At once in the spotlight and severely overlooked is the notion of consent. In this case, consenting (or not) for sexual acts to be done to you or by you. Consent inherently implies permission and agreement – it sounds serious, and it is. But there are ways to incorporate it into your sexual routine that don’t require a contract.

Once you have been with someone for a period of time, you may get to know their “tells” and you don’t necessarily have to spell it out, or have them spell it out for you. However, in the early stages, especially in a casual setting, enthusiastic verbal consent is best.

People claim that this kills the mood or ruins spontaneity – I’m telling you not to let it, because it doesn’t have to. Dirty talk has been around for as long as sex (read: a really, really long time), so take this opportunity to get some practice in. If you are feeling shy or hesitant about giving consent to a new (potential) sexual partner, you need to examine if you are really ready to be having sex – with them, or at all. A certain level of responsibility comes along with being sexually active: being safe, of legal age, and – you guessed it – consenting. It is right up there with the most important things to check before getting sexy with someone, so don’t neglect it! Chances are you wouldn’t forget to check whether someone is old enough to have sex or whether they have appropriate protection, so make consent part of your routine.

Remember that it doesn’t have to be clinical or formal. I’m not telling you to pause your make out sesh and declare “I hereby give you permission to put your fingers/tongue/genitals in/on/around my genitals!” (Unless you’re into that [more power to you, friend]). Just take a moment before getting hot and heavy to check in. Chances are they will appreciate it and feel more comfortable, and that’s never a bad thing.

Examples for initiation:

“I want you.”

“I’m ready to have sex.”

“Get inside me.”

“Slytherin to my Chamber of Secrets.”

Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the gist. Picture whispering these into your SP’s ear and tack a wee moan on the end, and you’ve got yourself some sweet dirty talk that doubles as consent. Well done, you!

Examples for continuation:

“Does this still feel good?”

“Do you want me to keep going?”

“Would you like to go further?”

“Is this okay?”

“Do you like this?”

If verbal consent simply makes you want to crawl into a hole and die (try it though, you might surprise yourself), then you can use nonverbal cues. Removing your clothing and drawing your partner closer to you, guiding their hands/head/genitals towards wherever the heck you want them to go, etc. This tends to be more appropriate for long term SPs and I wouldn’t recommend it for the first time you make magic together, simply because it could be seen as pushy and doesn’t give the other person as much wiggle room to give their own consent (or not). This kind of nonverbal consent may never be appropriate for particular SPs (potentially due to trauma), and that’s okay- with a bit of practice, checking in will feel as normal and natural as the rest of it. You know, the bonking.

I have two important points to make before I let you go.

Firstly, make sure your SP has also given their consent. If they haven’t, check in with them. This includes people with penises who experience a particular set of societal pressures that assume they are always ready and willing for sexual acts. Never assume. Let’s normalise consent from people of any and all genders!

Secondly, you/your SP can withdraw consent at any time. This is so important to remember! Just because you previously consented to something, doesn’t mean you have any obligation to carry it through to the end, and if your SP chucks a tanty then they aren’t worth your time. There is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed in this instance, nor should you ever make your SP feel that way if they withdraw consent. Sometimes it just stops being fun, and that’s okay.

Needless to say, this barely scratches the surface of consent. Think of it as a practical introduction, and keep your eyes out for future articles on the topic.