What is World Sexual Health Day?
September 4th is World Sexual Health Day (WSHD). The World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) has been a global organization for sexual health and rights since 1978. WAS has supported sexual health through education, promotion, networking, and policy advocacy for over 30 years.
Led by President Rosemary Coates (Australia), WAS launched the inaugural World Sexual Health Day in 2010 to promote sexual health and well-being globally.
Fortuitous and timely, this year's (2023) theme is consent.
Consent is vital for a healthy sexual experience. Educate yourself and others on its meaning, expression, and acquisition. Respect and value each person's autonomy and choices in sexual matters, regardless of gender or orientation.
GREAT SEX REQUIRES CONSENT & COMMUNICATION
It's time to bin the idea that asking for consent dampens things and ruins spontaneity. Asking for and giving consent enhances your sex life. It actively hones in on what you and your partner enjoy and want more of.
Asking for and giving consent doesn't have to be cold, clinical or legal talk. It can be 'dirty talk' that builds sexual arousal and anticipation and adds variety - the spice of life!
ASKING FOR CONSENT BEFORE SEX
Start the conversation about what you and your partner would like to try before you get into bed together. This can be flirty talk over a glass of wine, a sexy text conversation or even an email if you find it tricky to get the words out.
Here are three examples of how you can phrase it:
- I'd love to do [XYZ] with you - what do you think?
- Can I do [XYZ] to you?
- Would you like to try [XYZ]?
ONGOING CONSENT DURING SEX
You want to make sure consent is ongoing during sex. It's possible that something doesn't feel quite how you or your partner imagined. It can be tricky to ask someone to stop in the middle of sexy time (even though you have a right to - consent, remember?).
We have a tip: A breathy whisper into an ear is not only hot for the receiver (oooh, shivers!) but an excellent opportunity to check in and ensure they're having a great time.
- Does this feel good?
- Tell me - should I do anything differently?
- Do you want to carry on like this, or is there something else you'd prefer?
Being on the same page with the kind of language and words you are both comfortable using and hearing helps. The more you practice, the better and more confident you get at asking for - and giving - consent.
Consent can be verbal or physical, so long as it's enthusiastic. Giving enthusiastic consent can also be a way to ask for something:
- I love it when you…
UNDERSTANDING CONSENT: FRIES
Consent should be clear to everyone involved. But if it isn't, the acronym FRIES helps remind you what it means.
Freely and Willingly - It isn’t consent if there is pressure, manipulation or guilt-tripping. Nor if refusal is not accepted unconditionally. If you're drunk, high or sleeping, you can't legally consent.
Reversible - You can change your mind at any time and remove consent. Even if you already agreed, even if you’ve done it before, and even if you’re in the middle of sex.
Informed - It isn't consent if you're not fully informed of what you're saying yes to. No assumptions. Saying yes to sex with a condom becomes non-consensual if a condom isn't used.
Enthusiastic - Consent is about doing things you actively WANT to do, never what's expected of you. Enthusiastic is the difference between ‘okay’ and ‘absolutely!’ If it's not an enthusiastic YES, it's a no.
Specific - There are no 'blurred lines' about consent. Consent is given for specific activities only.
- Saying yes to a drink in a bar doesn't mean agreeing to have sex with the person who bought the drink.
- Agreeing to visit someone at home doesn’t mean agreeing to sex, even if it’s in the middle of the night.
- Saying yes to kissing does not consent to other touches.
- Consenting to kissing and petting does not mean consenting to penetrative sex.
- Being naked does not consent to sex.
NOT GIVING CONSENT
You can choose what you consent to, and don't consent to. That is the whole point of consent.
If you don't want to do what is on offer, you can say no thank you - or barter your way to something you want to do.
Sexual bartering is a good way to say what you would like to do, and this is a fun game:
- I don't want to do [XYZ], but I'd love to...
We're especially thinking of the Spanish World Cup victory against the England Lionesses here, when the head of the Spanish football federation Luis Rubiales kissed midfielder Jennifer Hermoso on the lips.
We imagine that, had Señorita Hermoso been given a choice, she may have declined the kiss but consented to a celebratory handshake, which would have been appropriate under the circumstances.