This piece is written by Angelica Temoche for the BW series “How Much Do You Love Me?” Normal postings resume in April.
I have found enthusiastic consent to be a litmus test of whether or not I’m going to have a great time in bed. Bad sex is definitely one of the most off putting, self-esteem damaging things that can happen in your day to day life. I have found that doing a quick personal inventory can steer you away from a lot of potentially negative sexual encounters and leave you with no regrets.
Comfort and Trust
This is paramount to having great sex. Sex is super anxiety-inducing; you are putting yourself in a physically and emotionally vulnerable position. Even if you enjoy those feelings of vulnerability it’s important to choose a partner that you trust won’t take advantage of you exposing your weak spots.
A big part of comfort is having self-confidence. If you’re not comfortable with yourself, you’re definitely going to experience discomfort with someone else. Get comfortable with your body, experiment, find out what you what you like and what you don’t. Know enough about yourself to know how to make sex good for you, regardless of the experience and skills of your partner(s).
Mental and Physical Attraction
Knowing what you are attracted to is a big part of finding what you need to get off. I don’t know about you, but I can’t really get enthusiastic about sex with a person I don’t find hot. Of course this can manifest in a lot of different ways. Physical attraction is the most obvious one, looking across the room and seeing the hottie with the rockin’ body. Visuals are usually the go-to for how we state our preferences, “I want someone with this eye color, this hair type, this height, etc.,” but other attributes can inform our attraction too. Smell is a big one for me, taste too, the taste of their mouth or their skin; strength, the way a person moves can also make up a person’s attractiveness to you.
However, on a completely different aspect I often find myself attracted to the way people think more than the way they look. I have definitely had a lot of sexual encounters that were extremely satisfying despite me not having a physical attraction to the person involved just because I was so enamored with their values or thought process. (This is more about whether I find a person interesting, rather than whether I think they are smart. A person who is really smart, but is a dull homebody with few interests isn’t going to wet my panties.) This type of encounter definitely takes more time though, especially if you are not a particularly open or candid speaker. If you are more interested in this type of attractiveness in a sexual partner you’ll have more luck among a group of people with the same niche interest or in the same subculture, rather than going to a local bar or club. For kinky people, sometimes being attracted to a person for their physical or mental attributes isn’t necessary. Sometimes all that is required is an appreciation of their dominance or submission; this goes to show how looking for partners within a more limited community can go in your favor. All types of attraction are legitimate and factor into whether or not you want to have sex with that person.
O.K. we all know to wear condoms, or at least I hope you do, if not, here it is:
Also, learn your acceptable levels of risk:
Safest: Don’t touch anyone’s bare genitals, don’t kiss anyone
Next Safest: Wrap everything! Condoms are your best friends! Dental dams, toys in condoms, hands in doctor’s gloves when touching bare genitals/inserting into orifices.*
Risky: Do what you do, sometimes sh*t happens in the heat of the moment. If this is where you are at, have another forms of birth control (hormones or implant), know where to get a Plan B pill, and be prepared to get tested regularly for STDs.
Now lets talk other kinds of safety.
Mental and Emotional Safety
Sex involves emotional and physical intimacy (that’s one of the things that makes it so great), so during sex you are more open to getting emotionally or physically hurt. Sex also has a tendency to bring up subconscious trust, abandonment, and intimacy issues without warning. Getting triggered during sex happens to the best of us. For this reason, it’s a great idea to have a safe way out, thus safewords! Some people have fun making up new safewords for every occasion, some people use the same ones each time. For regular sex, mine used to be “stop,” if you’re not interested in having a conversation about safewords and you are playing with a vanilla person, “no” and “stop” might be all you need. However, a strongly stated, “When I say ‘stop’ you will stop,” never went amiss for more hardheaded people. For kinky people, the stock set of safewords are “yellow” and “red”. Yellow means “slow down, that particular action or sensation isn’t working for me, move onto something else”, or “back off” if you’ve just upped the intensity. Red means a full stop, something has gone wrong and we can’t continue. Sometimes after a red you can talk it over to evaluate what happened and attempt the scene again, but it’s just as valid to not attempt the scene again and walk away. I rather like those safewords, even for non-sexual situations; and the conversation is even shorter, “Red and Yellow, o.k.?” And an enthusiastic nod or yes is is the go ahead. For more extreme situations where your partner can’t see your face or you can’t speak, make sure to have an agreed upon set of hand signals.
Learn to use your safewords. Yes, having them is a step in the right direction, but if you aren’t comfortable saying them, they are no use to you. If you need to, practice using them. Set an arbitrary boundary and have your partner push or break it, then bring the safeword out. Your partner will stop immediately, you’ve learned to protect yourself, and you’ve built trust together. Remember that safewords are for both partners, so practice both ways.
In your sexual travels, people may ask you to engage in acts that are life or mental heath threatening. Some people can accept the level of risk involved in these acts. I don’t like being put in the position to hold someone’s life in my hands. For you, maybe the the act isn’t life-threatening, it just totally turns you off, squicks you out. In these instances, sometimes it’s nice to offer someone a simulation of that act. Dialing it back a few notches, verbally painting a picture of what they want done to them, rather than actually doing the risky act can satisfy both partners. Of course it’s always o.k. to say a definitive “no”, just be aware that if your partner is particularly attached to this act, they might seek it elsewhere. It’s important that sexual flexibility is there for both partners, so maybe you can each have a list of things that are, “hot to think about, but not necessarily to do.” Of course the thing that makes this simulation work is the idea that it’s hot to serve or please your partner, if you are not enthusiastic about that, don’t consent to simulating an act that scares or squicks you.
Communication: Asking for what you want
Know what you want. Ask for it. Fortune favors the bold. Know what you don’t want. Make your hard boundaries known before a sexual encounter. If you don’t have the ability to ask for what you want sexually, you probably shouldn’t be having sex. When I am sexually submissive, I get extremely quiet to the point where I can’t really make full sentences, so to me it’s very important to make my desires and limits known before a sexual encounter, and make sure that my partner will not deviate from a planned scene or try to negotiate for more during the scene. Just being in subspace (a kind of high on being treated submissively) can often make me willing to give an automatic yes, rather than actually thinking about it. This is where it’s important, if you are topping a person, to make them fully present when you are asking them something important. (If you don’t get quiet during sex, good on you. Your partner will know what feels good to you and what doesn’t from what you say and the sounds you make. Both ways are fine, but being vocal makes it much easier on your partner.) Make a joke, change the music, give them something to get out of their head if you need them to make a real decision. Likewise, don’t ask them important, consent-giving questions when they are coming down from a scene in aftercare. Be aware when you are getting automatic consent, rather than enthusiastic consent. You always have the ability to stop things and safeword out if you need to.
Inhibitions can be good
Don’t drink and screw. Inhibitions keep us from doing things we are going to feel bad about later. So if you want to escape future guilt, avoid having sex while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Just wait it out until the effects have passed. Make it a personal principle to say “no” when under the influence. Likewise, don’t screw drunk people, they are going to be uncoordinated and off their game. You deserve the best sex a partner can give you so wait until they are sober. If you can’t have sex unless you are on something, you should see a doctor. In a scenario where you are sober, and your inhibitions are in the way of you having great sex, make sure they are personal misgivings rather than cultural or social ones. Thinking, “I shouldn’t do this, my roommate might think I’m a slut tomorrow when she sees me in the same clothes” isn’t really a valid reason not to have sex while thinking, ”I’m not going to have respect for myself tomorrow if I do this” is a valid one.
Relax and Have Fun
Ok, so have you gone through the checklist?
- Am I comfortable with this person/these people? Can I trust them?
- Am attracted to the person/people involved?
- Am I safe? Can I accept the level of risk involved? Have I taken actions/ precautions to make this safer? What is my safeword?
- Have I made it clear what I want and don’t want? Do I know what my partner wants?
- Am I sober?
- All good? Let’s have sex!
If you know the answers to these questions, it’s way easier to make a good decision about having sex. When you feel good about that decision you can relax, have fun, and enjoy your orgasm. You can also use this a guideline to evaluate past encounters and learn how to make future ones more enthusiastically consensual.
Have Fun and Happy Screwing,
Angelica Temoche is a well rounded artist, graphic designer and printmaker that strongly believes in being sex-positive and promoting self love. Check out her website Spiralred.com
* Note from the Editor: As Angelica and I found out, some people have heard of using plastic cling wrap (Such as Saran Wrap) to serve as a dental dams but this is really outdated information that could cause more harm than good. It can prevent passage of herpes simplex but not other STDs and it’s only for non-microwavable cling wrap. Here’s a really good explaination of where the idea came from and why you shouldn’t do it today. What’s a good alternative to getting dental dams? Here’s this handy guide on how to make one out of a male condom. - BW