Updated: Aug 12, 2021
CONSENT: It’s a necessary part of any sexual connection...
permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.
"no change may be made without the consent of all the partners" (1)
Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another. It is a term of common speech, with specific definitions as used in such fields as the law, medicine, research, and sexual relationships. Consent, as understood in specific contexts, may differ from its everyday meaning.
Marriages, Relationships, Dating, and Sex can be difficult terrain to navigate. Every person you meet will have their own boundaries and expectations — communication, honesty, and understanding are key. This is where consent comes into play.
Consent means getting permission for any intimate activity or any activity for that matter. Sometimes consent is expressed with words, actions, a document, or any way two or more people have chosen and agreed to express consent. The point is that, if you are meeting someone in person, you have a responsibility to respect their boundaries, and they must respect yours. If you aren’t absolutely sure what they’re comfortable with, just ask. Communication is the way we understand the intention, meaning, and more.
If you’re meeting up with someone, remember: You must be comfortable and actively consenting for any sexual activity to happen. And if you’re ready to take the next step with them, you must make sure you receive their consent every step of the way.
As a retired Federal Law Enforcement Officer and current Sexual Assault Victim Intervention Specialist, I would like to point a few things out not to scare you, but educate you.
Legal definitions will vary, but sexual assault generally refers to any sexual contact or activity that occurs without the consent of the survivor. Sexual assault includes rape, nonconsensual touching, or forced acts such as performing or receiving oral sex, and much more.
There is no consent if a person is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired under the influence of drugs or alcohol - because they cannot understand the fact, nature, or extent of the situation.
Consent is freely given when there is no fear, pressure, influence, or threat involved. Offenders do not always use physical force; they may use threats, manipulation, or coercion.
You always have the right to say “no”. The lack of a “no” is not consent. Let me repeat that loudly: THE LACK OF "NO" IS NOT CONSENT. If someone seems uncomfortable or hesitant, ask how they are feeling and offer to give them space. “Maybe” should always mean “no”.
A “yes” for one kind of sexual activity doesn’t mean a “yes” for another. Consent isn’t something you give one time—it’s something you continuously check in about throughout your time together. Even after initial consent, the other person always has the right to change their mind and say no - and so do you.
Asking for Consent
Consent doesn’t always have to be verbal, but verbally agreeing to different sexual activities can help both you and your partner respect each other’s boundaries. Verbal consent can include saying “yes,” “don’t stop” or telling a partner what you want. Some examples of non-verbal consent include nodding, pulling someone closer, or active engagement, such as mutual touching.
Remember that nonverbal cues tend to be less clear when you’re with a new partner, so it’s always best to use verbal consent until you know someone well. And besides, asking for consent can be sexy. Consent should always be clear, enthusiastic, and ongoing throughout sexual activity. It’s really important for everyone in the relationship to feel comfortable with what’s happening and communicate that comfort every step of the way.
Keep in mind that consent isn’t limited to sexual activity — work to establish mutual interest in physical touch to make sure you are aware of each of your comfort levels and that you set clear boundaries when you can. Remember that people who are incapacitated with drugs or alcohol cannot consent.
If you do not feel comfortable engaging in any type of activity, you do not have to and no one has the right to pressure you into it. Be clear about your intentions and know that no date (or anyone) has a right to push your boundaries—and you shouldn’t push anyone else’s.
If you are considering engaging in any kind of sexual activity, let the other person know what works for you — find ways you can both communicate ongoing consent, like checking in verbally as things progress. If you’re not sure about whether the other person is enthusiastic about a particular sexual activity, ask them. Remember, the lack of “no” is not a “yes.”
"Remember that the legal definition of consent may vary depending on your state or territory"
There is Help
If someone does force, coerce, or manipulate you to do something you haven’t agreed to once you’re in a safe place call 911 if you’d like to report it to the police. You can also get support from the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673)
Written By: Craig Chacon SEC, SAVI, CIS, EMT-T