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Responsible Sex

Responsible, consensual sex means allowing yourself permission to say yes to what you want, and no to what you don't.

Yes implies that you have a sense of safety about the encounter; a sense that your needs, wishes, and limits will be respected enough that you can essentially relax and move with the energy that is generated between you and your partner. Yes may also mean that you know your own body well enough to be able to kindly or generously guide or help your partner in pleasuring you in a way that works well for you. While it is generally more advantageous to encourage a mood of intimacy rather than turning your sex play into an anatomy lesson, do not assume that the other can read your mind or your body. Placing sole responsibility for your sexual gratification on your partner is one sure way of leaving the encounter dissatisfied. Learning what feels good, what works for you, may mean practice and experimentation on your own. Self-massage and masturbation skills are being taught by many sex educators and therapists today to help both men and women rediscover their sensuality and unlock pleasure centers throughout the body.

No means allowing yourself to set limits; to say no to any techniques; or to the whole process if you no longer enjoy it or feel good about it. Many times your discomfort is a shared one, and your courage in calling a halt to the proceedings may be a great gift to your partner as well. When people care about each other, they respect each other's limits. Otherwise the encounter can quickly become tense, superficial, or phony. Anger and resentment build when you feel taken advantage of. Intimacy and trust flourish when you accept the other as unique and special. If you find yourself questioning Will this person respect me in the morning?" realize that you are really asking: "Will I be able to accept myself?" Your ability to integrate and to feel OK about your sexual interaction should be your guiding principle.

Many of us learned as children that it was not OK to say no to touch. Remember all those hugs and kisses from aunts, uncles, or grandparents who hugged too tight, or smelled funny, or pinched your cheeks too hard?

In order to learn that they have sovereignty over their bodies, and to learn how to say no when appropriate, children must be allowed to accept and refuse touch, even from relatives. It's hard on a parent if a son or daughter doesn't want to kiss Grandma, but it's more important that children know that we respect their feelings and the fact that they have the right to say no.

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