How to consent
Consent is the act of voluntarily accepting for something to happen. You consent to many things in your life: when your friend asks you if they can be your partner for a group project, or offers you a cup of tea, they are asking for your consent for those actions. When it comes to sexual activity, consent means enthusiastically saying “yes!” to what is proposed. Anything less is sexual assault.
- Consent must be freely given, without coercion. If your friend pressures you into being their group member by saying “aw c’mon, I don’t have anyone else to partner with, I’d really like to partner with you”, they’re pressuring you into being in their group. Likewise, if someone says “we’ve been dating for six months, people in relationships have sex, I really want to do it” – that’s putting pressure on the person when they have already said no. That is not freely given consent.
- Consent must be clear. Not saying “no” isn’t consent. Silence is not consent. “I guess” or any uncertainty is not consent. Only an enthusiastic yes is consent.
- Consent must be informed. Everyone must know clearly what is being consented to. “Would you like a drink?” is not the same as “Would you like a cup of tea?”. “Do you want to have sex?” is not the same as “Do you want me to tie you up while we have sex?”. All partners need to understand clearly what is going to happen and what they are consenting to.
- Consent is specific. Just because you consent to one thing, it doesn’t mean you consent to a similar thing. If someone says yes to tea, don’t give them coffee instead. If someone says yes to a blowjob, don’t escalate or expect sexual intercourse.
- Consent is reversible and ongoing. Just because someone agreed to have sex earlier, it doesn’t mean they have to follow through on that agreement. They can change their mind. Likewise, you should always check in with your partners to make sure everything that is happening they still consent to, and if they withdraw their consent at anytime it’s time to stop.
- Consent is mutual. Everyone involved needs to agree to sex and everything involved, each and every time it happens. Being in a relationship does not constitute consent.