NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, April 9, 2023

"No Means No" Isn't Enough. What is Enthusiastic Sexual Consent?

In my prior article, What Are the Basic Rules of Sexual Consent?, I wrote about the basics of sexual consent, which are rules that everyone needs to know and abide by. But the basics aren't enough, which is why I'm focusing on enthusiastic sexual consent in this article.

What is Enthusiastic Sexual Consent?
Sexual consent isn't a binary concept involving either "Yes" or "No." 

Concepts like "No means no" doesn't even begin to cover what's involved with enthusiastic consent.

What is Enthusiastic Sexual Consent?

Enthusiastic sexual consent means that everyone involved in the sexual act is visibly and vocally interested, sexually excited, and agreeing to the sexual acts involved.

Not only are the people involved consenting, but they are really into it. 

This is unequivocal consent that everyone is aware of and agrees to before and during the sexual activities.

 "No Means No" Is An Outdated Concept
"No means no" doesn't cover all the issues involved with sexual consent.  

Aside from saying "Yes" or "No," people involved might respond by saying, "I'm not sure" or "I don't know..." or "I guess so..." or "Maybe..." or "Maybe later..." or some variation that isn't black and white. These responses are in the gray zone.

What is Enthusiastic Sexual Consent?

"No means no" also overlooks certain circumstances when a person might not want to engage in the sexual activities, but they're unable to say "No" due to one of the following circumstances where they are:
  • Underage (a minor) and they don't have the mental, emotional or developmental capacity or legal status to make these decisions
  • Impaired by alcohol or drugs
  • Being pressured, manipulated, tricked, deceived, threatened, forced
  • Incapable of making a decision and/or communicating that decision due to mental illness, disability or for some other issue affecting their ability to give consent freely
  • Unconscious due to alcohol, drugs or some other reason
  • Unsure if they want to engage in sex or not
  • Unable to give consent for other reasons
The examples given above are in no way exhaustive of all the possible scenarios that might be involved when someone is in the gray zone.

 If You're Not Sure the Other Person is Giving Enthusiastic Consent, Ask Them
Sometimes it might not be clear to you if they are giving enthusiastic consent or not. 

What is Enthusiastic Sexual Consent?

It's not enough to pick up on signals or sexual vibes because you might be misreading them.
What is Enthusiastic Sexual Consent?

So, when you're not sure, ask and listen to what your partner(s) say. If they seem unsure, don't have sex.

Enthusiastic Sexual Consent Can Be Sexy
Enthusiastic sexual consent is essential.  

In addition, I think people need to reframe their ideas about sexual consent, especially enthusiastic sexual consent.

Specifically, I've heard many clients complain that getting enthusiastic consent feels awkward and it can ruin the moment, but I disagree.

I think talking about enthusiastic sexual consent can be very sexy.

By encouraging your partner(s) to communicate and by listening to them, you're validating them and letting them know that their feelings and values are important to you.

Enthusiastic Sexual Consent Can Be Sexy

You're also letting your partner(s) know that you respect them and their sexual pleasure and comfort are important to you.  

In addition, when your partner(s) tell you that they're really sexually turned on by what you both want to do, this can be a big sexual turn-on for you too.

Aside from getting enthusiastic consent from your partner(s), you also want to communicate how you feel too. So, consider what you want and don't want to do sexually beforehand.  And know that either you or they can change your mind at any time.

About Me
I am a New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.