Sex should feel good. It should be a way of making yourself feel good and the other person/s feel good too. One way to do this is to make sure it feels safe. We need consent for any sexual or intimate activity, so check in with each other often – not just at the beginning or the end.
Sometimes it can be easy to think that consent is only important when we are having sex for the first time, but it is important throughout our sexual relationships. Sex should always feel safe, enjoyable and fun!
Illustration credit: https://www.instagram.com/loukoumh/
It is your responsibility to check in with your partner/s and pick up signs – it is not on the other person to say no. It helps to pay attention to each other’s body language as a way of communicating with each other.
Here are the Rosey workers giving some examples of body language cues. Can you identify which ones are positive cues (‘Yes, I’m enjoying this’) and which ones are negative (‘No, I would like to stop’)?
Although it is very important to check in with the other person, checking in with yourself is just as essential. Notice how you are feeling:
- How does your body feel?
- Do you feel safe and comfortable?
- Do you feel tense and disconnected?
- Do you feel able to say what you do and don’t like?
Knowing what we want and don’t want in sexual relationships helps us when we need to communicate that to our sexual partner/s.
For more information on talking about sex and sexual boundaries, see:
Talking about consent is really important, but it’s also important to think about your physical health and avoiding STIs and pregnancies. This is a key part of discussing sex with your partner and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about! For more information about safer sex options, visit:
If you’ve experienced sexual violence
If you are a survivor of sexual violence, then this might be something that you want to talk to your partner about. This might be a scary thing to do, but it can really help to make sure that they are mindful of your triggers and understand why sex may be difficult for you.
It’s ok to take this slow and only share as much as you want to share. You are not 'damaged goods': in a healthy relationship, your partner should want to know about things that make you uncomfortable and try to make you feel safe. You can also talk this through with your support worker at the Rosey Project.
One survivor talks about her experiences of sex in her relationship here:
How many times have I cried about sex? Cried because we’ve not had sex in 4 months and 27 days (yes, I’m counting), which means it’s only a matter of days until my boyfriend leaves me forever because women are sex machines and if men don’t get sex when they want it then they’ll just up and leave. How many times have I spent 45 minutes psyching myself up to get under the sheets, turn off the lights, not think about the rolls I have on my tummy and instigate sex? How many times have I felt like my body and mind are not enough for my partner and just being present and intimate is beautiful?
Why do I believe that having sex and satisfying my partner's sexual need is the most important thing in his life? It does not matter that I support him emotionally, I care for him, feed him, laugh at his terrible jokes, hold him while he sleeps. It does not matter that I remember he likes to sleep closest to the door, that he never unrolls his socks before he washes them, that he doesn’t know the difference between a fiddle and a violin.
It makes me feel so sad that there’s this voice inside my head that can convince me that, despite everything he loves about me, he obviously wants to leave because we don’t have ‘enough’ sex. He is kind and understanding and my life would be incomplete without him. He never complains when I scream and cry and wipe my bogies on his shirt (which I know he hates but tolerates anyway). When I leave my hair in the shower and the drain gets blocked he does not complain.
My mind is torn. Riddled with guilt. Why do I not want to have sex every single night in lingerie and 5-inch heels? With 7,000 dildos? Why can I not satisfy my man like every other woman does every single day, because surely I'm the only person who feels like this?
It’s difficult to balance life. I try every day to tell myself ‘I was sexually and emotionally abused by a man I thought I loved and that’s ok. This does not affect me. I am strong. I am over this. He will not longer control my life like he did when I was a child.’ But when I tell myself this every day: 'It's been 10 years, I’ve been through counselling, I’ve dealt with all of this,' then I begin to put a lot of pressure on myself. Pressure to be fixed and to be better. And then if I don’t want to have sex, well I’ve failed again. Those feelings of arousal are shame and fear to me. Even though I am looking into the eyes and lying in the arms of a man who is 1,000 times the man my abuser will ever be, I cannot push him out of my head. Finding the balance between living my life and not letting the man who abused me define me but also forgiving myself for moments of weakness and vulnerability is the hardest thing to balance in my life. There are aspects of this I have grown and flourished in, but there are also aspects that appear to fail completely.