What are boundaries?

Boundaries are the limits that show under what circumstances you feel comfortable and safe, and where is the line where you feel exposed or in danger.

How do you figure out what your boundaries are? 

  • Boundaries are physical and non-physical: Think about what makes you feel secure or insecure. It could be physical like how do you feel about holding hands? Kissing? Having sex? Boundaries can also be non-physical things like if you’re ok with people posting about you on social media or how much alone time you need. Really think about what you would be okay with and then talk about it with your partner. Ask them what they’re comfortable with. 

  • Boundaries can change: Maybe you feel comfortable with more things as time passes and you feel closer to the other person. You might not know what your boundaries are until you are in the moment. Maybe you thought you would be okay with touching, but you get to that point and think, "Oh no! I want to stop." That is okay. You have the right to change your mind and say no.

  • Boundaries are about mutual respect: Pay attention to how you feel and respect your partner's boundaries as well. Remember, they have the right to say no and stop the situation if they want to. 

What is consent?

Consent is someone agreeing to do something. We’ll be focusing on what consent means when it comes to sex and relationships, but people consent to lots of other things too. When it comes to consent in sex, it’s about someone understanding what is happening and having a choice. 

 

Consent should be

  • Freely given: You should feel comfortable and certain that it is what you want to do. If someone is threatened, tricked, or trapped, their consent is not freely given.

  • Reversible: You have the right to withdraw consent at any time for any reason. Everyone has the right to change their mind. 

  • Informed: Each person should have the info they need to feel safe and comfortable with what is happening. 

  • Enthusiastic: You are agreeing because it is what you want to do and you’re feeling good about it. 

  • Specific: Just because you consented to one sexual act does not mean you consented to others. 

What consent is NOT

There are some situations that under the law can’t be consensual

  • If someone is drunk or high, they legally can’t consent.

  • If someone is under 17, they can’t legally consent in Colorado.

  • People who have developmental disabilities and can’t understand what is happening can’t legally consent.

 

Consent is about respect. Just because someone:

  • dressed sexy;

  • didn’t say no;

  • was drunk or high;

  • said yes to avoid something bad happening to them;

  • is in a relationship with the person;

  • isn’t pushing the other person away;

  • agreed to sex in the past;

…it doesn’t mean they are consenting!

Practicing consent

If someone is wondering whether someone is consenting to have sex or not, the best way to find out is by having a conversation. Sometimes it is awkward or hard to say the words to consent to sex but normalizing these conversations makes it so much easier. Maybe practicing helps. Give it a try! “No, I will pass, I don’t want to have sex”. Or “Yes, I want to have sex with you, I have condoms in my backpack”.

Respecting someone’s decision if they don’t consent is also important. Sure, it can feel hard to feel rejected, but it is their choice. Thinking ahead of time about how you might feel if someone doesn’t want to do something sexually with you can help you deal with those feelings. Having suggestions about something else you could do to have fun or make you feel close to each other also helps! Here you can find more tips.

What if there wasn’t consent?

If someone doesn’t respect the other person's boundaries and makes them have sex with them, that is called abuse - even if the manipulation is physical or psychological. It is an act of sexual violence and a crime, and the person abused is a victim that needs help ASAP. More information about this and resources are on the sexual violence page.