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How to Ask for Digital Consent

By Gigi Engle

We could all use more clarity when it comes to asking for digital consent, especially before engaging in virtual intimacy over text, audio, or video. And because virtual intimacy has become more popular than ever over the course of the pandemic, it’s important that everyone in the Bumble community feels safe, comfortable, and respected—particularly those who are disproportionately at risk of sexual harassment.

So how do you actually ask for digital consent to take your chat to a more sexual place? What are the boundaries? If you’re unsure about these questions—and even if you feel pretty sure!—read on. And if you still have questions about what is and isn’t allowed on the app, take a look at our guide to what constitutes sexual harassment on Bumble, which is intended to keep our whole community safe.

What is digital consent?

Consent is when someone gives you an enthusiastic “yes” to a specific intimate or sexual request. In order to get the “heck yes,” you must first ask if the intimate or sexual digital behavior is wanted. 

At Bumble, sending any sort of sexual content without consent isn’t allowed and could result in having your account banned. The reason for this? Consent is crucial, and sending unsolicited lewd imagery, sending sexual messages, trying to have virtual sex, or even sending sexually suggestive emojis or gifs without the consent of the other person could make them feel uncomfortable, triggered, or violated. 

While you may be miles away from the person you’re messaging, any of the above behaviors could be considered sexual harrassment if they are unwanted or unwelcome—and, in the case of sending lewd images without consent, a criminal offense in some jurisdictions, including in Bumble’s home state of Texas.

Keep in mind that asking for consent is necessary even if you’ve engaged with this person intimately before. A person’s feelings about engaging intimately can change from month to month and even day to day. Boundaries and comfort levels can even change in a single conversation; if, for example, you’re talking with someone about how much you like kissing, and then start talking about how much you like oral sex, it might be unwelcome. (And know that it’s always okay to change your mind about what you are and aren’t okay with.) 

The bottom line: always ask first. When you ask for consent, you’ll be able to fully focus on having a fun interaction together rather than worrying about whether or not your partner is fully on board.

How do you ask for consent without dampening the mood?

When it comes to asking for consent, the best policy is to be as straightforward as possible. The notion that asking someone for permission to engage with them intimately (whether in person or virtually) is unsexy just isn’t true. Your matches will appreciate the fact that you asked first. In order to gain digital consent, a certain level of reading the room is involved. If you feel like the conversation is heading in a sexual direction you can say one of the following:

“I’d love to show you exactly how I feel. Can I send you a nude photo?” (‘Nude’ can also be subbed out for “sexy,” if what you mean is a photo where you are clothed).

“I feel like there’s something between us here. Would you be interested in sexting with me?”

“I’m really enjoying this conversation a lot. Would you like to take it to a more intimate level? I’d love to tell you what I’d do if we were together right now.”

“Would you want to have video sex with me? No pressure either way. I just think it would be fun since we’re having such a good chat.” 

Remember to be respectful while being straightforward. Asking for consent in a vulgar or aggressive way can be harmful, unwelcome, and is unlikely to lead to a “yes!”

Also, know that consent to engage in a sexual conversation doesn’t extend to consent to engage in physical sexual activities, and sharing intimate images with someone doesn’t give them permission to share those images with others.

Accepting rejection in a gracious manner reflects well on you

Becoming rude towards a match for refusing your offer of intimate engagement can get you reported, and becoming abusive can result in getting banned from Bumble. Everyone has a right to decide their comfort level with any kind of intimacy. For this to happen, you need to have the permission of both people to move forward. 

If someone you’re chatting with refuses your request for digital intimacy, you can simply reply with a “No worries!” or a “Sure, no problem.” If you aren’t interested in continuing the conversation after that, that’s your choice to make—but being kind and respectful is paramount.

At Bumble, we understand that sex and intimacy are an important part of building relationships. So always ask for consent, treat your match with respect, and have fun.