Set your own boundaries
Having clear boundaries will give you the confidence to talk about consent in a healthy and respectful way when you’re in an intimate and sexual online relationship.
Personal boundaries are often influenced by life experiences and popular culture, like the movies you have watched or online games you might have played.
Some of your experiences may have been positive, while others may have caused you confusion, distress or trauma. For example, you might have been influenced by a culture of ‘victim blaming’, where the victim of sexual violence is unfairly blamed even though it’s not their fault.
Some people learn about consent in sexual relationships from watching online pornography, but this is not always a good guide. Online pornography that minimises the importance of consent and respect may lead to unrealistic and damaging ideas about sexual pleasure and intimate relationships. For example, pornography that shows women as sexual objects and the subject of violent and degrading abuse gives a distorted view of power and consent in intimate relationships.
Questioning what may have influenced your ideas of what is (or is not) healthy, respectful and comfortable will help you to set your own boundaries around how you treat other people and allow them to treat you. Try to separate what you think you should be comfortable doing and what you actually want to do. You don’t have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable, and neither does your partner. Use these questions to help set your boundaries:
- What feels right for me in an intimate and sexual relationship?
- What do I feel comfortable doing?
- Do I want to send and receive nudes online?
- Would I want to share an intimate moment with someone else online – for example in a live video call?
- Would I want to record it?
- Am I comfortable giving permission for someone to record or screenshot this sexual activity or intimate image with others?
- Do I feel comfortable telling someone what I want to happen with any images or videos that I share? Should I tell them to delete them later on and not to share them with anyone else? Am I sure I could trust them?
- Do I know what to do if someone with bad intentions uses my intimate image or videos to threaten or blackmail me?
Remember, it’s OK to adjust or change your boundaries depending on the person you are with, the circumstances and the type of intimate relationship you want.
If you’re unsure about setting boundaries, you could talk to someone you trust and ask them to give their perspective to help you, or contact a counselling and support service.