What is Consent?

Relationships are about choices, and so is consent. Consent is both you and your partner choosing to participate in sexual activity, and making that clear to each other. It's not complicated; it's just the right thing to do.

Consent isn't "They didn't say no." Consent is "They said yes."  Be a real partner and do the right thing: ask.

Consent is:

  • Clear

    Everyone should be clear what they are consenting to
  • Freely Given

    You shouldn't be pressured, bullied, or tricked. Your partner shouldn't use a position of power or authority (such as being your manager at work, etc.).
  • Current

    Just because you've had sex with your partner before doesn't mean it's automatic. Consent should be present every time you are intimate with a person.
  • Ongoing

    You should consent to each sexual act: just because you're interested in one activity doesn't mean you want to do another. People's desires and feelings of comfort and safety can change, and that's OK. 
  • Changeable

    You and your partner can always change your minds. Check with your partner throughout the sexual activity, especially if they don't seem to be enthusiastic, and respect their answer. For more information, visit Break the Silence.

How to Ask

Chances are, you're not going to formally say "Partner, do you hereby consent to...?" That sounds a little awkward. Consent can take the form of asking questions like “Can I [fill in the blank]?” or “Do you want me to do [fill in the blank]?”

Planned Parenthood offers good suggestions and some quick videos that show how couples can talk to each other.

Alcohol and Drugs

What does the law say about consent and alcohol or drugs?  There cannot be consent where the victim/survivor is “incapable of consenting to the activity”.  There is, however, no definition of how drunk or high someone needs to be, to be unable to consent. This would be decided by judges/juries if a sexual assault charge makes it to court.  The law is clear that all of the parties must be conscious and awake during the sexual activity, even if they consented previously. (Source: Break the Silence)

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