Is there an all-encompassing ethic of sexual consent? Ozy Frantz lays down some ground rules.

Good Consent

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About ozyfrantz

Ozy Frantz is a student at a well-respected Hippie College in the United States. Zie bases most of zir life decisions on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and identifies more closely with Pinkie Pie than is probably necessary. Ozy can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter as @ozyfrantz. Writing is presently Ozy's primary means of support, so to tip the blogger, click here.


  1. Consent is consent is consent. There is no good or bad consent.

    • There is a difference between good and bad consent. If I asked my boyfriend for anal, and he said “okay” but was visibly incredibly uncomfortable, did he really consent? I would say no. He “consented” in that he verbally okayed it, but there are many different reasons as to why he said it – he didn’t want to disappoint me, he might have felt like it wasn’t okay to say no, he might have felt like he’s supposed to like anal, he might have been embarrassed. There are a multitude of bad reasons why someone might “consent” to something they’re uncomfortable with. Should the person who feels like their boundaries are being violated speak up? Yes, by all means they should. But that doesn’t always happen, and it’s important to make sure that someone really is okay before proceeding with something. Hence good consent and bad consent. In the case of my boyfriend being uncomfortable with anal but consenting to it anyway, that would be considered bad consent.

      • “If I asked my boyfriend for anal, and he said “okay” but was visibly incredibly uncomfortable, did he really consent?”
        Technically, if he agrees to do anal sex, then he has consented. I hope you did not point a gun towards him, in that case it is coercion. Do not play mind reader, you know what he says and not what he thinks. If he is uncomfortable then he must say so. An adult person has an agency and he is responsible for all his choices whether he is comfortable with it or not.

        Like they say “if you choose not to choose, still you have made a choice.”

        • Of course I wouldn’t have pointed a gun to his head. That would really start entering the realm of rape.

          You are right. Technically, he has consented. He verbally said “yes”. But my point was that if he said yes but was still uncomfortable with it, then it was bad consent. He didn’t really want to do it. He made the choice, but I’m saying that he didn’t make a good choice on his behalf.

          I think that’s what the article is talking about. Of course he has agency, and of course I shouldn’t have to play mind reader. Of course he needs to say no. But there are a multitude of reasons why people don’t say no, and that needs to be addressed. The article was about helping people understand that it is okay to say no, it is okay to set boundaries, and it is imperative that sexual partners respect those boundaries. That is what good consent is all about. Just because your partner(s) ask you to do something, doesn’t mean you have to do it. That is the difference between good consent and bad consent.

          • “But there are a multitude of reasons why people don’t say no, and that needs to be addressed.”

            Do you want to have sex with you boyfriend or psychoanalyze him??? There are no solutions in life only tradeoffs. Why is he agreeing to do something with which he is not comfortable? That means he has low self esteem which you cannot fix.

            • Whoa rapses. This is a hypothetical situation. I’m not looking for a solution. We communicate and set our boundaries, anal is a no go for both of us. I was using this as an example. Hypothetically, if we hadn’t previously established that as a boundary, and I asked him to do it, and he was uncomfortable with that but consenting to it anyway, then this is an EXAMPLE of bad consent. Not that I’m saying that this is right or wrong or that I need to fix my boyfriend or something. I was using a hypothetical situation to illustrate what bad consent is! Seems you missed that.

            • I got your point “bad consent” refers to lying to yourself and saying “yes” when you want to say “no.” Even in that case the fault lies with the person consenting and not the other party.

            • Also, rapses, I’m in agreement with you. People do have the responsibility to speak up when they’re not okay with something. I’m not saying that they don’t or shouldn’t. People have to say what they want or need or are not okay with if they want to be happy or at the very least comfortable. And they shouldn’t get mad at the other person for not being able to figure out what they really felt.

              My point before was not that people should learn how to be mind readers, but that bad consent exists. And this article illustrated a good way to help prevent bad consent through learning to communicate and negotiate.

          • I agree with you, Steph. I can see why rapses is saying people have the responsibility/agency to not say “Yes” when they really feel “No.” In a perfect world where everyone always says exactly what they mean and never buckles to external influences or tells a half-truth, maybe we wouldn’t need to negotiate and define boundaries like this or have to qualify the concept of consent. That’s not the world most of us live in, though. I feel it’s much more responsible to have the kind of detailed negotiation the author has outlined here than to go by a black-and-white assumption of consent.

            To split hairs, yes, consent is consent is consent. But the *reasons* a person gives or denies consent can be qualified as good or bad. And then you get into the subjective nature of morality, that one person’s good reason is another person’s bad reason. But really, the context of a Yes or a No is what can make or break a relationship.

            • I just thought of a supporting example for my point – the recent article here and ensuing discussion about the nature of a “Sex Strike” – denying someone sex to carry out an agenda, especially a political one. As I recall, that idea was not well-received by many/most on this site. That would be a situation in which “No” means a whole lot more than “I don’t consent.”

              To flip it on the other side, consider the example of a person who consents to have sex with another person so they can later blackmail their partner – via hidden camera, gossip, holes poked in a condom, accusation of rape or assault, to name some examples. That would be a situation in which “Yes” means a whole lot more than “I consent.”

            • Yes, exactly. The context of the consent determines whether it’s “good” or “bad”. Which was my point. Thank you for saying it more clearly than I. Black and white consent can really screw up a relationship, which is why negotiation and discussion is needed. People don’t always know how to communicate their needs or fears or boundaries effectively, and might consent to something they’re not comfortable with as a result. I am in total agreement with raspes, I believe people do have the responsibility to speak up when they’re not okay with something. But that doesn’t always happen. Which is why something like “bad” consent exists. The solution is communication. Like pretty much any aspect of a relationship, communication and negotiation are the best tools to make sure everyone is good.

            • lecherous says:

              If you are making decisions bassed on what you think people are really feeling rather than what they say then your guessing. The idea of “good consent” is fictional because It implies it is your responsibility to second guess what somebody says about sex and frankly that sounds pretty rapey to me. Its also totally imposible to enforce, if anything if you force your partner to “proove” they really want sex with you more so than simply giving their consent then arguably its you who is being the jack ass forcing them to proove their sexual agency.

            • To be fair, we’re not talking about consent as defined and interpreted by law in court cases…at least, that’s not what I thought we were talking about. Sure, good and bad consent are not ideas that would likely hold up in court. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth examining. Consent is important to a sexual relationship for more than just the legal reasons.

            • Ok, returning after reading further comments and then reading your comment again in that context. I was not aware legal consent had entered the discussion. I only heard about this enthusiastic consent thing a few weeks ago and don’t know much about the underlying mini-movement and legislative goals associated with it. I would agree that it would be dangerous to bring the idea of good consent or bad consent into a courtroom, but I do stand by my statement that the nature of consent within relationships (personal consent, as some called it below) is worth examining and talking about.

            • Refusing to have sex with someone who you aren’t sure is fully and freely consenting is the opposite of “kind of rapey.” Having sex with someone that you aren’t sure is fully and freely consenting would, on the other hand, be “rapey.”

    • Rapses, I think this only works if you (gender neutral) don’t care about your partner’s feelings. Yes, people are supposed to be adults and explain their feelings.

      People are also supposed to be adults and pick up their socks from the living room floor. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I pick up afterwards. Because I love my partner and sometimes they’re weak and I pick up the slack. My partner does the same for me.

      In my mind, we’re talking about personal consent, not legal consent. And what kind of consent you have is determined in a lot of ways by what kind of relationship you have. Just based on what you said, I would not like the kind of relationship you’ve outlined in your comments—I want to be able to trust, to be vulnerable, to be weak, and to be imperfect with my partner. Sometimes that includes not knowing exactly how I feel (about sex or anything else) and sometimes that means not knowing how to express what I feel. Because I am imperfect, weak, and human—just like my partner. I like a relationship where we care about those qualities and make efforts to care for each other much better than a relationship that works as a business transaction at all possible moments. I don’t keep score with my partner on how many times they’ve screwed up the socks or the sex or the communication because I wouldn’t want them to keep score with me.

  2. I don't know says:

    As a man who was raped, I respectfully ask that you stop playing the victim card every time someone mentions the subject.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Eoghan, you’ve been asked respectfully a number of times to stop doing this. You’re monopolizing conversations, you’re minimizing the experiences of rape victims of both genders, and you’re prohibiting constructive conversation.

      As a Senior Editor and a moderator of the site, and with respect to commenters like IDK and others, consider this your last warning.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        Consider yourself directly warned.

      • GMP Moderator says:

        If you have concerns please contact any of the editors of the site or the CEO. We are aiming to keep the dialogue civil, positive, and open to many voices but we will not tolerate the repetition, derailing, or threadjacking from any commenter.

      • The problem you’re creating is that you’re not contributing to constructive conversation. Dismissal of an article about good communication as “rape propaganda” is not constructive.

  3. Noah Brand says:

    This article is very explicitly gender-neutral and based on the premise that consent is necessary between all people of all genders, and that violation can occur between anyone. The premise you are complaining about IS NOT PRESENT. You are lying about what is in the article; stop it.

    • Janet Dell says:

      Except that in real life, consent laws are not gender neutral in their application, perhaps in wording but not in the way they are applied.

  4. Sometimes I feel like you’re just trolling. Because this is a good article that discusses not only consent (and where does it say that only men are rapists in this piece?) but negotiation and good communication. Things that are helpful in ANY sexual encounter. Things that apply to both genders. Things that apply to me. A woman. I know my boyfriend’s boundaries, his concerns, and his interests in sex. I respect his boundaries because I don’t want to make HIM uncomfortable or violate his consent. And he does the same for me.

    Communication and negotiation are extended to other aspects of relationships as well. It’s not All About Rape. It’s about making sure nobody’s boundaries are being disrespected. This should not be a gendered topic. So why are you just dismissing this all All About Rape? Did you even bother to read the article?

  5. GMP Moderator says:

    Eoghan, this is your last warning on derailing and creating a negative commenting environment.

  6. The Wet One says:


    The article’s discuss sounds like negotiating services with a pro. I’ve found it’s best to be open, honest and straightforward with all these things (both professionally and privately if you will) and get the A-OK to proceed. Everyone knows what’s going to to happen and there’s clear consent for all.

    Of course, in the professional arena, things tend to be far more direct and straightforward (after all time is money right?) than in the private realm. But even in the private realm, after you’ve done the dancing to the get to discussing the deal, it’s clearly necessary to have the discussion. Generally the rule there is global consent + sensitivity. I.e. I get a blanket consent to do whatever, subject to whatever reservations she makes and I’m sensitive to the vibe that I’m getting essentially all the time. Also, I try to keep it on the level and sensitive by touching her and feeling her essentially everyday. Thus I should have lots of feedback to go on as to whether consent is being withdrawn or not.

    It seems a simple thing, but jeez, made so complicated. Of course, in my country, it’s necessary. One moment’s misunderstanding or assumption essentially makes you criminally liable of sexual assault. I’ve often thought it wise to get consent in writing in a variety of circumstances. A bit of a kill joy to be sure, but being convicted and put on the sex offender’s list is a sure road to pariahdom. Better the kill joy than sexual predator label. You can certainly wear the kill joy (or weirdo) label better than you can the sexual predator label. Think I’m joking? Look at Herman Cain. It’s no joke.

    Better safe than sorry, I say.

    The Wet One

    • It’s unfair that men tend to get more on the legal side of things, because I know plenty of women that violate someone’s boundaries and we don’t nearly get the same amount of repercussions that men do. It’s good ole’ gender stereotypes that keep that in line. Hopefully we can change that. Men need to know it’s okay to have boundaries and to say no, and women need to be more sensitive and respectful of their man’s boundaries. The rules apply to everyone.

      That aside, I’m glad that there are pro negotiators out there. Good on you for respecting people’s wishes and boundaries! High five for you.

  7. APPLAUSE APPLAUSE!! for the moderators!!

    This is a great article!

    • Andrew Martens says:

      Agreed! Consent is a sticky issue in society, and I think this article does a great job of discussing it.

  8. Anthony Zarat says:

    Article needs to be more clear.

    Case 1: Is article attempting to help people negotiate in the uncertain fog of gray-zone ambiguity? Article does good job of this. Helpful. I would say, very helpful, actually. Even insightful. And thanks for the gender-neutral perspective. Appreciated.

    Case 2: Is article attempting to arbitrarily draw a red criminal responsibility line through the middle of the uncertain fog of gray-zone ambiguity? Article misses the point. Dangerous. Not appreciated.

    Example: Clueless 19 year old college boy begs, nags and whines until clueless 19 year old college GF’s “maybe later” turns into a reluctant “OK”. Boy is a borish troglodyte (case 1). However, boy should NOT go to prison for 20 years (case 2).

  9. On the whole, I found the article interesting and pretty good. I have a few quibbles (The injection of the mythical rape culture for one) but overall, I think some good things were said. Now I just need to find myself a date so I can practice some of this good consent! rofl

  10. Janet Dell says:

    I also think when discussing consent that folks be clear if you are talking about LEGAL consent or personal consent because IMHO, they are two completely different things. There are those that want enthusiastic consent the letter of the law. I fully agree that on a personal level , enthusiastic consent is the only way to go BUT when it comes to legal consent, mens rea should be the standard.

  11. Nipple Shield Required says:

    “It can be saying “what the fuck were you thinking?” when your partner thinks it’s a good idea to, without asking, bite your clit (this happened).”

    Ouch. For some reason, more than one of my ex-girlfriends had got it into her respective head that it would be a good idea to, without prior warning or negotiation, up and bite my nipples in the middle of sex. What is with that (and why did more than one woman think it was a good idea)? A) they’re not candy, and B) that’s painful, not sexy.

  12. medic mind says:

    As adults we know that people have different levels of confidence and empowerment.. And experience including bad experiences.
    Regardless of individual responsibility, we know that a reluctant “yes” is not a “yes” and if our partner lacks the capacity to assert “no” for whatever reason- maybe just wanting to please us- then we have to be kind and unselfish enough to stop the nonsense. Then open a discussion for understanding that person and deciding if the roadblocks can be overcome…or not.
    This article makes some very serious and important points

  13. wellokaythen says:

    I love the “scatter scare quotes how you please” bit where you put all the quote marks at the end. : – ) Ingenious. I’d like to steal that, if you don’t mind.

    Good point about everyone having boundaries and about the difference between enthusiastic consent and good consent.

  14. Janet Dell says:

    Consent: We have all heard of times when a woman will claim she didn’t consent because of some skulduggery that a man has done to here, as an example, putting holes in a condom.

    Here is I think a new one.

    In my local newspaper they have a story about a woman who is trying to have a man charged with sexual assault , why?. Because he had a vasectomy and didn’t tell her. Yup, that’s right, he had it years before they met but the basic premise is that she would not have had sex with him had she known he had a vasectomy because she was trying to get pregnant.

    Silly?, I think so, but you know what, it really isn’t that much of a stretch from the hole in the condom thing. Sexual assault is fast becoming defined by the ‘victim’ and not by the law or the perp (mens rei).

    • See, I know that when people look at that they see the sexual aspects of it. I see someone with a mental problem trying to utilize a court system that seems all to willing to take $$ for irrational cases and a media/PR system that thinks cases like this are great for selling papers.

      I don’t see sex. And I get why people do, but it’s so outrageous that any judge hearing it should slap her with a contempt of court/jail stay just for wasting his/her time and creating a standard that makes real victims of sexual assault have to work harder to be heard.

      Besides, that’s not assault…that would be false advertising? Misrepresentation? And should he then sue her for some kind of sexual assault as well and misrepresentation?

      Insane. It should be illegal to launch suits based on nothing but bullshit.

  15. I found some parts of this article really quite worrying, especially the ‘right way’ conversation. It stinks of coercion, making your partner feel guilty about not having anal sex? Not cool. Coerced consent is not consent. Also the way you dismiss enthusiastic consent, saying some people have sec when they don’t want to and that’s fine. This is crap, and a disturbing example of normalizing sexual coercion.


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