What is Consent?
Consent is the clear communication, either verbally or nonverbally about willingness and agreement to engage in a particular activity.
Consent is a part of our everyday lives and our social interaction. When we want to go to the movies with a friend, we ask. When we are deciding with someone what to have for dinner, we talk about it and make a decision.
Consent helps us ensure that we are being good to each other and respecting one another.
When considering sex, both within and outside of a relationship, consent should be a primary consideration, because without consent- it is sexual assault. Unfortunately, social scripts have misled many to think that sex is something that should ‘just happen,’ or ought to happen because of the context or the particular relationship. Popular films portray sex as something that people just get caught up in and the consideration of consent is depicted as unnecessary.
Consent is often described as an ‘enthusiastic yes’ that is freely given. Some key points of consent to understand are:
- Consent is agreement
- Consent is explicit and clear, if it’s not- ask
- Consent is chosen freely, and what is happening is wanted
- Lack of response (e.g. laying still) is not consent – the person must indicate yes
- If consent is not clear there must be a reasonable attempt to determine it – just ask
- If someone is quite intoxicated but say yes it may still be considered sexual assault – if they are likely to feel violated or taken advantage of the next day then it may be assault. Better to wait until they are more able to make decisions.
- Consent is not continuous- just because someone agreed one time or to a particular act does not mean they consent every time or to every act. It must be clear each time that they agree.
- The assailant cannot use being too “drunk” as a reason for not verifying the other person’s consent
- Consent feels good
“Consent means that both parties are really, truly into what’s going on.”
Ways to Ask for Consent
There are lots of ways to ask your partner for consent without ruining the mood. Here are a few examples:
- I'd really like to hug / kiss / touch / ........... you. Would you like to?
- Do you like it when I do this? Do you want to do it to me?
- Is it okay if I take off my shirt/top/bra/pants?
- Is it okay if I text you at school/work? Can I send private (sexually explicit) messages?
- What would do you like me to do for you?
- It makes me hot when you kiss / touch / ........ me there.
- What makes you hot?
- I really feel like making love/having sex with you.
- Do you feel like it too?
- Have you ever ............ ? Would you like to try it with me?
Consent is all about communication with your partner. Building conversations like this into your sexual activities will help both you and your partner ensure that you are safe.