Consent is an agreement that people make when engaging in ANY sexual activity.
In order for consent to be given:
- all partners need to be equally free to act free from coercion, intimidation and force;
- all partners need to be fully conscious and aware;
- all partners need to be able to clearly communicate their willingness and permission (Consent is not the absence of the word "No");
- all partners need to be positive and sincere in their desires.
- Listening and respecting boundaries
- Asking "Is this ok?" or "Do you like this?" throughout
- Asking if they want to be touched and, if yes, asking how
- Never assuming that just because they had sex or engaged in any sexual activity with you before, that they will want to do it with you again
- Being responsible
- Not punishing them because they won't have sex with you
- An affirmative yes, free from coercion
- Paying attention, and stopping when you realize something is wrong
- Disclosing any STIs you have to your partner before initiating sexual contact
In order for consent to be effective, these are the minimal conditions that should be met:
The person must be able to understand exactly what it is that they are agreeing to and not incapacitated.
- Incapacitation includes intoxication by drugs or alcohol to the point that a person’s state of mind is not clear and their judgment is impaired. We define intoxication as follows: a person is incapable, due to the use of drugs or alcohol, of either appraising the nature of his or her conduct, or a person is unable to give effective consent to a sexual act.
- When alcohol or other drugs are being used, someone will be considered unable to give valid consent if they cannot appreciate the Who, What, When, Where, Why, or How of a sexual interaction. Individuals who consent to sex must be able to understand what they are doing.
- To be more precise, an incapacitated person cannot give valid consent. Even if they express willingness to engage in sexual activity but are incapacitated at the time, and that the individual is incapacitated is known or should be known to the accused, any sexual activity that takes place is misconduct, and any factual willingness that may have been expressed is irrelevant.
A person cannot give consent if any of the following factors are present:
- someone forces someone to engage in sexual activity.
- someone threatens force against another.
- someone coerces or intimidates someone into sexual activity.
- verbal coercion violates this policy as much as the use of physical force.
- the person is mentally incapacitated.
- Mentally incapacitated could refer to a person with a severe cognitive disability or a person who is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
- the person is physically helpless.
- Physically helpless could refer to a person with a physical disability, an injury, or someone who is passed out, amongst other things.
- or the person is a minor.
- If a person is slurring their words, having difficulty maintaining equilibrium, passing in and out of consciousness, or is vomiting, they can safely be considered to be incapacitated.
- Incapacitation may exist in the absence of these symptoms.
- Incapacity is not determined based on a person’s Blood Alcohol Content level.
Examples of consent:
Consent is not:
- A: "Do you want to have sex?" B: "Maybe. . ."
- A: 'Let's do it." B: "No." A: "Come on, please."
- "First, I want to make out for five minutes, then I want to engage in heavy petting for seven minutes, then I want oral sex until orgasm. What do you want?"
- "Do you want to have sex?"
- "I think we might be a bit drunk and I would like to wait until we are sober before we decide to have sex."
- "I really don't like being touched while I sleep."
- "You seem a bit distant right now, can we stop and talk?"
- "I really want to have sex with you but I would like to get tested for STIs before we do."
Making lists can also be a really helpful tool for figuring out what you want, like and need. The lists below are just suggestions there may be others relavent to your situation. Lists can be helpful when talking to partners about sex!
- My boundaries in a relationship or sexual encounter are. . .
- I really like. . .
- I really don't like. . .
- I get triggered by. . .
- I need _______ to feel safe.
- Asking permission before doing anything sexual is only part of it. A huge part of consent is checking in throughout a sexual encounter and stopping at any point if something does not feel right or the person asks to stop. It also means checking in later that day or the next day to make sure you are on the same page.
- Consent can be totally awkward. We are not taught to talk openly about sex in our society. While it may be totally awkward at first, it can also be really sexy and create a safer and better sex life for everyone involved. The best way to become more comfortable with consent is to use it. While it may seem excessive at times, if you are using good consent, you can be much more sure that everyone is enjoying themselves in a sexual situation. It can also prevent awkward moments the next day or misunderstandings. No matter how long you have been in a relationship or feel you know someone's body language, using verbal consent is always a good choice.
If your partner is a survivor of sexual violence and you are looking for tools with which to support them click here.
If you are a survivor and are looking for ways to take care of yourself during sexual encounters click here.