Consent is when all people involved agree to a sexual encounter and have the freedom to decide at any moment that they are no longer interested and want to stop the sexual activity. If someone says “no,” is coerced, intimidated, or threatened into having sex, they have not given consent. Furthermore, if someone is incapacitated (e.g., due to alcohol/drugs, or some other factor), they cannot provide consent. Consenting to one act (e.g., kissing) does not mean the person has consented to other acts. Likewise, consenting to an act at one point in time (e.g., having sex this week) does not mean the person has consented to that act or any other act in the future (e.g., having sex tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year). Consent means that at this exact point in time, you are agreeing to participate in this particular sexual act. If you are initiating sexual activity, it is your responsibility to obtain consent from your partner.
How to know if you’ve Received Consent
- The only way to be certain is to ask someone if they would like to engage in whatever sexual activity you’re proposing and they say yes. When the degree or type of sexual activity changes, you should check that your partner continues to consent by asking them at each stage of intimacy. What someone wears or their past behavior does not imply consent.
- You have not received consent if your partner is drunk, high, or unconscious
- You have not received consent if you have used force, intimidation, manipulation, or your authority to have sex with someone—even if they do not explicitly say no
- You have not received consent if a partner who previously agreed to sexual activity is no longer interested in participating
- You have not received consent if your partner is silent or unresponsive
- You have not received consent if your partner says no (in any respect), pushes you away (or any other action that implies they are not agreeing to the act), or resists in any way.)
Sexual consent is a two-way exchange: it’s an ongoing process of giving and receiving permission. Everyone involved needs to know what they are consenting to. If you are unsure about your partner’s feelings, or if they seem uncomfortable, stop and communicate. Remember, that silence, the absence of NO or STOP, does not equal consent.