Ozy, having sex: “Do you want this? Are you sure you want this? Really sure? I don’t want to pressure you into anything you don’t want! I’m totally okay with not doing this thing! I just want to do what you want. I’ll be really happy regardless of what we do. Are you sure you want this? Sure you’re sure?”

Part of my consent paranoia might be that I have an anxiety disorder and anyway tend towards scrupulosity, but I feel like consent paranoia is relatively common among people who take good consent seriously. Obviously, we all stop when our partner says “no” or “stop” or “not feeling it” or “ow that hurts” or “safeword,” because not doing that is rape and if you do you are a rapist.

But a lot of times people don’t really want sex, but don’t say no for whatever reason. In my case, I know it from personal experience: I’ve had sex I didn’t really want because I wasn’t sure how to say no, or because I didn’t want my partner to be upset, or because I thought it would be bad or unfair of me to object. And you know what? Having sex you don’t want to have sucks! It’s generally unpleasant and awful for everyone.

So I get paranoid and start asking repeatedly whether my partners are absolutely sure that they want to have sex or try a particular sex act. Absolutely positively sure? You don’t have to! I don’t want to pressure you!

I imagine this gets very annoying to my sexual partners.

Worse, I get so concerned about pressuring people that I don’t ask for what I want because what if I ask for something and they feel like they have to give it to me? There are a lot of problems with this logic. First, I want people I’m fucking to ask for what they want and am continually frustrated by sex partners with no preferences whatsoever. (“I dunno, I just like sex. Sexy sex.”) Therefore people I’m fucking almost certainly want me to express my desires. Second, if my partners can’t say no to something because I asked for it, our relationship has problems that cannot be solved by not asking for things.

So this is a bit of a problem.

Ultimately, consent paranoia– in addition to being incredibly annoying to oneself and others– is disrespectful of my partner’s bodily autonomy. I do not get to decide what kind of sex they want; they do. If they say “I want this,” it isn’t my job to audit whether they really do.

I mean, good consent is still a thing. I can make saying “no” as pleasant an experience as possible (stopping as soon as my partner says “no,” not questioning their “no,” continuing to be affectionate and loving and affirming). I can check in if my partner seems to show signs of withdrawing or not being into it. I can ask my partner about their limits and respect those limits. I can be totally cool with my partner changing their mind. If my partner has issues with saying “no” to sex, we can talk about that and figure out how to cope with it.

But ultimately, they are the ones who have to say no, they are the ones who have to respond with “yeah, not feeling it” after a check-in, they are the ones who have to say what their limits are or whether they’ve changed their mind, and they are the ones who have to say “sometimes I have trouble saying ‘no,’ can you…?”

There’s a part of me that wants to Save Everyone, Everyone In The World. It’s hard to admit that I can do everything right and shit can still go wrong. It’s really hard to accept that some things are out of my control. I have to trust my partners, and sometimes that feels like jumping off a building without a bungee cord.

So basically guys if you’re having sex with me please say “no” when you don’t want something it will give me much less panic.