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Consent 101: A How-to Guide

By , 17, Contributor Originally Published: February 7, 2017 Revised: March 28, 2019

Many teens’ first relationships are quite the learning experience. Being in a sexual or romantic relationship may be the first time you really consider your boundaries with another person. Just like consent is important for any sexual situation, there may be other things you deem necessary in a relationship. How you figure out and communicate your boundaries and needs to your partner can be tricky! Here are a few steps to help you determine your boundaries and then discuss them with your partner.

Know you deserve a relationship where you feel safe and comfortable.

1. Decide what you want and need.

Consider what’s important to you. You might want to take time out to think about this for yourself. Writing down what you come up with might be helpful and something you can reference later. Think about what matters to you physically, emotionally and mentally in a relationship.

  • What are your boundaries when it comes to sex? Is there anything you’re certain you aren’t willing to do? These boundaries are important to consider and establish.
  • Is practicing safer sex necessary for you? Will you only have sex using a condom or dental dam? Are you willing to have those things handy in case your partner doesn’t?
  • The same idea can extend to emotional aspects of a relationship—will you say “I love you”?
  • How will you know you can trust your partner and feel safe with him or her? What does a trusting relationship look like to you?

Once you know what you want and need, think about how you might communicate this with your partner, initially and throughout your relationship

2. Communicate!

Everyone communicates differently. There’s no one-size-fits-all for relationships. You might choose to have a conversation about what you want and need in a text, through a letter or email, or in person.

  • If you’re having a face-to-face discussion, it might be helpful to try writing down what you’re going to talk about first to make sure your goals are clear.
  • You could give this list to a partner or reference it through a discussion in person.
  • If you do choose to write to your partner, whether it be through a letter or text, make sure what you’re saying is clear. Be careful: anything in writing may get misconstrued in a way face-to-face discussion may not.
  • Be confident and direct.
  • Remember that what you want and need is a priority!

3. Check In and Follow Up

Communicating with your partner shouldn’t be a one-time thing and isn’t a one-way street. Make sure you keep the dialogue going about your and your partner’s wants and needs. Stay in touch with yourself! What you desire or need may be fluid, and it’s important to be open to this concept and able to communicate with your partner if things change.

Make decisions that work for you, your life and your body. Acknowledge how you feel about things, and don’t feel guilty for them. Know you deserve a relationship where you feel safe and comfortable. Remember your partner does too.

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