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Communicating Consent

We know that asking for consent might be something that might seem a little bit awkward. We live in a culture that has taught us to think about sex as something magical that takes place without any conversation, but that is not really the reality.

Consent--like good sex--requires communication. Communication in sexual activity doesn't have to be awkward, in fact it can be sexy.

"Consent with words is about mutually voicing what [each person] wants and doesn't want, what [their] desires are and are not, and what [they] do and don't feel ready for. Sometimes it's about one person asking for something and the other replying, sometimes it's more organic. The way we voice sexual desire matters when it comes to consent, though: we need to be mindful of how our words express what we want while still leaving room for others to express what they want, especially since we won't always want the same things or want them at the same times. There are ways to voice desires and seek consent that support consent and good sexual communication."

Citation from Scarleteen: Communicating Consent

Starting a Conversation


Starting a Conversation  


  • May I [do whatever sexual thing]?
  • I'd like to [do whatever sexual thing]: would you like to? If not, what would you like to do?
  • How do you feel about doing [whatever sexual thing]?
  • Are there things you know you don't want to do: What are they? Mine are [whatever they are].
  • Is there anything you need to feel comfortable or safe when we do [whatever sexual thing]?
  • I'm really interested in doing [whatever sexual thing] with you, and it feels like the right time for me: do you want to do that and does the timing feel right to you?
  • I'd like to have sex tonight, would you? What do you want to do or try?

  • Citation from Scarleteen: Communicating Consent

    Navigating Consent

    Columbia University Health Service's Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Program provides these consent traffic lights:

    RED: Signs to Stop



    Either partner is too intoxicated to gauge or give consent.

    Either partner is asleep or passed out.

    Someone hopes their partner(s) will say nothing and go with the flow.

    Partner intends to have sex by any means necessary.

    YELLOW: Signs to Pause and Talk



    Someone is not sure what the other person wants.

    Someone feels that they are getting mixed signals.

    Partners have not talked about what they want to do.

    Someone assumes that they will do the same thing as before.

    Partner stops or is not responsive.

    GREEN: Keep Communicating


    Citation from Scarleteen: Communicating Consent

    Partners come to a mutual decision about how far they want to go.

    Partners clearly express their comfort with the situation.

    Everyone feels comfortable and safe stopping at any time.

    Partners are excited!