icon: "honesty (me, outdoors, gazing straight at the camera with a solemn expression)"
There are a lot of ways to to cause others pain and even damage despite the very best of intentions, especially with sex and kink. This is not a comprehensive list, but it includes the most common ways I see people making consent mistakes. Here's a more in-depth discussion of most of this list: how to be careful with consent. Quoting myself: "EVEN IF you follow ALL of these steps, you may STILL accidentally coerce or violate someone. We live in a rape culture that makes it very difficult for us to understand consent, to respect our own boundaries and the boundaries of others; so sex is dangerous. We need to go in knowing we can hurt each other, and being careful to minimize that risk."
I have never discussed all of these things before first having sex with someone. There's always something I didn't think of, but I work towards being the absolute best I can at consent with each person I have sex with. I treat consent as an ongoing process of becoming more and more in-tune with what the other person wants and needs in sex.
To be fully careful with consent you need to:
- discuss the meaning of sex/kink for each person involved.
- is everyone involved aware of current relationship structures and additional partners (if any)?
- do any of the people need a shared emotional/spiritual meaning for sex/kink?
- do any of the people need shared attitudes toward bodies for sex/kink? (I do)
- do any of the people have a need for future connection or particular kind of relationship after sex/scene?
- discuss STI/pregnancy risks & how to manage them.
- disclose your STI status and your risk factors and ask about theirs.
- if relevant, discuss birth control and what to do in the event of barrier-method fail or pregnancy.
- ask what methods of protection they want, tell what you want, and then go with whichever is more cautious.
- choose safe words/signals.
- at least choose a word/signal that means 'stop everything'.
- describe what you want the other person to do when you use the safe word.
- it's good to have a non-verbal signal as well as a word since some people can go non-verbal when triggered.
- discuss known triggers and what to do in the event of an unknown trigger.
- tell them your triggers and how you need them to react if they accidentally trigger you.
- ask what they need you to avoid or be cautious with and what to do if you accidentally trigger them.
- discuss roles (or lack thereof) and define terms.
- roles must be consented to and you can't guess what someone else would like.
- define terms: there are hundreds of definitions out there, don't assume.
- describing a typical scene/sexperience in detail is a good way to find unconscious expectations.
- discuss specific acts & label as ask-each-time or whatever.
- ask what parts are okay to touch, when.
- ask what kinds of touch are okay, where.
- ask about marks before making any.
- ask about sensitivities.
- ask about oral, manual, toys, penetration, etc.
- ask if there is anything that is never okay.
- ask about which parts/acts are ask-first every time, and when in doubt ask first.
- define acceptable sobriety emotionally and physically.
- how much intoxication is too much for sex/kink between you?
- what level of emotional instability is too much for sex/kink between you?
- what level of physical weariness/sleepiness is too much for sex/kink between you?
- discuss related needs which sex can compete with or create.
- Do any of you have a strict bedtime?
- Do any of you need privacy (such as not being overheard, or not having your shared stories told)?
- Do any of you need a certain amount of aftercare time?
And within each sexual experience you need to:
- check for sufficient emotional & physical sobriety.
- ask in a way that makes it easy to say no.
- assume no particular acts to be included and no particular length of time.
- check in: pay attention to reactions and non-verbals, ask questions.