Psychologically safe sex means preserving one’s emotional, mental, and physical safety regarding sexual activity. Traditional sex education is designed to reduce teen pregnancies, decrease the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and abortions. This article intends to give young adults and their parents a more practical guide to talk about the Five W’s (What, Who, Where, When, and Why) of psychologically safe sex.
- The first W (What) is about consent. If you have not talked as a family about the ex-Stanford swimmer’s rape of an unconscious woman, Google it and talk to your son or daughter about it.Consent should be the basis for every sexual encounter. Engaging in a sexual act without the other person’s consent is considered sexual assault or rape. Consent means that both people in a sexual encounter must agree to it, and either person may decide at any time that they no longer consent and can stop the activity. Consenting once or getting to “second base” doesn’t give anyone the green light to go all the way.You must be able to answer two questions to give consent: Does the person want to give consent? Is the person capable of giving consent? The easiest way to determine if a person wants to give consent is simply to ask. This eliminates the uncertainty of guessing and trying to interpret signals.
- The second W (Who) might seem obvious, but to feel emotionally safe with intercourse the Who is someone you know well and care deeply about. Feeling psychologically safe about who you make love with is important. If you are upset about a breakup or in an emotionally vulnerable state, having another person show interest in you could feel validating, but breakup sex can be confusing and make you feel worse.
- The third W (Where) is about feeling comfortable with the location. For some couples the Where is a thrill, for others having a private and safe environment can make the moment just right. The psychologically safest Where is a location both parties agree to and is someplace you won’t regret later.
- When (at what age) to initiate sex is a decision based on family values, but also can be a legal matter. Age of consent laws (the age a person is considered legally competent to consent to sexual acts) vary widely across the globe. South Korea, for example, defines the age of consent at 13; China 14; Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Canada 16. Thirty-one U.S. states define the age of consent as 16, eight states (including New York) at 17, and twelve states (including California) set the age of consent at 18.Having sex with someone under the age of consent is legally considered a crime called statutory rape, even if the person under the age of consent says that she or he wanted the sexual behavior to take place. Let’s say a parent doesn’t like their daughter’s partner and finds out she has been sexually active, the parent may pursue legal charges against the partner even if the daughter consented. Sorry to let the air out of your sexual balloon (pun intended), but if you make sure there is not a legal cloud hanging over you, then the When will feel safe.
- Lastly, the Why is because you are in a committed relationship, emotionally you are both on the same page, you care deeply about your partner, and you both have agreed to share your affection in a physical way. As a couple if you agree on the five Ws, then perhaps making love is psychologically safe.
Consent vs. Non-consent
“Yes, I really want to. Thanks for asking!”
“I don’t know.”
“Let me think about it.”
Photos courtesy of Mark Sebastian (Flickr)
This article originally appeared on page 26-27 of beijingkids 2017 February Issue. Download the digital version here.