With all the news about sexual trauma and rape, college students and others negotiating sexual expression should always make sure there is mutual agreement by the time bra snaps are unsnapped and zippers are unzipped. A shared vision and open communication won’t happen without open discussion.

In my book for teenagers and young adults (The Naked Truth About Sex), I created the Pre-Sex Discussion (PSD) to determine if any sex is clearly agreed upon. A PSD is an intimate and entertaining conversation that informs prospective lovers about each other’s feelings, desires, expectations, fantasies and her/his sexual knowledge and sophistication. It’s an introduction to the possibility of a sexual relationship or encounter—a preview of what sex would mean and be like.

Since there isn’t an accepted sexual etiquette for anything other than romantic seduction, it’s time to develop more caring manners based on pre-sex and between-sex conversations. College students and older adults are often confused about what is expected and what makes for efficient sexual decision-making. There is a need for some agreed upon guidelines to define mutual consent.

In many instances, there is no clear agreement to be sexual, and if so, what sexual acts are agreed upon. Making out and pawing each other often override any discussion of what is desired by each potential lover. Mutual seduction after a PSD is more fun than the exploitive game of selfish and sometimes dishonest seduction. Treating each other as equals encourages genuine intimacy and awesome sex.

If it is too embarrassing to discuss, it is best to leave sex out of the equation. Discussing sex lessens the chances for hurt feelings, sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. Whether people are straight, bisexual or gay or lesbian, talking before doing is commonsense. This does not mean the discussion has to be staid and heavily serious. Being humorous makes a PSD more enjoyable and helpful. A PSD is much more than “do you have a condom?” A properly conducted PSD minimizes dangers and maximizes pleasures.

A PSD includes the meaning of sex, assessing the risks and preventing sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, and agreeing (or not) to celebrate sex enthusiastically. Honesty and openness are essential.

If media and sex education in schools featured the PSD, consensual, responsible sex might become the norm. When you agree to a PSD, you are allies on the same pleasure team. If a couple decide together to have sex, they have made a pleasure pact. A PSD should include questions, answers and conversation in equal proportions from both prospective lovers. This is far more commonsensical than not discussing anything and allowing lust without any real thought to rule.

There would be less forced sex or misunderstandings about the motives and meanings for sex if everyone conducted a PSD. Honesty is a real turn-on. You can ask about each other’s feelings for each other and what expectations you each would have. Some wrongly assume that a new relationship is exclusive without any discussion. Assumptions are dangerous. Be clear.

Mutual consent requires careful listening. Sexual etiquette includes not being pushy. Mutual consent leads to mutual respect. Consent should be verbal, clear and mutual. Eye contact and body language are important to notice along with the words used in a PSD. It is not consent to merely give in to another person’s desires. Being sensitive and empathetic go a long way.

A series of discussions increases the odds that any sex will be mutually desired and desirable. Conducting a PSD is far better than coming on too strong, especially with alcohol. Clear minds and communication lead to better and more desired sex. If in doubt, don’t!

Dr. Libby is an AASECT certified sex therapist and a sexologist with a practice in Seattle and Poulsbo.