Contracts and Consent

by Randall S. Frederick


Now that Fifty Shades of Grey has exited the daily conversations about BDSM and our attention has moved on to other issues within the Kink community, it’s important to come back to the idea of contracts.

Many people are either grossed out or simply uncomfortable with the idea of contracts because it feels like you’re entering into something you can’t easily get out of. It makes the arrangement between individuals formal and professional, taking the spontaneous element out of sex. 

To this, let me say four things right away: Yes. I agree. You’re right. It does.

But what’s so bad about that? Having a formal discussion about limits, expectations, interests and needs is actually a really great idea, isn’t it? Assuming you don’t want to be surprised, have the mood interrupted, or experience the jarring (and, frankly awkward) moment when a partner demands to be tied up with no prior discussion of being interested in that, contracts are an excellent way to calmly and rationally consider what you’re willing to do and have done to you during sex. You’re right, it takes the sexy mood, the sexy sex sexiness out of the equation and that’s a great way to talk about things – sexual or otherwise. It removes hasty promises and forces you to find out what you really want, to listen to what your partner wants, and to talk honestly and, I hope, honestly.

The big issue that many in the kink community took with “the contract scene” in Fifty Shades of Grey was that it was filmed like a list of increasing kinks, meant to shock. That’s not what a contract should be about – a shopping list of limits. “Ms. Steele consents to having German death metal music playing in the background while suspended from the ceiling by fish hooks pinned to her shoulders and earlobes.” Uhh… yeah. No wonder people took issue with that. It felt out of place, jarring and poorly communicated. What’s more, there was very little discussion of what Anatasia Steele wanted, the desires of the secondary or submissive party. It was presented as a list of yes or no items to which she had to either agree immediately or be seen as a disappointing bore. Not only was that unsexy (and caused the audience to fixate on how uncomfortable the idea of contracts made them), but it was a poor presentation of what contacts are actually all about.

Contracts are about consent.

You with me? They are not simply about kinks, perversions, fetishes, and pressing the limits of the imagination. It’s not about setting hard limits. It’s about consent. Sexual contracts are always about consent. Any “contract” that is expressed as a series of violations is not a contract. It’s the shopping list of a harmful, abusive, toxic person who thinks you’re too stupid to know otherwise. You can throw that shit away.

Let’s revisit this idea and walk through it together.


As someone who managed two law firms, I know the importance of a contract. First and foremost, it’s a shared agreement – emphasis on shared and agreement. It’s also something that is referred to as a “negotiable instrument.” In the legal sense, a negotiable instrument promises an amount or a service (businesses operate on terms of goods, services, exchange, or finance). Assuming your contract does not involve money or goods (which is fine if it does – no judgment to all the Sugar Babies, Webcam Models, hustlers, and sex workers out there), the negotiable instrument is an active promise or pledge for something. 

May I use legalese for a moment?

The purpose of a contract is to establish the agreement that the parties have made and to fix their rights and duties in accordance with that agreement. The courts must enforce a valid contract as it is made, unless there are grounds that bar its enforcement.

Statutes prescribe and restrict the terms of a contract where the general public is affected. The terms of an insurance contract that protect a common carrier are controlled by statute in order to safeguard the public by guaranteeing that there will be financial resources available in the event of an accident.

The courts may not create a contract for the parties. When the parties have no express or implied agreement on the essential terms of a contract, there is no contract. Courts are only empowered to enforce contracts, not to write them, for the parties. A contract, in order to be enforceable, must be a valid. The function of the court is to enforce agreements only if they exist and not to create them through the imposition of such terms as the court considers reasonable.

All of us enter into contracts – whether expressed (in writing or orally) or implied (assumed based on precedent or historical behaviors) – as a part of our lives.

There is, for example, an assumed contract with my family that I will be there for them emotionally and materially.

There is a contract that I enter into with my students every semester called a syllabus.

When I am hired for a writing job or teaching opportunity, I sign a contract.

When I ask my girlfriend out to dinner, that’s a contact. An offer is made. The parties – my girlfriend and myself – either accept or reject that offer based on the terms. Perhaps the terms are rejected and an alternative is provided. I want a salad, she wants pizza and in the process of talking it through, I come to recognize that a pizza for dinner sounds better than my idea of a salad, so I agree to pizza. Because I was the one who started the conversation and I am the one asking her out, I agree to pay. I assume she will pay next time. Voila, contract.

The discomfort we feel when it comes to sexual contracts says a lot about how we have experienced previous contracts, compromises, and arrangements with our partners in different arenas of life. For example, in my home state, we have something called an “At Will Clause” in employment contracts, which means either party (the person hiring or the person working) can walk away from the contact at any time, for any reason, at will or whenever they want. Almost everyone I know – both the employer and the employed – has suffered from this clause at some point because it means you’re doing your best to be a good worker, to earn your money, to be present and accountable at work when suddenly you have been terminated and – having not anticipated this – you find yourself without a check, having to start all over. You’re a good manager. You train a new hire. You spend time and energy investing in them only to see them “climb the ladder” and use the job you gave them as a placeholder, a rung in their ladder to something else. That’s a bad place to be, no matter your industry.

Think about the contracts you enter into whenever you buy something from the store. You buy a toaster or a sandwich press, for example, and when you get it home you find that it is defective and doesn’t work. Thankfully, you entered into an informal contract. It wasn’t written anywhere immediately evident, say on the product itself or on a receipt, but you know your store has a return policy that allows you to return it unopened – ah! And there is the rub! You opened it and it was only then, once you opened it (and voided the contract) that things went wrong! Now you have an item that doesn’t work and you’re out of money!

My point here is that the hesitance that we feel around contracts is justified. Many of us have either been done wrong or know someone who has been done wrong. I get it.

However, that’s what is so great about relational and sexual contracts. You can be an active participant in the construction of it and bend the contract in your favor. You can make trade-offs. Maybe you don’t like giving blowjobs, but your partner enjoys getting them. What are they willing to trade, what are they willing to give you in exchange for this service, what are they willing to do to get you to do this thing that you’re not super enthusiastic about? 

I use this example because I know a woman who “negotiated” with her husband about blowjobs. She didn’t like giving them, but he enjoyed them immensely. They agreed that if he liked them so much, he would have to pay her – with cash – and she agreed. At first, it started with buying her things. Three blowjobs for a pair of shoes. Ten for an expensive dress. But she found that every time she wore those articles, they were “the blowjob shoes” or “the blowjob dress” in her mind. While she felt a private thrill at this, especially when her husband would smirk at her and tilt his head in their shared secret, she didn’t enjoy them as much as she thought she would because it didn’t make her feel good about herself. She renegotiated this contract for direct payment in cash. They found that they still had a secret between them, that instead of “cheapening” things, that it somehow excited them more. She felt like she had “earned” something instead of being “given” something and, to her surprise, she found the entire situation amusing and began to enjoy giving more blowjobs, to raise the price, to not only make him pay her, but beg to pay her for them. She felt a thrill in the knowledge that she could “earn a raise” and he would not only agree to her demands for a raise, but enthusiastically pay and then even tip her!

For the two of them, the contract was never written. It was just agreed on verbally. And, after all, how was their “contract” any different from other couples who had entered into similar contracts? Couples very often divide the labor of their apartment or home – he takes out the trash, she changes the catbox. She earns the money and her wife is the one who actually pays them and keeps the receipts. He picks up the kids after school, his husband cooks the meals and has dinner ready by six o’clock every night. 

For many of us, we know ourselves and we have been hurt when a partner makes all kinds of wild promises in the moment and then “forgets” or dismisses the things they said in the heat of the moment. It’s not always love-dovey. How many of us have said something like

God, I’m so horny I would be willing to do anything right now.

I’d like to cover you in honey and lick it right off your body.

I’d like to be tied up.

Take it all. Own me. I want you to own every part of me. 

When the moment comes though, we insist we never said those things. 

That’s the point of a sexual contract – to take our irrational horny mind and use it to navigate and recognize our desires, but to think through those desires and say, “Yeah. I think I really would be willing to have sex in the woods… or in a theater… or use nipple clamps… or have you tell me what to do… or watch porn with you… or have a threesome” outside of the passion of the moment.

I suppose what many objected to with that scene in Fifty Shades was actually committing things to writing. They objected to what they saw in the book and on the screen because it was easier to look at these artifacts rather than give attention to their own relationships, to actually naming those exchanges, trades, and responsibilities they were already participating it.

Why is this? I suppose many felt like I did at the time, that what they saw in Anastasia and Christian was an inequity in their own lives and relationships. If pressed, they felt their partnerships were not equal or that they were giving something at a “cheaper” rate than what they felt it was worth.

Now, I’m not saying this is the case for everyone, but I’m quite certain that we know what I am talking about here. We invest in our relationships and we invest in our sexual partners. After all, we won’t lick just anyone’s asshole just because it’s their birthday, will we? I’m guessing not. And when we recognize that inequity once it has been put in print, we recognize what we are worth to our partner. We recognize what our shame is worth. How much our orgasms are worth. How much our emotional and physical investment is worth. And we begin to feel… well… like this “fun” thing isn’t as much fun anymore.


In Talmudic literature, a marriage between two Jewish people is formalized in a contract called the ketubah (כְּתוּבָּה). While many non-Jews assume this is another word for “pre-nuptial agreement” or a restrictive, archaic remnant of ancient culture, that’s not what it is.

The ketubah outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom in relation to the bride. This often included dowry and conditions of divorce should it come to that, but that’s looking at the end of a thing before it even begins. If you’re focusing on the terms of divorce, rather than the terms of the relationship, you’re missing the entire substance of what the ketubah is about.

Rabbis (or scholars) of Jewish literature and culture have had a more expansive understanding over those centuries. In modern practice, the ketubah has no agreed monetary value and is seldom enforced by civil courts, except in Israel. Rabbis in ancient times insisted on the marriage couple entering into the ketubah as a protection for the wife, the presumed “lesser” party (lesser in the sense of social mobility, expectations, and finances). It acted as a replacement of the biblical mohar, the price paid by the groom to the bride (or her parents, depending on their own degree of finance and social restriction) for the marriage, or the bride price. We see this concept appearing regularly in Europe, even in the romantic literature of Jane Austen where the price paid to a family for their daughter was the means of their entire salvation.

The only difference between the two systems, the ketubah and mohar, was the timing of the payment. The ketubah served as a contract, whereby the amount due to the wife (the bride-price) came to be paid in the event of the cessation of marriage, either by the death of the husband or divorce. Both the mohar and the ketubah amounts served the same purpose: the protection for the wife should her support by her husband cease, either by death or divorce. A modern secular equivalent would be the entitlement to alimony in the event of divorce. The ketubah amount served as a disincentive for the husband contemplating divorcing his wife: he would need to have the amount in order to be able to pay to his wife.

While contemporary readers place emphasis on the penalty should the man change his mind, the rabbis have consistently held across time, culture, and region, a focus on the responsibility of relationships and sexual activity. Sex, for many of us, is not some light, trifling thing and committing our intentions (and responsibilities) in writing to one another is a sacred thing. After all, how many of us have experienced a partner doing something wrong but we forgive them when they plead yes, okay, alright, they did something wrong, but it was an unspecified and uncommunicated thing. Then again, how many of us have told our partner not to do it again and – having now discussed it thoroughly (aha! a contract!) – see them do us wrong in that same way?

The first offense feels like a mistake. The second feels like a betrayal. It’s not because we enterted into a contract with them, it’s because we hold that contract, that responsibility of our trust and affection, as a sacred thing.

Focus on the penalties when things go wrong is kind of missing the point; the point is to make us think about what we are doing and how much we are willing to give up, how much we are willing to risk, to ensure our partner knows we are committed and actually want to be with them. 

In my current relationship, this became something we began to concern ourselves with when we moved in together. Like many couples, we talked about “rent” and what shared responsibility of the home would look like. Apart from the basic staple of moving in, I felt it important to regularly “check in” and remind my partner how much she is worth to me. I think, like many people who couple up with someone they enjoy and love, there comes a point where you do not feel obligated to “work things out” but want to make promises and want to write them down. You want to commemorate things, to have markers, documents, artifacts like love letters and cards and photographs. The contract (and the evidence of it: the photos, the love letters and postcards, whatall) do not feel like a heavy thing but something that frees us.

In like kind, each of us can memorialize and celebrate the sexual part of our relationship with a contract, sharing in an ongoing secret that formalizes what we want and what we’re willing to do. That doesn’t feel icky, squicky, weird, or uncomfortable but instead like a natural extension and embodiment of ourselves. 

So I ask here: Whatever “contract” you have entered into with a partner, whether relational or sexual, does it bring joy and life to the partnership? Or does it feel like a weighty obligation?


Contracts, I would remind you, are about coming to an agreement. They are supposed to be consensual, where both parties agree.

Discussing the contract and viewing it as an ongoing document subject to revision is so very important because holding this perspective reminds you that the contract isn’t final and it’s not something out to get you. It’s something that protects you and leaves the door open for good things.

Like my friends, your blowjobs might be so good that you deserve a raise!

Still, joking aside, as Carole Pateman writes in her 1988 The Sexual Contract, the very idea of articulating a contract where both parties are equal is a liberal fantasy. There is no such thing as true equity in any relationship, whether sexual, professional, or otherwise. The contract, Pateman assets, “is the means through which modern patriarchy is constituted.” In a nutshell, her work challenges contract theory in philosophy and ethical discussions. Contract theory is the study of how people and organizations construct and develop legal agreements. It allows a reader or philosopher or ethicist, or even the common person like you and me to analyze how parties with conflicting interests build formal and informal contracts, even tenancy (the unexpressed conditions in which we live with one another that guide our behavior).

Contract theory draws upon principles of financial and economic behavior, as I do above, understanding the different parties of a union have their own incentives and motivations to perform or not perform particular actions. But it does not account for the constant flux of negotiations and renegotiations which inevitably create inequity, as Pateman points out. For too many of us, our partnerships become fixed and rigid rather than ongoing, pliant, and alive. That rigidity is manifest evidence that the parties are no longer equal.

Said differently, the traditional relationship between a man and woman is divided into specific gender roles. The man will work outside the home and provide, leaving the woman to nurse, raise, and educate his young as well as deliver food which he has provided her to, in turn, provide to him upon command. While this may feel oppressive, it certainly clarifies things and allows mental and emotional energy to expended elsewhere. Conversations are simplified. Decisions are more easily made. He makes decisions about where they will go out to eat, she makes decisions about which sheets they’ll be using for which season. We see ourselves as moving past all this. We live in the Twenty-First Century, after all! Which is why Patemen does the uncomfortable thing of reminding us we’re not as progressive as we think. Relationships can stagnate, falter, and become unhealthy.

Pateman begins her work claiming, “the very influence of contract theory threatens to bury the sexual contract more deeply than before and further marginalize feminist argument(s) critical of contract(s)… despite controversy for more than a decade among feminists about the concept of patriarchy, remarkably little attention has been paid to the contractual character of modern patriarchy.”  

In this way, even the above discussion of contracts as I put it forward misses the point because it assumes equality can be reached, that balance can be negotiated between parties who are self-interested. It even assumes equality is something desirable which, for many partners, isn’t the dynamic they want.

As a result of this inattention to inherent privileges and the unspoken authority (re: superiority) of one of the parties, much of our understanding of society and culture, of relationships and liaisons, are based on the suppositions of contracts. The Declaration of Independence, for example, is seen as a contract without ever engaging in said contract with a specified second party. Marriage has long been seen as a contract. Even the syllabus I offer my students each semester is, of course, a contract.

An explanation for the binding authority of state and civil law, and for the legitimacy of modern civil government is to be found by treating our society as if it has originated in a contract.” Is it any wonder, then, that we cringe to see two characters discussing the terms of a relationship with something as manifest as a contract? “We hear an enormous amount about the social contract; a deep silence is maintained about the sexual contract.

Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract (1988), page 1

While Pateman’s work is appreciated by political theorists and those in Gender Studies, it was quickly dismissed, even forgotten, by popular audiences who found the work heady and expressive of a condition well known by women. Despite Betty Friedan’s seminal work in inequity inside the home, the sexual contract was a problem without a name. Facing and confronting it neither spoke to radical feminists nor the domestic housewife. 

Already being forgotten, in a review of The Sexual Contract two years after the work was published, editor Nancy J. Hirschmann of the journal Political Theory writes, 

In contemporary Western society, where women and men are ostensibly accorded equal rights and opportunities, why is it that women still earn lower wages than men and form the “pink-collar ghetto”? Why are large numbers of women prostitutes and why are they on the whole so poor? Why is a woman who agrees to bear a child for a man who is not her husband dubbed a “surrogate” mother? And why must this particular contract be one of specific performance? More generally, why have women not been able to use the freedom and equality that liberalism articulates to address these inequities through better contracts? Carole Pateman’s The Sexual Contract suggests that the problem is not women’s inability to negotiate for themselves, to create “good” contracts: rather, the problem is the contract itself. The liberal construction of contract is based upon the subjection of women, so that women’s use of contracts helps perpetuates their oppression.

Nancy J. Hirschmann, “Review: The Sexual Contract” Political Theory, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Feb., 1990), pp. 170-174

Past understandings of contract and women’s relation to the public realm have generally focused on the fact that women have been excluded. Women have, historically, been barred by law and custom from voting and holding office (the social contract), from working, from equal employment opportunities, and from bargaining units such as unions (the employment contract); women have been forced by custom and economic means into marriage and even prostitution (the sexual-slavery contract).

However, what is “modern” about this patriarchy is the contractural “story” it imposes on relations between men and women (and, expanding on Pateman’s work, on lesbian, gay, and other nontraditional partnerships). For Pateman, the social contract is based on the sexual contract and it can rightly be asked why sex “so rarely been seen as an example of political power?” (54).


Which is why we must see the history of the sexual contract not in light of recent discourse, but in light of what it has been for centuries: a document of protection. 

When we focus on what can go wrong – and yes, that is certainly something of which we should be continually mindful – we lose sight of what is already committed to print that brings us joy and comfort, that which fulfills our desires and affirms them as acceptable and welcomed.

Dr. Stephanie Buehler, a certified sex therapist and founder of the Beuhler Institute, says that many couples and an increasing number of non-monogamous sexual partners negotiate a contract to make things clearer between them and improve their activities, specifically “who is going to initiate sex, how often the couple will have sex, what types of sex acts will occur, and what will happen after sex.  The contract might also include small details, such as whether eyes will be open or closed, room lit or dark, music on or off, and even whether lube and toys will be used.”

She emphasizes that having a contract does not have to mean anything complicated or especially detailed. By way of example, Dr. Buehler summarizes the issues between recent clients who came to her for couples counseling.

Wendy and Lee have never openly discussed their sex contract, which has been the same for several years:

  • We will have sex once a week, rain or shine.
  • We will always brush our teeth and shower before sex.
  • We will keep lube by the bed but we try not to need it.
  • For about every three times we have sex in the missionary position, we will have sex about once with Wendy on top.
  • If Wendy doesn’t have an orgasm during intercourse, Wendy will use a vibrator on herself for release.
  • We will kiss afterward, say “I love you,” and go to sleep.

Julia and Tim openly discuss their sex contract regularly, and it evolves over time.  Here is what their contract looks like now:

  • Julie gives Tim a clear signal that she is open to initiation and Tim does so, unless he really is not in the mood.  If that is the case, he tells Julie and assures her that he will initiate as soon as he is rested, relaxed, feeling better, etc.
  • Tim will let Julie know if he needs extra stimulation to get aroused.  Julie will understand that this doesn’t mean that Tim isn’t turned on by Julie, he just wants more foreplay for himself.
  • Julie decides if she needs lubricant.  She can choose to use the expensive luxury brand or the cheap one she can drizzle freely.
  • They keep a locked toy chest under the bed.  The key is on the nightstand.  Either one of them can dangle the key to show they want to play.
  • Tim likes rear entry, Julie likes to face each other, so they trade off and decide what position they’d like to be in during climax.
  • If Julie doesn’t orgasm, then she can decide if and how she’d like to come.

A sex contract is just an agreement between two partners about how sex is going to happen. Although Tim and Julie don’t have a formal agreement, they let each other know if something isn’t working and talk together to change it. The sex contract may be openly negotiated and settled, or it may be entirely secret from both partners, which is why being explicit is so helpful – it helps partners communicate and prioritize sex and intimacy while reducing confusion and painful emotions resulting from misunderstandings.

Both contracts are perfectly acceptable. But what about unspoken contracts? If Wendy or Lee is unhappy, how would either partner know? What if one partner is afraid to say anything because the whole negotiation might break down and sex will be off the table? How will they handle their sex life if things change, like their bodies, their turn on’s, their drives, or their obligations outside of the relationship?

Dr. Stephanie Beuhler, “The Sex Contract: Every Couple Has One” (2019)

What this creates, then, is a condition where your sex life is stuck in neutral. For some, that’s fine. Passive neutrality is workable for you. If your partner wants to spice things up, you’re okay with that. If they are busy at work, too tired, disinterested, or “handling things” with porn, you’re okay with that too. Having sex is fine, but not especially important. But for most of you (because you’re even reading this article and especially because you’ve come this far with this specific article), that’s not enough. You want to be more proactive about this part of your life, more enthusiastic about the kind of sex you are having, or maybe need some help talking about it with your partner.

This is why having a contract is so important. It makes things clear and, by putting it in writing, it makes things explicit. If your partner only wants sex once a week, then you know that and can talk through it. Having a contract, doing the work, makes statements something partners can come back to and use to explain how they are thinking, feeling, and relating to one another. It makes things explicit. And coming to that point requires that these kinds of conversations take place, that you communicate and negotiate until you understand one another and form an agreement.


What kinds of things are (or will be) in your sex contract? Do you have a sex contract that needs to be explored?  Is it time to renew the current contract, or do you need to toss it and draw up a new one? Such conversations can be tricky at first, but become easier with practice.

Try negotiating one part of your sex life first.

Want practice? Try to negotiate about the negotiation; try approaching your partner about building a contract together. You haven’t actually worked out what the contract would look like, you’re just trying to get them to agree to sitting down and making it a priority or getting them to acknowledge why doing that feels intimidating to them.

Explain to them that you want to “check in” and write some things down, take notes of what you are both saying. Do you think you could convince your partner to sit down with you and do that? Are they open to the idea?

Once you’ve done that and see how funny (or confusing or intimidating) it can be, debrief. Talk about what the “negotiating on whether to negotiate” negotiation brought up for them. Were they open and receptive? Were they eager or angry?

Hopefully, this icebreaker opened them up to a higher form of communication. Hopefully, they are willing to engage and share. I sincerely hope that. So, assuming you are both ready, you can help your partner by telling them why having a sexual contract is important to you. Some common issues addressed in sex contracts include:

  • Marital Status
  • Confirms parties are of legal age of consent (this will vary by state)
  • Birth control methods (ex: condoms, hormones, shots, pills, patches, rings, IUDs, etc.
  • Disclosure of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Actions permitted during intercourse
  • Acknowledgment that your partner’s judgment is not impaired by alcohol or drugs or, if drug use is something you both sometimes participate in, whether one person should always be sober during sex to ensure safety and security

Sex contracts are also great for those who enjoy fetishes, extreme lifestyles, and role-playing which may be more explicit and include such issues as safe words, who may participate, boundaries, or costuming requirements.

Here, I would recommend looking at my “Yes/No/Maybe List” article or downloading my FREE PDF. Be sure to print enough copies for you and your partner(s).


Great, so now you’re ready to actually make the contract.

How do you do it? Here’s an example.

This contract is in effect from (date) to (date) unless one of the undersigned retracts this contract in writing.

(Name of Person 1) and (Name of Person 2) affirm that we are over the age of 18 and legally capable of signing this contract on our own behalf. 

Consent of Physical Contact

I consent to the sexual activities initialed below; non-initialed activities are non-consensual and indicate a violation of this contract if initiated.

(list activities you wish to engage in – feel free to copy and paste from the above Yes / No /Maybe List)

(activities) (initials of person 1) (initials of person 2)

______________________________         __         __

______________________________         __         __

______________________________         __         __

Contract Revision

Contract may be revised upon agreement by both parties. 

Contraception Method

Intimate contact will include (contraception method), provided by/ ingested by (person).

Exclusivity Agreement or Terms of Violation

(Person 1) and (Person 2)’s signatures indicate an agreement of exclusivity; sexual contact with another individual is / is not a violation of this contract. 

Violation of Contract

A violation of any aspect of this contact will result in (agreed upon repercussions).


My signature indicates my understanding and agreement of this contract and the terms herein. 

(Signature of Person 1) (date)

(Signature of Person 2) (date)

Of course, the legality of a sexual contract is debatable. One of the most common misconceptions about a sex contract is that it will protect you against rape charges or responsibility for children.

Let’s be clear on this: No matter how many contracts you, your partner, or your “friend with benefits” signs, the option to say “no” cannot be signed away. You always have a choice and sexual violation is still a crime, even if nonconsensual/ rape play (or consensual non-consent) is stated in the contract.

While a sex contract may at least provide proof that your partner did at least initially agree to sex, it will not prevent you from being charged with rape, assault, physical violence, or other criminal acts.

On a similar note, a sex contract is also not likely to absolve you of your legal and financial obligations in the event of a pregnancy. The court is likely to argue that a woman does not have the legal right to sign away a child’s right to support. State and federal laws are still in place and will supercede whatever agreements are made. Remember that a sex contract may or may not provide you any legal protection in a court of law. If you are concerned about protecting your legal rights, consult a local attorney and educate yourself about the sex laws of your state.

Even so, it does serve a purpose, especially when dating or when the sex is casual without other commitments like marriage or shared residence. A carefully considered contract will make sure you and your partner have a mutual understanding of what is about to happen, any sexual health issues you may have, and what sort of birth control is in place. While many may argue that sex contracts take the romance out of dating, it is important to ensure that both you and your partner understand the ramifications of intercourse before you begin. A contract may be just the thing to help take some of the awkwardness out of what many might consider an embarrassing situation. By taking the time to treat sex as a serious act that may lead to serious consequences, you may actually be opening the door to better communication with your date, and better communication can lead to a more enjoyable sexual experience for both of you.

Further Reading:

  • “New App Creates Legally Binding Contracts for Consensual Sex” by Chelsea Ritschel of The Independent
  • Yes, No, Maybe Lists” by Randall Frederick of Sexuality & the City

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