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How do you ask for consent? That feels uncomfortable/embarrassing.
First things first, remember that consent is mandatory prior to engaging in any sexual activity. Consent is defined as the mutual agreement of all people to engage in any activity. This includes kissing, touching, and sex. It may seem awkward to ask for consent since we don’t often see examples of this on TV, movies, or music. However, asking for consent is the foundation of any healthy relationship and really just comes down to communicating about what each other wants.

Here are some easy ways you can ask for consent:

You want to hold your partner’s hand: Can I hold your hand?

You want to hug your partner: Can I hug you?

You want to kiss your partner: Can I kiss you (on the hand, cheek, lips, etc)? Remember, be specific when you ask.
When you normalize consent, it makes it easier and less awkward every time you ask for something specific. If you are uncomfortable asking any questions listed above, then you may not be ready to have sex. I suggest you explore The Talk with Dreaux for more information. Also, you can read more about consent on our Resource page.

After I have consented to something, can I change my mind?
It is never too late to change your mind. Consent is not final. It is ongoing and can be withdrawn at any time. People sometimes feel guilty for arousing a partner and changing their mind. That arousal does not obligate them to your body. If you consent to kissing, hand holding, or sex and decide you’re not ready for any of those actions, you have the right to change your mind and wait until you’re ready. Also, if you consented to any of those actions before and decide you no longer want to participate in those activities, you have the right to change your mind. If you’re in the middle of an activity and change your mind, you have the right to stop and say no and have that be respected. Our Understanding Consent resource may be a great handout for you to read.
My partner says they are ready for sex, but I don’t feel ready. What can I do?
If you don’t feel ready, then you have the right to say NO! No is a complete answer and does not need explanation. It is perfectly fine if your partner is ready and you aren’t ready for sex. However, if your partner is pressuring you to have sex, that could be a warning sign of violence. If your partner is using threats or harmful language to force you into having sex, that is NOT OK! Deciding to be intimate with someone is a big decision and may require multiple conversations and deep thought. Have you shared with your partner that you aren’t ready to have sex? Expressing your concerns and fears is perfectly normal and we highly encourage it. Our Sex Timeline is a great tool to help you think through the things to discuss before and (if you decide to) after sex. Once you do make your final decision, we hope that it is made free from pressure and in your own time. Check out The Talk with Dreaux for more information to help you decide if you’re ready.
I have not had sex before, but I’m worried about getting a sexually transmitted infection when I do. My partner is also a virgin and tells me that since it’s both of our first times we don’t need to do all that yet. Is it necessary to go to the doctor first?
I’m so proud of you for wanting to be safe after deciding you’re ready to have sex! With that being said, it’s absolutely necessary for everyone to get tested, even if they are a virgin. Being a virgin does not automatically clear you from having sexually transmitted infections or diseases (STI/STDs) because there are many ways for them to be transmitted or spread. They can be spread through oral, anal, and vaginal sex. They can also be transmitted from mother to child through birth and in some occasions, through breast milk. It is important you take the steps to protect yourself as well as inform your partner. Many are often unaware how STI/STDs can be transmitted which leads to increased cases among specific populations. Please check out our Getting Tested section to find a testing center near you. Many locations offer free and confidential testing.
I’m still friends with my ex, but I have a new significant other who really dislikes that. How can I reassure my current partner while staying friends with my ex?
It can be hard for a new partner to be comfortable with the idea that your ex is still a part of your life. If this relationship is important to you, then acknowledging their concerns instead of dismissing them may be a great way to start a conversation and figure out the root of the problem. Are they worried about you being friends with your ex for a particular reason and do these reasons have merit? For example, if you and your ex spend a lot of alone time together and it is causing you to decline invitations with your new partner, they may feel like you enjoy being with your ex more than them.

However, if your new partner is obsessing over your relationship and telling you who you can and can’t be friends with, these may be warning signs of a greater problem. If your partner is controlling who you can be friends with, this may be a sign of emotional abuse that could turn physical. If addressing and reassuring your partner that nothing is happening doesn’t work, it may be time to reevaluate the relationship and make sure it is a healthy one to be in for you. Trust is an important part of the relationship, if there isn’t any trust this may be another warning sign that determines a healthy or unhealthy relationship. Check out our Types of Dating Violence chart for more information.

My partner always tells me I’m the only one there for them. They don’t have a supportive home life or any friends besides me. I feel guilty spending time with other people or even just alone.
An important part of a relationship is being supportive to one another. However, that doesn’t mean that you should be each other’s only source of support. If your partner’s home life and friends don’t offer much support, they may be looking to you to fulfill every emotional need they have, which is unfair and unrealistic. You can address these issues with your partner by having a conversation and suggesting ways for them identify other sources of support. Online resources like Crisistextline.org could be helpful in this situation. They offer texting and online chat options for those in need. They can also help with feelings of depression, anxiety, suicide and more.

Another thing to be aware of is whether you feel that your partner is trying to isolate you from others. Do you feel like your partner is telling you that you are their only source of support in an effort to control you and who you hang out with? Do you feel obligated to help with their issues, instead of focusing on your own? Do they offer support to you when you need it? People who are abusive often find ways to control situations by making someone feel guilty and obligated to them. This is called “guilt tripping” and is a form of emotional abuse. This can be a warning sign of a greater issue. Check out our Types of Dating Violence chart for more information.

I was assaulted but I was also using drugs and drinking while underage. I’m worried that reporting will only make my life worse.
First, being assaulted (even if you were using drugs or alcohol) is not your fault. This can be a very scary thing to go through, so please know that you are not alone, and STAR is here to help. Being intoxicated does not give someone permission to harm you. Typically, in these cases, you will not face charges for drinking or using drugs; instead, law enforcement and medical staff are concerned with ensuring that you are safe and that the person who assaulted you is brought to justice. If you have questions about what your options are for reporting and getting help, contact our hotline at 1-855-435-STAR. It is important to note that STAR advocates are legally mandated to report the assault of any individuals under the age of 18.
My partner and I sometimes have sex when we’re drunk. We are both still awake and aware, but is this a bad idea?
Mixing sex and alcohol is never a good idea. It is important that both parties are able to actively consent to any sexual activity free of the influence of any substances. Additionally, there are many risks associated with having sex while being intoxicated; these can include the following:

Lack of protection: Alcohol has a tendency to cloud reasonable judgement, so even if you had intentions of using condoms or other protection methods, your ability to make that decision decreases as your consumption increases. With no use of protection, you run the risk of becoming pregnant or getting someone pregnant. Is this a responsibility you’re ready to handle?

STI/STDs: Along with the chance of a pregnancy, you run the risk of contracting a disease or infection. Although you are partners, have you discussed your status before alcohol consumption? Have you both been tested? Are you and your partner exclusive or are you allowed to have sex with other people? What is the status of your/their other partners? When you drink alcohol, it is easy to forget the predetermined guidelines you may have set for sex. Which leads to the next risk…

Sexual assault: Consent cannot be given by someone who is under the influence of alcohol. You may think that you and your partner are awake, however, studies show that some people who are drunk may be “blacked out” but still able to “function.” It may seem as if they are fully aware of their surroundings but they actually aren’t which leaves them vulnerable and possibly agreeing to things they wouldn’t normally do sober. Also, just because you are in a relationship, does not mean you or your partner want to participate in any sexual act outside of your “normal” activity. Are you confident that both of you will feel the same way after the alcohol wears off?

Again, it is better to avoid sexual contact while intoxicated. If you are using alcohol as a way to get comfortable to have sex, you may need to reevaluate if you are ready for the act. Check out The Talk with Dreaux to determine if you are ready for sex.