A dummy’s guide to happy, super-fun and consensual nookie

by Erik Woodley

illustration by Evgenia Mikhaylova

Scientists now believe that human beings have been having sex since, well, the very beginning. Shocking, right? But although population rates suggest that we as a species seem to be pretty well practiced, an onslaught of recent sexual assault stories in the news (Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby being two of the more high-profile cases) shows that we still have a lot to learn about consensual, healthy sex.

And let’s be honest: it’s largely men who are the problem. Women are victims of 85 per cent of all sexual assault cases, and it is estimated that at least 20 per cent [one in five] of women have been victimized.

So, although we really shouldn’t have to do this, this year’s Valentine’s Day feature is basically a dummy’s guide to safe and consensual sex.

Prairie Dog spoke to two experts — Heather Pocock, acting executive director at the Saskatoon Sexual Assault Centre, and Cindy Bote, counsellor at the Regina Sexual Assault Centre — to make plain what every decent sexually active human needs to know.

The Basics

“Sex is any sexual contact between individuals,” says Pocock. “I say ‘sexual contact’ because sex isn’t just contact between a penis and a vagina. There’s same-sex relationships, there’s different forms of sexual contact, so in the big scheme of things, ‘sex’ is all sexual contact.”

Yup, says Bote.

“Sex is certainly a lot more than just intercourse. It’s difficult to define. There are different forms of intimacy that may lead to sex that aren’t necessarily just intercourse.”

And when do things go wrong?

“Anything that crosses the lines as far as consent doesn’t constitute sex, it constitutes an inter-personal crime,” says Bote.

Talk It Out Before Taking It Out

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in a circumstance where you might have sex, it all starts with consent and communication. Even if you think you know what the person wants, or your intentions are “innocent enough,” always communicate with your potential partner.

“First and foremost, what we encourage is open and honest communication,” says Pocock. “If you’re with somebody who doesn’t seem to be consenting, if they are resisting, then you need to respect that. And it doesn’t only have to be verbal — you need to read that with your eyes and your body language. That’s a good time to verbally check in and ask the person if this is something they really want to do, and start a communication about that.”

Don’t Curb Your Enthusiasm

“Affirmative consent” is a term we’re probably all familiar with — it essentially means that you must have your partner’s verbal consent before pursuing a sex act (again, not rocket science). But, a reluctant or apathetic answer in the affirmative might not really reflect your potential partner’s true wishes — perhaps they’re feeling pressured and don’t want to disappoint, perhaps they’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs and not thinking straight, or perhaps a thousand other reasons. So what to do? Get “enthusiastic consent,” says Bote.

“The term we use and teach now is ‘enthusiastic consent’. Enthusiastic consent is having conversations with the individuals involved to find out what you’re comfortable with. Making sure that everybody is comfortable and fully on board, and no one is feeling pressured or coerced,” she says.

“And it doesn’t have to be entirely verbal, because that can sometimes lead to hours of conversation. But it’s important to check in with your partner before things escalate from one thing to the next.”

But All This Talkin’ Just Ruins The Mood, Maaan

Maybe you’re shy. Maybe you’re not practiced at talking about this shit. Maybe you think you can get away with more if you don’t talk about beforehand.

None of these are good excuses.

If you want sex, you need to start a conversation. And who knows, talking might actually get those engines running hotter than you thought.

“Well, if you’re talking about it and you’re ruining the mood because someone isn’t into it, then that’s probably a good thing!” says Pocock. “If you’re in a relationship with somebody, you need to be willing to talk about these things.”

“An intimate conversation with somebody about sex can very much be a form of foreplay on its own,” says Bote.

As a rule of thumb, Pocock says to “back off if there’s any question. If you’re a respectful person, you’ll pay attention to your partner and what they want.”
Erik Woodley is the pen name of a writer with repressed relatives who would launch into a family fracturing meltdown if they saw his real byline. Oh, Saskatchewan. Someday we’ll get that stick out of your ass.