feels very bad and I need you to stop immediately,” while tomorrow it could mean “this feels really really good.” Your best, and ONLY, option is always to ask when unsure. Have a conversation with your sexual partner about how they, and you, would communicate “please stop this immediately.” In other words, No is No is No is No, and Yes is Yes is Yes is Yes, but there are many ways to communicate No, and Yes. The important thing is that you and your sexual partner are both clear about how you will communicate No, and Yes.

    Prior to engaging in a sexual act, agree on a spoken word OR a signal that, when used by you or your sexual partner, you both know means “I don’t like that. No” (e.g. thumbs down says, “I don’t like that, No, please stop immediately”). Or, “I like that. Yes” (e.g. thumbs up says, “you’re doing great, I like that, keep going”).

    No is Always No. But Doesn’t Hesitation Always Equal No?

    Is hesitation always a sure sign that your sexual partner has not yet fully consented to the next step being explored? Truth is, not necessarily. There could be other reasons for the hesitation. A short list of examples may include:

    • Firstly, yes your partner may indeed be trying to say No in that moment. Err on the side of this assumption until you have complete clarity. Always ask for clarity if you’re unsure. If the hesitation continues even if a clear No is not given, stop until you are clear about your partner’s consent.
      No is always No. Only Yes, is Yes: Make sure there is a clear No or a clear Yes. Give your partner time to choose. Then, if there’s a clear No, respect their No as No. No further steps are taken unless there’s a clear Yes. If there’s a clear Yes, both proceed trustingly, unless the Yes gets withdrawn at any point and changes to No.
    • They may be fully consenting to the next step but may be working through some personal things, fully consensually.
      No is always No. Only Yes, is Yes: Make sure there is a clear No or a clear Yes. Give your partner time to choose. Then, if there’s a clear No, respect their No as No. No further steps are taken unless there’s a clear Yes. If there’s a clear Yes, both proceed trustingly, unless the Yes gets withdrawn at any point and changes to No.
    • They may have a moment of insecurity. That body image stuff many of our fellow humans are so familiar with might momentarily get in the way. Those negative thoughts that pop up.
      No is always No. Only Yes, is Yes: Make sure there is a clear No or a clear Yes. Give your partner time to choose. Then, if there’s a clear No, respect their No as No. No further steps are taken unless there’s a clear Yes. If there’s a clear Yes, both proceed trustingly, unless the Yes gets withdrawn at any point and changes to No.
    • It is also indeed possible that you may have misread the hesitation. Ask, ask, ask. Communicate clearly. If you are unsure, that is a sure sign that you are not yet clear about your sexual partner’s consent.
      No is always No. Only Yes, is Yes: Make sure there is a clear No or a clear Yes. Give your partner time to choose. Then, if there’s a clear No, respect their No as No. No further steps are taken unless there’s a clear Yes. If there’s a clear Yes, both proceed trustingly, unless the Yes gets withdrawn at any point and changes to No.

    To be certain about whether or not hesitation is a matter of consent for your partner in this moment, your best option is always to ask and clarify. It only takes a moment to ask, but it can take a life-time to heal from sexual trauma that can result from broken consent. Ask for a clear Yes or a clear No.

    No is Always No: Ongoing Communication and Sexual Consent

    It cannot be overstated how important it is that you and your sexual partner communicate clearly and then respect No as No, and only YES, as Yes. Because, while tears or hesitation are not always sure signs that your sexual partner has not yet fully consented, you also can’t have that certainty unless you ask. It only takes a moment to ask and clarify, but it can take a long time to heal from sexual trauma when consent gets broken.

    No is Always No: Reasons to Withdraw Consent

    Any reason to withhold sexual consent is a valid and good reason. If you don’t get what you’d like in this moment, maybe even what you think you’re “owed,” your partner has a right to say N0. Any. Time. For. Any. Reason. No is always No regardless of the reason for the No, and only a clear YES, is Yes.

    No is No: Only YES, is YES: When Your Partner’s Consent Shifts

    Here’s the truth: If your partner is looking self-protected, closed off, and they are acting in a way that appears to you to be an attempt to “withhold” a sexual experience (perhaps you had a fight earlier today…) you believe you are owed, they are not feeling safe in the moment. Guaranteed. No one acts in self-protected ways while feeling perfectly safe in the experience. Your partner is being this way because they are not feeling safe. What looks to you like unwillingness is their language of saying No. That may be the only way they have had power in the past. It may actually already be an improvement form how they were able to say No in the past. Help you partner learn, or better yet, learn together, how to find even better ways to communicate No. This will certainly prevent many future misunderstandings.

    No is Always No, Only Yes, is Yes: Safety is Key

    If your partner suddenly looks turned off during a sexual experience, does it mean you did, or didn’t, do something that led to this shift? Not necessarily, no. Or maybe, yes. The truth is, they are not feeling safe in this moment, regardless of the reason for this shift. Knowing that is all you need for step 1:

    • Step 1: This step is all about recognizing that a shift happened for your partner
    • Step 2: Ask. Clarify. Do not pressure or rush your partner for an answer. Give them time to offer a clear No or a clear Yes before you take any more steps
    • Step 3:
      – If they are recoiling because of something you said/did, do the repair work immediately. This will significantly reduce the risk of lasting negative ripple effects, or lasting trauma
      – If their recoiling is unrelated to something you said/did, make yourself available to their needs in the moment and then let them lead

    Help your sexual partner feel safe again, and then see where things go. Maybe your partner will be turned right back on after working through a moment. Or maybe that’s entirely the end of sexy-time for today. Either way, working with these shifts in this moment will create stronger safety for your partner in the moment, yes, but also for the future.

    Consent can only ever be given in the moment. Your partner is no longer feeling it today, regardless of the reason for this change. And that’s ok.

    Consent can only ever be given in the moment. That means it can also be withdrawn and then given again, only ever in real time, in the moment. All reasons to withdraw consent are valid reasons, including “I just don’t feel like it today.” Your body, your choice. Your partner’s body, their choice. No is always No regardless of the reason for the No, and ONLY a clear, in real-time YES, is ever, “Yes, let’s do it, partner!

    Drop Me a Comment

    Feel free to drop me a comment at vern@empoweryoutoday.ca

    Check Out Other Pages

    Contact & Booking    Services

    EMDR  Trauma, PTSD, C-PTSD

    LGBTQ+      Sex Positive