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Consent is when one person agrees to or gives permission to another person to do something. It means agreeing to an action based on your knowledge of what that action involves and that there is an option of saying no. The absence of “no” does not mean “yes.” When it comes to sex in your relationship, consent is the difference between sex and sexual abuse. You both have a responsibility to make sure you both feel safe and comfortable every step along the way. Remember, your actions towards the person you’re with can greatly affect the way they feel about you, themselves, the relationship and sex in general. Consent is an important part of healthy sexuality and both people should be involved in the decision to have sex.
• The person is severely intoxicated or unconscious as a result of alcohol or drugs
• The person is physically or mentally disabled
• Once a person says “no,” it does not matter if or what kind of sexual behavior happened previous to the current event, earlier in the 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.
If consent is not obtained prior to each sexual act (from touching leading up to intercourse), a person runs the risk of committing sexual misconduct or sexual assault.
Drugs and alcohol can affect one’s ability to make decisions, including whether or not they want to be sexual with someone else. If someone is really out of it, they cannot give consent. Engaging in any sexual act with them when they don’t know what is going on is rape.
If you see a friend who is "out of it" and is being pursued or someone is attempting to be intimate with him/her, you should pull him/her aside and try your best to make sure that person is safe and knows what he/she is doing. If it’s your brother, sister, or friend, who is trying to engage in a sexual encounter with someone who is "out if it", perhaps with a different technique, pull him/her aside to stop him/her from getting himself/herself into trouble.
The only way to know for sure if someone 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. One of the best ways to determine if someone is uncomfortable with any situation, especially with 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?
The look on someone’s face and their body language often has more meaning than the words that come out of their mouth.
Here are some ways body language can let you know if the person you’re with is not comfortable with what is happening:
• 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 figure out if the person you’re with is consenting and feeling comfortable, or not consenting and feeling uncomfortable. If you get a negative or non-committal answer to any of these questions, or if your partner’s body language is like any of the above examples, then you should stop what you are doing and talk to them about it.