7 Things To Understand If You Want To Practice Good Consent

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Thanks to the #MeToo movement, people are becoming more conscious of how they treat others' sexual boundaries. Yet there's still some confusion over what constitutes sexual consent. Even those with the best of intentions can disrespect others' boundaries if they don't understand how to respect them.

That's where Sexual Consent, a book forthcoming from MIT Press in May 2019 by blogger, activist, and University of the West of England researcher Milena Popova, comes in. Sexual Consent teaches readers the concepts and terminology that are essential to know if you want to practice good consent in your sex life.

"We tend to think of consent as this very binary thing," Popova tells Bustle. "It was either consent or it was rape, and there's a very sharp dividing line between them. That's the way the law thinks about it: If we can't prove it was rape, then it must have been consent, the end. But actually, like pretty much anything to do with sex, consent can be quite messy. It involves humans and emotions. And it's enmeshed in all sorts of social and power structures."

What makes consent even more complex is that even when people do seemingly consent, they're often consenting under pressure, either from a partner or from society, which isn't true consent. Consent is "shaped as much — if not more — by what we think we should do and want as by what we actually want," says Popova. "So, that legalistic perspective — it was either one or the other — isn't very helpful on a day-to-day level if we want to make sure the sex we're engaging in is genuinely consensual. On that level, we need to bear in mind that we and our partners are complicated, messy human beings, be attuned to each other's feelings and responses, and respect each other's boundaries."

Here are some terms and concepts from Sexual Consent that you should learn if you want to be the most respectful partner you can be.