What is Consent?
The concept of consent is often misunderstood in comprehending the issues around sexual misconduct. Learning how to talk about consent, gain consent or refuse consent can help clarify each person's responsibility which can minimize the risk of unwanted sexual contact.
Effective Consent is:
• freely and actively given;
• mutually understandable words or actions;
• words which indicate a willingness or non-willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity.
A person CANNOT give consent if:
(Regardless of what he or she might verbalize):
- The person is incapacitated or unconscious as a result of alcohol and/or drugs
- The person is mentally disabled to the extent that the person cannot understand the nature or the consequences of the sexual act
- The person is not of age to give consent
- Once a person says "no." It does not matter if or what kind of sexual behavior has happened previously in the current event, earlier that day, or daily for the previous six months. It does not matter if it is a current long-term relationship, a broken relationship, or marriage. If one partner says, "NO," and the other forces penetration it is rape.
What does consent mean in intimate relationships?
Consent is when one person agrees to or gives permission to another person to do something. Consent means agreeing to an action based on your knowledge of what that action involves, its likely consequences and having the option of saying no. The absence of "no" does not mean "yes". Consent is a very important part of a sexual relationship. Each person is responsible for their own comfort and safety. Consent is an important part of healthy sexuality and both people should be involved in the decision to participate in sexual activity.
- A voluntary, sober, imaginative, enthusiastic, creative, wanted, informed, mutual, honest, and verbal agreement.
- An active agreement: Consent cannot be coerced.
- A process, which must be asked for every step of the way; if you want to move to the next level of sexual intimacy, just ask.
- Never implied and cannot be assumed, even in the context of a relationship. Just because you are in a relationship does not mean that you have permission to have sex with your partner.
Kissing Doesn't Always Need to Lead to Sex
Everyone has the right to say "no" and everyone has the right to change their mind at any time regardless of their past experiences with other people or the person they are with.
The Perks of Consent
- Shows that you have respect for both yourself and your partner.
- Enhances communication, respect, and honesty.
- Having the ability to know and be able to communicate the type of sexual relationship you want.
- The opportunity to acknowledge that you and your partner have sexual needs and desires.
- The opportunity to identify your personal beliefs and values and respecting your partner's personal beliefs and values.
- Building confidence and self-esteem.
- Challenging stereotypes that rape is a women's issue.
- Challenging sexism and traditional views on gender and sexuality.
- Gaining positive views on sex and sexuality are empowering.
- Eliminates the entitlement that one partner might feel over another. Neither your body nor your sexuality belong to anyone else.
What if the person you're with is unable to give consent?
Drugs and alcohol can affect people's ability to make decisions, including whether or not they want to be sexual with someone else. This means that if someone is really out of it, they cannot give consent.
Being with them in a sexual way when they don't know what is going on is the same as rape.
If you see a person who is unable and is being intimate with someone, you should pull them aside and try your best to make sure that person is safe and knows what he or she is doing. If it's the opposite situation, and your friend is trying to engage in a sexual encounter with someone who is out if it, you should try to pull them aside and stop them from continuing their behavior
Responsibility with Consent
Giving consent is not the sole responsibility of one person. An initiator of sexual activity is also responsible for obtaining effective consent before engaging in sexual behavior.
How do you know if the person you are with has given their consent?
The only way to know for sure if a person has given consent is if they tell you. It's not always easy to let people know that you are not happy about something. Sometimes the person you're with might look like they are happy doing something, but inside they are not. They might not know what to say or how to tell you that they are uncomfortable. The best way to determine if someone is uncomfortable or unwilling in any situation, especially a sexual one, is to simply ask. Here are some examples of the questions you might ask:
- Is there anything you don't want to do?
- Are you comfortable?
- Do you want to stop?
- Do you want to go further?
However, if the person incapacitated (as described above) even if consent is verbalized, it is not consent!
Recognizing Non-Verbal Communication
There are many ways of communicating. The look on a person's face or their body language are also a way of communicating. Often nonverbal communication has more meaning than the words that come out of their mouth.
Some examples of nonverbal communication that signal a person is uncomfortable with the situation are:
- Not responding to your touch
- Pushing you away
- Holding their arms tightly around their bodies
- Turning away from you or hiding their face
- Stiffening muscles
Asking questions and being aware of body language helps you to determine if the person is consenting and feeling comfortable, or not consenting and feeling uncomfortable. If you get a negative or non-committal answer to any of the questions above, or if the person's body language resembles any of the above examples, you should stop what you are doing and talk to them about it.
Slowing Things Down
Take your time. Making sure you are both comfortable and want the same thing, talk about how far you want to go. This will make the time you spend together more satisfying and enjoyable for you both. Things can move very quickly. Below are ways to say "slow down" if you feel that things are moving too quickly.
- I don't want to go any further than kissing, hugging, touching.
- Let's just stay like this for a while.
- Let's slow down.
You always have the right to say "no". You always have the right to change your mind at any time regardless of your past experience with the person or others. Below are some things you can say or do if you want so stop:
- Say "No"
- Say "I want to stop"
- Say "I need to go to the bathroom/toilet"
- In a situation where the other person isn't listening to you and you feel unsafe, say you are going feeling sick and might vomit.
If someone has attempted or completed a sexual act without your consent...
Know that it is not your fault and there are numerous resources, on and off campus.