Curious about consent? Curious about what a healthy relationship looks like? This is a space to anonymously ask any question you want regarding sex, hookup culture, relationships, and all the things that come with them. Questions can range from how to ask your partner to try something new to figuring out if a hook up was actually a good time. We welcome different perspectives, questions, stories, and comments.
To submit a question, visit the Qs on Consent Google Form.
Submissions are answered by a volunteer student writer, in collaboration with Title IX & Bias Harassment Coordinator Timothy Dunn. If you give your permission (through a prompt in the form), we will post anonymous submissions along with our responses here and in The Mac Weekly. This is just one way for our campus to continue having important conversations about consent and healthy relationships. The volunteer student writers (Maddy Murnane and Alana Schreiber) are not experts, but are committed to helping our peers create a safer campus.
Submitted Student Questions
Your Question: How much sex is normal for a new relationship? And what happens when sex starts to take precedence over going to bed at a normal time? I’m in my first “real” relationship and these are things I hadn’t thought about before now–I’m having a great time and love my partner but am also not sure about the sustainability of having so much sex….
Our Response: To start by answering your first question, there is no “normal” in terms of sex. Some people have sex once a week, three times a week, seven times, or none at all. Even still, this number can change depending on the week. While there may be some average, there is no magical number to deem a relationship as “healthy.” Plenty of happy couples fall everywhere within that spectrum, and a number like this does not show how much you love your partner. No matter what other couples are doing, what is important is what you want to do.
What I hear from you is that you have a partner who you care deeply for, and who cares for you. A part of this caring is being able to openly communicate your needs within the relationship. This could be a great opportunity to practice this vital communication, or even to explore other ways to be intimate other than by having sex at night. The goal of the conversation does not have to be to set a number of times a week that you want or expect to have sex; even bringing your thoughts to attention can help you both learn to be more in tune with each other. Ultimately, self care, sleep, and balance are important, and your partner will respect your needs because your partner respects you.
Your Question: I hooked up with a guy while I was black out and he wasn’t. I had told him it was fine, but the more I thought about it and the more I realized I wasn’t ok after it, I kind of came to the conclusion that it was sexual assault? But how do you go back and say I changed my mind, you assaulted me a year ago? Not to mention he had been drinking, and whenever I brought it up with friends, they would kind of blow me off and say, well he had been drinking too and it’s no big deal. I don’t think he raped me, but I don’t think our interaction was consensual either. How do I define that?
Our Response: First, I want to validate what you’re going through. It makes a lot of sense to feel how you feel and it’s okay to feel this way. You are being brave by allowing yourself to be honest and reevaluate the situation. It’s not as simple as saying you “changed your mind.” Admitting to yourself that an experience you once deemed “fine” may not actually be is scary and can take time. The passing of time allows you to view events through different lenses and build the courage to be honest with yourself. It’s totally normal and healthy for your understanding of consent to grow as you learn and grow more, too. You are not expected to be able to neatly process this complicated experience in a few days, months, or even years.
The fact that this guy had been drinking does not excuse the fact that he didn’t get your consent — or more specifically, couldn’t get your consent, but chose to hook up with you anyways. It’s always both people’s responsibility to make sure their partner can give consent and he didn’t do that. What matters is how he treated you, not why he treated you that way. What matters is not whether he was drunk, but whether you both were able to give your clear consent. He doesn’t get to tell you if it was mutually consensual or “not a big deal,” and neither do your friends.
I’m sorry your friends haven’t been validating your experiences. You should be able to expect support from your friends. That being said, they don’t get to decide your emotions for you or how you carry out your relationships. There is nothing wrong with how you feel, and it is a big deal. If you aren’t able to receive the support you need from your friends, I really encourage you to check out the resources at macalester.edu/violenceprevention/support.
In terms of how you define your experience, that is your choice. Laws and policies can help provide context and definition around ambiguous experiences like this: federal laws and College policies would say that any sexual activity without consent is sexual assault, and penetration/sex without consent is rape. But you might not feel comfortable labeling your experience as rape, and that’s okay. You don’t have to definitively label the experience for it to be legitimate or “a big deal.” Your experiences and feelings are valid regardless of how you (or anyone else, your friends included) want to label what happened.
It’s scary to admit to yourself that you have experienced sexual assault or rape. It’s easy to want to call it something else, or to write it off as something that happens sometimes or is just a part of life. But at the end of the day, you could not give your consent and so your experience was nonconsensual. Regardless of what you choose to call it, that is unacceptable and no one should have to experience what you experienced. I am sorry that happened to you. If it would be helpful to talk more with someone, I’d encourage you to reach out to a confidential resource or staff from the Office of Title IX & Equity. If not, that’s okay too. Either way, I am with you. You are strong. And you are doing the right thing.
Your Question: I haven’t had sex before and I’m worried I’m going to be bad at it.
Our Response: Just because you’ve never had sex before doesn’t mean you can’t have good sex or “be good at sex.” People with a lot of sexual experiences can still have “bad sex,” and having bad sex doesn’t necessarily mean you are terrible at sex. There are lots of normal reasons why even experienced people sometimes have bad sex… like maybe you’re just not clicking, or you’re not communicating well with one another about what you want, or you’re tired, or it’s freezing in your room, or it’s the time of day or the specific way you’re having sex, or a million other random reasons.
Sex probably isn’t going to be amazing 100% of the time. But what makes sex good is when you trust and respect your partner, you both ask for and give consent, and you communicate about what you like and what you want. Telling the other person when you want to take it slower, stop, speed up, or whatever you’re feeling is important and beneficial. Taking some time with yourself to figure out what you like can also be really helpful and fun. The person you are having sex with shouldn’t judge you or not want to continue having a sexual relationship with you just because you haven’t had sex before. If the first time you have sex is bad, it doesn’t mean you are bad at sex.