Consent with Caitlin: Valentine’s gifts edition

Graphic by Haley Morkert.


Content warning: References to sexual acts and sexual violence are included in this article.

If you’re like me and you celebrate the upcoming Hallmark-crafted holiday on Feb. 14, welcome to the Valentine’s Day issue! Despite being a hopeless romantic who forever dreams of walking into a room full of beautiful flowers and seeing my super-handsome boyfriend with arms full of baby animals, I am still going to take this time to talk about less cutesy and more important stuff. 

Valentine’s Day is notorious for enjoying sexy times and maybe even sexy gifts. Don’t worry, this is still a good article even if you don’t see yourself cuddling up on Valentine’s Day. No matter what — if you plan on engaging in some R-rated activities this Sunday, make sure consent is still a part of your plans. I’m willing to bet it will make your adult activities way more fun for you and your partner.

Speaking of making adult activities more fun, you might be thinking of getting something new to spice up your and your partner’s sex life. Maybe a new toy to try, lingerie for you or your partner or something else along those lines. I’m just here to remind you that while surprises can be fun, being on the same page is so much better. 

Don’t get me wrong, a good surprise can be the perfect gift. But that doesn’t mean you should spring something new — and foreign — on your partner, especially without warning. 

So, for example, say my boyfriend and I have discussed trying something new for sexy times. We’ve talked about how it would be spicy, exciting and we are both open to it — we just haven’t gotten around to buying or incorporating it yet. That would be a great idea for a Valentine’s Day gift! We would both be on the same wavelength but it would still be a little bit of a surprise and, ideally, there wouldn’t be any pressure on either of us. 

However, if he were to gift me some sort of sexy toy or accessory that we had never discussed, I would hate it. In all honesty, that’s kind of scary. Even though we have a solid relationship, I would feel pressure to use this in the bedroom. While his intention may have been to surprise me, it would not be the right time or place to do so. Intent does not equal impact, and your partner’s feelings matter more. 

So, what happens if your partner completely surprises you with a sexy toy that you just aren’t ready for? First of all, deep breath. Secondly, you do not have to use it. It doesn’t matter that it’s a gift, if you aren’t ready yet, that’s all that matters! Thirdly, your partner should respect that.

Consent is more complex than people acknowledge. Consent needs to be given by both parties every time you have sex or engage in any sexual-related activities, and it is always retractable. But it can be simplified with basic communication — and that doesn’t have to ruin all surprises. Define what you absolutely are not comfortable with and what you may be interested in trying — of course, only when you are comfortable. And if these conversations haven’t happened, maybe wait on the sexy gifts.

So for this Valentine’s Day, I would absolutely recommend fun sexy toys or lingerie if you and your partner have both expressed interest in them. If you haven’t discussed these things, don’t try to take this holiday and use it for your own personal sexual agenda. You shouldn’t force — or even pressure — your partner to try something that only you want. 

If you think the sex could be improved and you think a sexy toy will fill that void, then maybe you should evaluate your communication instead. Instead, get them flowers, a teddy bear or a cute box of chocolates. Or be more original than that! Just don’t get them sexy stuff without everyone’s consent. Of course, consent comes in here too. You don’t even need to celebrate Valentine’s Day — please communicate with your partner and avoid assumptions. 

I guarantee, if consent is the foundation of your relationship and y’all’s sexy times, your sex will be mind-blowing. And that’s all we want, right? Consent plus communication equals amazing sex and amazing relationships.


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