When people talk about consent, they usually emphasize that you always have the right to turn down sex — which is true. But you don't hear often enough that it's also OK to say "no" to sex you've agreed to if you change your mind. Consent is not a permanent commitment; it's an ever-changing agreement that has to constantly be re-negotiated. So, it's perfectly acceptable to end sex you've consented to at any time.
"There is no universal finish line when it comes to sex," Astroglide's resident sexologist Dr. Jess O'Reilly, tells Bustle. "You can stop having sex at any point in time. You don’t have to cross a specific finish line or achieve a specific goal to stop. You might stop because it doesn’t feel good. You might want to stop because you’re running out of time. You might want to stop because you’re experiencing pain or discomfort. You might want to stop because something about the experience feels traumatic or reminds you of a past trauma. You might simply be distracted and no longer in the mood. You might find something your partner says or does off-putting or upsetting. You might get a craving for pizza and the craving is stronger than your desire to have sex."
As the breadth of those reasons shows, there are no restrictions on what reasons you can stop for. There also aren't any rules for how you communicate it. "You don’t owe anyone an explanation, but you might want to provide some context," Dr. Jess says. "It’s up to you. Obviously, you have to prioritize your own safety and comfort, as we don’t all have the same options when it comes to sexual relationships."
Here are some lines Dr. Jess suggests to put an end to a sexual encounter if you change your mind.
"Let's Go Back To ___"
If you're uncomfortable with the current activity but you don't want to end the encounter altogether, you can suggest a different act.
"I Want To Stop"
You don't need to elaborate. If you want to stop for any reason, your partner should listen.
"I’m Not Feeling This Because ______"
Maybe you don't want to stop altogether, but something about what you're doing is bothering you. In that case, your partner can adjust it so that you're more comfortable.
"It’s Not Working For Me. Let's Stop And Regroup"
This leaves the door open to try something that works better for you.
Don't feel bad if you feel you need to be firm. There is no such thing as too firm when you're asserting your boundaries.
"I'm Feeling ___ And Need A Few Minutes"
If the experience is triggering strong feelings for you, you can talk about them with your partner if you feel comfortable.
"I’m Feeling ______ And Want To Stop And Be Alone"
It's also OK, though, if you need time to process your feelings yourself and don't want to share them.
"I’m Not Into ________. I’m Into _________"
In addition to stating what you don't like, you can say what you do like to take the encounter in a better direction.
Choose whichever lines make you most comfortable, and use them whenever you like — there really is no situation where it's not OK to say "no" to sex.