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Consensual Sex Whilst Sleeping

27 March 2018 26 comments

Most of us have a pretty good idea of what consensual sex means and doesn’t mean, but what happens when we throw the act of sleep in there? Can a sleeping person give consent, and if they can’t, is it considered an act of rape? Furthermore, is it a violation which only women have a privilege to and if so, why?

Consensual Sex Whilst SleepingConsensual Sex Whilst Sleeping

There I was, fast asleep, dreaming dreams of talking unicorns and Justin Bieber in diapers (eek), when all of a sudden I woke up to find myself sighing and moaning, in the midst of a rather explicit sexual act. And not at the beginning of it, but rather smack bang in the middle - you know, the juicy part. Now how on earth did this happen?

Whilst I fumbled around in my mind trying to gather my thoughts and compute what was going on, I realised I had to quickly make sure that the man who was breathing heavily on top of me was indeed my partner. We’ve all heard of the thief who breaks into a house at some ungodly hour and on his way out jumps into the hostess’ bed (maybe a fantasy for some, but in this moment I panicked). I called my partner’s name in the dark and he answered - yep it was him. Phew I was safe. But wait - was I? What exactly happened here? Did I agree to this?

And thus we enter the elusive world of screwing around whilst you sleep (and you thought it could only be done whilst awake). I’m not talking schoolies week, passed out girls who are clearly unconscious and being taken advantage of by cowardly sexual predators. This is an act which is done usually in one’s bedroom and which many couples report to have had; where one partner, usually the man, has sex with their sleeping significant other.

According to Australian law, having sex with an unconscious person is considered as rape and since a sleeping person cannot give consent, then is this act a criminal one? The answer is not so simple, I’m afraid.

I, as an experienced kinkster, view this opaque topic with an open mind and believe each case is different and entirely dependent on the couple and their circumstances.

Personally I couldn’t think of a better way to wake up and start the day. And to be perfectly honest, after a few years of dating the same guy, it can be refreshing to wake up and for a moment wonder who this mystery man between your legs is (sorry darling if you’re reading this - you know I love you). But would I enjoy it on my first night with someone? Hm maybe, maybe not - it all depends.

Trust is the foundation for all healthy relationships and sleep sex is something that ought to be discussed and negotiated. In a healthy relationship, if sleep sex occurs and one partner dislikes it, they will most likely be annoyed you woke them up and nothing more (sometimes sleep can be sweeter than sex). In a broken relationship in which one partner refuses to have sex with the other whilst awake, then it can easily be perceived as rape. Taking into account the background story each person comes with is vital; a partner who was abused in their past may feel violated and molested by something like this. The line between compliance and consent can suddenly become ever so blurry.

I must add here that I find the gender bias attached to this act incredibly thought-provoking. I have never heard of a man accusing his female partner of sleep rape. Have you? Should different rules apply to men and women? Is this based on the social stigma which states that men are easy and always available for sex, whilst women don’t want nor need it as much? If you ask me, this seems to be an obsolete way of thinking and a classic case of double standards and gender bias.

If I am woken up by his head between my legs - is it consensual sex? Most women would say yes. If I’m woken up by his penis in my hand or mouth - is this acceptable? Most women would say no. At which point is it welcomed and at which point does it become an act of violation? Does it depend where his fingers are? Where he has placed my fingers? Do the ladies even know themselves - perhaps it depends on the day. The answer is not so straightforward.

Seeking permission from your partner prior to the act may be a good idea in theory but in practicality is flawed. Even if your partner has granted prior permission they have, at any given moment, the right to withdraw that consent and so how are you to know on which evening it’s still OK and which evening it’s really not? Agreeing on a safe word prior to the act may be the most useful way to avoid any unpleasantries as some people can sleep talk and thus the situation becomes more complex.

If you and your partner have agreed that sleep sex will be a part of your sex lives, do discuss with them from time to time if their approval still stands. And since we’re talking about your partner’s body, please be respectful with it and treat it THE SAME WAY YOU WOULD IF THEY WERE AWAKE. Don’t do things you know they wouldn’t be comfortable with - perhaps cumming on their face or sticking a finger in their ass or whatever.

I have to admit, that if we roll with the conservative black and white definition that non consensual sex = rape and a sleeping person cannot give consent, then I am guilty of the crime. For the last 3 years, on many many occasions, I have woken my partner up with various sexual deeds. I have never realised I was a danger to society....

I’d love to hear from you - what are your thoughts on sleep sex? Comment below and I’ll be sure to respond!

Written by Maggie May
Maggie May is a sexologist and a writer. She is a lover of all things sensual and sexual.

Kristal 27 March 2018 at 12:36 pm
If a person is asleep, they cannot give consent, I don't think there is any further need for discussion, couldn't be more black and white.
Maggie May 28 March 2018 at 7:32 am
Thanks for sharing your views Kristal. It is definitely a controversial topic with some people seeing it as a concise obvious matter and others looking at it with more fluidity. The jurisdiction behind it all is no doubt extremely complicated.

There is a phenomena called sexsomnia which is the person initiating sex being asleep and not remembering the night activity in the morning. Keep an eye out for that blog.
Ivy 5 April 2018 at 6:44 pm
I think something else that needs to be kept in mind is what if your partner has been assaulted in the past? A lot of people suffer from flashbacks and PTSD and being woken up to someone having sex with you (whether they're your loving partner or otherwise) could be incredibly distressing for some. This is why it's important to have the conversation when you're both awake and sober. Discuss it and see if the other party would be ok with this happening before you do it to them. If you just take it upon yourself and don't ask their thoughts on this at any point, that is not OK whatsoever.
Lyndave 12 April 2018 at 11:31 am
i would certainly agree with Ivy, however it comes down to communication, any time someone just takes it upon them selves without consent it just performing the act of rape
Maggie May 20 April 2018 at 10:45 am
Thank you for your poignant point Ivy. Taking into account your partner's history is paramount. As mentioned in the blog, if someone has a history of assault they may react very negatively to something such as sleep sex. This is precisely why, as you said yourself, that open communication and trust is the first and foremost thing to establish before even considering kinky sex.
Marina 28 March 2018 at 2:52 pm
Very interesting and thought provoking article! I quite like the idea of being woken up in the morning from my partner stimulating me and perhaps getting me aroused/waking me up at the same time. I have in many occasions have woken up my partner in this way and he really enjoys that... Having said that, I don’t think I would like it if I woke up in the middle of a full act or him using my body in various ways while I was clearly sleeping. It’s a very personal thing and every relationship is different. I definitely don’t think is a black and white or clear cut topic at all...
Maggie May 20 April 2018 at 10:49 am
Thanks for sharing Marina, it certainly seems like "Terms and conditions apply" for most.
Marie 29 March 2018 at 8:36 am
It’s absolutely mad that someone would consider this as rape. I am female and I totally agree with the gender bias comment Maggie - men love being woken up with sex yet women don’t. Whaaa? You should share this on Facebook and see what conversations start up there as people don’t comment as much here as they do on Fb. I’d like to hear what others have to say. I think if you’re woken up and you don’t like it then tell your partner or push him off. If he still keeps going yes it’s rape. Before that no it’s not. You don’t know what you’re doing sometimes your hips and vagina might be into it but you’re still a bit asleep. Who knows!
john smith 3 April 2018 at 9:31 pm
Ive actually had a partner wake me up, jump my bones with crazy wild sex and then the next morning when i commented she didnt remember a thing. she “sleep sexed” me. She was completely oblivious to it. this went on for about a week. we even set up a night camera so she could see herself doing it as she had no recollection at all. to me she seemed wide awake and alert it wasnt just star fish sex it was proper passionate sex. We even sought out a sex therapist for an answer.
Glenn 1 April 2019 at 6:48 am
Been in the same predicament I have never knocked it back off either of my wives. As I start early 3am it deffinatly beats waking up to an alarm clock but the felling isn't reciprical as the cook complains that she can't get back to sleep again
Jason Day 3 April 2018 at 4:47 pm
I reckon its up to the couple at the end of the day, furthermore if this was happening on a regular basis, its not anyone else's business until someone asks for help, at which time then it is considered to be a serious issue, you may say it is too late and in all cases, rape is non-consensual; hence why its called rape and its definition. I am intrigued by the notion, not because I am male, but it comes from the kinky side of my personality that would like BDSM. On the subject, BDSM is very similar only you are completely responsive to the acts being performed, where as while asleep you are not. Honestly if you manage to stay asleep which someone performs sexual acts on you regardless of who they are, it wouldnt be very fulfilling anyway...
MiniMouse 3 April 2018 at 4:59 pm
I've had this discussion with my fiance many times. He and I both agree that there is no better way to be woken up. I think if its your partner waking you up this way and youve both previously agreed to open to it then i wouldnt consider it rape. The only issue i seem to be having is not waking up quick enough lol i seem to be missing half of it :) i tell him everytime, its the best 2 minutes of my life
Colin 3 April 2018 at 5:00 pm
It depends on the couple. When as new parents and my Wife and I working we went to bed knackered She told me if you feel horny when I have fallen asleep just do it. More often than not my touching and sliding it in got her aroused ok so she woke up but she was asleep when it went in? It ended up benefiting us both. And for goodness sake if you are really into each other where is the problem. For me it would be if you are not that into each other or one has a self inflated opinion of self.
Kerry 3 April 2018 at 5:52 pm
I Have done this to partners in the past.
I tell them, If I do this and you do not want this wake me up and tell me "no."
I am lucky to have girls who have replied,
You can do that any time and this is no issue, in fact: please do.
I am aware this is the exception not the rule, so we have a framework and rules in place to deal with it.
Brett 3 April 2018 at 7:22 pm
I've woken up to blow jobs from females.
This goes both ways and no I didn't hate it. Keep doing it girls.
Pam 4 April 2018 at 6:48 am
I love my night raids as my partner calls them. As said previously it depends on the couple.
Ivy 5 April 2018 at 6:40 pm
If this had been discussed beforehand at an earlier date and I consented to it, then yes it's fine. Consensual non-consent is something I'm definitely into. However, if it hadn't been spoken of prior, or if it was with a one night stand or some such, I would feel incredibly violated.
Jason 6 April 2018 at 1:47 pm
As long as it has been discussed and agreed upon, I see no issue. I have woken my wife up several times both with my tongue and penis and she loved it. She has said I have done it that softly that it seems to give her that dream like feeling and she gets into the dream then when she starts moaning and moving that is when I start doing things like normal. She wakes up in a very aroused state and we have a great little session. She has also done it yo me with oral or her hand. Same result. Communication is key with ANY sexual act in your relationship.
Ana 7 April 2018 at 10:24 pm
I’m not sure how everyone can think this is ok if talked about. Like Maggie said you can think something is ok and then on another day think it’s not. To wake up in the middle of sex might be alright one day but then not another and really I wouldn’t like that anyway missing out on the kissing and foreplay at the start. It isn’t all that nice to be unconscious and have your body do this and that. Do all these people think it’s ok to do golden showers on an unconscious person who expressed interest in doing it at some point when they were awake? I think for me it’s very confusing and it’s not rape but it’s also not consensual. It’s not so clear.
Lyndave 12 April 2018 at 11:01 am
Hi Ana, the clarity comes with the level of communication between partners, they need to let each other know what is allowed and they need to communicate on a daily basis
for example, my wife and i both are not interested in golden showers, i also would never stick my penis in her mouth while she is asleep, we also know what is acceptable to each other
Ivy 1 May 2018 at 9:42 am
I am literally 100% down with waking up to my partner doing sexual things to me at any time, we've had the discussion, so he knows. Everyone is different, that's why open communication is key.
Lyndave 12 April 2018 at 10:27 am
a couple needs to talk about many things and they need to allow their partner to know what they are interested in and how they feel on any and every day/night. my wife knows what is acceptable to me and when it is acceptable, i also know what is acceptable to her and when it is acceptable. We have given each other consent and we are open to each others feelings needs and wants ........ if you communicate with your partner, then you will know if consent is required and you will know what is acceptable, if you are considering doing something with your partner and you don't know if your partner is consenting to it then don't do it. or ask them if it ok
Steve 14 April 2018 at 9:23 am
You hit the nail on the head when you said; "In a healthy relationship, if sleep sex occurs and one partner dislikes it, they will most likely be annoyed you woke them up and nothing more (sometimes sleep can be sweeter than sex). In a broken relationship in which one partner refuses to have sex with the other whilst awake, then it can easily be perceived as rape."
Coming from the BDSM community where consent is everything and all play is or should be negotiated then it is the same ask your partner talk about it, if its ok and desired then give it ago, after talk about it again and confirm with each other it was or wasn't and go from there.
This is all about communication and honesty in your relationship.
Hammond 6 May 2018 at 7:40 pm
I enjoy reading your articles as too often sex related blogs can be poorly written and really quite vulgar. Not to mention uninformed. Yours are always empowering, stimulating and very well written. Your use of the English language is impressive especially when discussing sex related themes.
Emma 22 July 2018 at 2:07 pm
I have to both agree and disagree. I have had some wonderful relationships where this was mutually agreed upon. However, more recently I have been raped before and the last man to do this to me did it whilst I was asleep. (You are right in reading that I had been raped previously). The first time I woke to him having sex with me he told me I initiated it and whilst I felt rather uncomfortable by it I said it was to never happen again. The second time I had said no to sex before I went to sleep. I was pregnant and every movement made me want to vomit, sex was out of the question. I woke to him inside of me and I obviously was disgusted but accepted his excuse I had started it. The third time I had said no beforehand. I woke during slightly pushing his wandering hands away saying NO! More then once. When I finally came to he was inside of me. I felt violently ill. Here was this man that supposedly loved me, rapping me whilst I was pregnant, very sick and asleep. When I went to the police, obviously, his word against mine and they would do nothing.
Scott Louise 21 November 2018 at 7:42 pm
Hello, I have just read your articles. Rape is sex that is not consensual. As a sleeping person cannot give permission. So baseline, you should assume that sex with a sleeping person is rape. Discover what causes people to have sex in their sleep and how to treat it. On the other hand, I would like to say raises issues of consent and can harm, people can legally consent in advance to sex that is expected to occur while someone is asleep or unconscious.
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