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Respect and relationships

Aine breaks it down to the three Cs: consent, communication and comfort.

Written by Aine O Connell | View this authors Twitter page and posted in opinion

This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for please contact

"To me, it’s the three Cs: consent, communication and comfort"

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Sex has never been simple.  Be it your first time, your hundredth time, the love of your life or a quick hookup, sex can surprise you when you least expect it. Fast-forward to when Snapchat, Skype and sexting are added to the mix – suddenly, sexual relationships have got very complicated.

Not only do young people have to worry about STIs and contraception, but we’re also faced with the (sometimes uncomfortable) reality of Snapchat screenshots, texts sent to the wrong person and a whole host of other issues! For young people, the sexual revolution is here, and it’s been digitised.

So what does it all mean? I’m not going to whip up a “moral panic” on this issue, because thankfully the crucial aspects of sex have remained the same. Respect is number one. But what does respect mean? To me, it’s the three Cs: consent, communication and comfort. No matter what the situation, this “Big Three” should always be present.

Consent is, of course, the jumping off point when discussing respect and sex. I read an article recently that suggested that we “hold out for enthusiasm” and I think that that’s hugely relevant to 21st century sexual relationships. Consensual sexual activity is not “Okay, FINE” and taking your top off to send a snap. 

Sexual activity shouldn’t be so half-hearted, because like all sexual activity, it’s supposed to be fun. The same applies in real life, too. Not feeling the love on a particular night? Maybe you just feel like making out, instead? The importance of understanding another person’s needs/wants is what consent boils down to. Be aware of your partner’s desires, and your own, too.

This leads me on to my next point: communication. As I said earlier, sex is hella complicated. People have different wants, different needs, different things that make them comfortable. Being in tune with this is not only respectful, but it’s going to make you fairly good in bed. Communication is important for so many aspects of sex – if your partner is hurting during the experience, or if they suggest something a little “outside the box”.

This is a situation you hear of pretty frequently – how do you respond to a slightly “weird” request from a partner? Well, you can’t laugh it off, but if you aren’t comfortable with complying, it’s best not to. Respecting another person’s sexual desires doesn’t mean complying with them – this is when communication comes in. Maybe find a compromise, depending on the situation. Like all tricky situations, talking solves more problems than you’d think!

I mentioned being comfortable earlier, which is my final point regarding respectful, awesome sex. Comfort is particularly relevant to “digital sex” and it’s important to understand the boundaries your partner has. Look at it this way: you might be 100% comfortable with your body and whipping it all off for a quick Snapchat, but maybe the receiver is much shyer.

Body confidence comes in swings and roundabouts for most of us – everyone feels unsexy sometimes! It’s important to know what you’re comfortable with so you’re able to communicate “the line” to your partner. Likewise, respect your partner’s boundaries – if someone isn’t comfortable with partaking in a certain sexual act, it’s probably not a good idea to try and will them into it.

The discussion of sex and respect is one that goes back a long way and isn’t stopping anytime soon – and that’s a great thing. Consent, communication and comfort are just three things that make for more respectful sex. The digital world is a minefield for ignoring these “rules” so it’s definitely important to remember in that context too. No matter what the sexual situation, remembering the importance of respect and all that that involves – for you and your partner – is not only going to make sex safer, but loads more fun!

Watch's video on the three C's here:

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Published Novem­ber 11th2013
Tags sex respect relationships
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