What About Consent?
Sexual activity requires consent. Consent consists of mutually understandable words and/or actions that indicate that an individual has freely chosen to engage in sexual activity. In the absence of such words and/or actions, consent does not exist. Some important things to note about consent:
- Consent may not be inferred from silence, passivity, lack of physical resistance, or lack of verbal refusal alone. Consent should not be inferred from the absence of a “no.” To really ensure that your partner is providing consent, look for affirmative words or actions, such as “yes.”
- Consent to one form of sexual activity does not automatically imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Make sure you get consent for every type of sexual activity.
- Previous relationships or prior consent does not imply consent to future sexual acts. Just because someone consented to do something on Wednesday, that doesn’t mean they’ll consent on Saturday.
- Consent cannot be obtained by force, threat of force, or coercion. Agreement given under such conditions does not constitute consent.
- An individual who is incapacitated (including due to the use of alcohol and/or other drugs) is unable to give consent.
- Consent must exist from the beginning to end of each instance of sexual activity and for each form of sexual contact.
- Consent may be withdrawn by either person at any time.
It’s important to pay attention to your sexual partner’s body language, as well as the words they are saying. Someone might say “yes” but their body language clearly indicates they aren’t interested. Respect that! Your partner might not be ready to take things further, or they may be feeling confused about what is happening. Slow things down and make sure you’re both on the same page.
How to Get Consent
Consent doesn’t have to be formal or serious (although it can be if you want it to be!). There are so many ways you can get consent from a sexual partner.
- Can I touch you here?
- Does this feel good?
- Do you want to go further?
- Should I keep going?
- What do you want to do next?
- Where should I touch you?
Not only are these ways to get consent, but it also ensures that your partner is enjoying themselves, which is what everyone wants when engaging in sexual activity.
What are some other ways you can ask for consent?
Consent and Alcohol and Drug Use
Alcohol and other drugs can negatively affect your judgment and make it hard to communicate with your partner(s)—and therefore more difficult to navigate consent.
What Happens If Someone Doesn’t Consent?
That’s okay! It happens all the time. There are so many reasons someone may not want to engage in sexual activity. It feels better for everyone when both people consent and want to engage. If your partner says no or changes their mind, stop the activity. Check in and see if maybe they’d rather do something else instead, like watch a movie or just talk. If your partner wants to be alone, that’s okay too!