Consent is permission for something to happen, or an agreement to do something. It can be related to everyday activities or sexual activity.
It’s important to respect others by asking for and getting consent for any physical touch or sexual activity. Just because you don’t hear “No” from someone you’re hooking up with or dating doesn’t mean they’re comfortable. Many people get quiet when they’re scared or confused or don’t know how to say no.
We know - it’s hard to make the first move, but when you do, it’s important to ask for consent first. Sexual consent means that the person who initiates sexual activity is responsible for making sure that their actions are okay with their partners.
The absence of a “No” does not equal consent.
How do I ask for consent?
It’s simple! Before you make a move, ask your partner, “Is it ok if I ____ ?” Or you could say, “I really want to ____ . Do you feel like it too?”
Asking for consent and talking about sex is like any new skill. It might seem awkward at first (and we definitely don’t see it on TV or in movies), but it’s essential to any healthy sexual relationships - and it can feel really good.
Consent requires good communication, and even better listening and attention to body language. Setting boundaries around what’s okay and what’s not okay for you sexually is so important and can lead to even better sexual experiences. It’s ok to set boundaries and ask for what you need.
How do I get consent?
Asking isn’t enough. The next step is to really listen to your partners. Some will give you a verbal “Yes” while others will let you know what’s okay for them through body language and facial expressions.
It’s important to be clued in to all types of communication when it comes to sexual activity. The list below describes what consent is and isn’t. If you still have questions, visit a Wellness Peer at the Wellness Centre, the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office or the AMS Sexual Assault Resource Centre to make sure you’re on the right track.
These basic principles will make sure every encounter you have (sexual or everyday) is consensual.
Consent has to be a freely given and enthusiastic YES. This “Yes” can be a combination of body language, facial expressions and verbal communication. Make sure you’re tuned into all the messages.
Consent to one activity (like kissing) does not mean consent to other activities. Make sure you ask again when you initiate something new.
Consent needs to be continual and ongoing. You can check in with language like “Does this feel good?” or “Is this okay?”
Anyone can revoke their consent at any time. People can change their minds at any time.
You can’t get consent from someone who is asleep or unconscious They can’t legally consent, which means sexual activity is a no-go.
People are impacted differently by alcohol and drugs, which means it can be difficult to tell if someone can give a clear "Yes" when intoxicated. You can’t legally get consent from someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol because it’s hard to tell what someone is actually feeling. Waiting for a sober "Yes" also lets you know that someone feels good about what they are doing.
There is no consent when a person in a position of power or authority pressures someone to engage in unwanted sexual activity.
Consent applies to sexual and non-sexual activities. You have to ask for consent before touching another person or posting a photo online, whether it is sexual or not.
What if I don’t get consent?
If you initiate sexual activity, it can be frustrating to get a “No” (verbally or through body language and facial expressions).
Remember, everyone is coming from a different set of circumstances, and your partner’s “No” isn’t a rejection of you. It is essential to respect your partner's boundaries, just as it’s essential to have yours respected as well. Respecting boundaries and getting consent ensures that every sexual encounter is as pleasurable as it can be.
Touch and/or intimacy without consent is sexual assault. Anyone can experience sexual assault, and anyone can cause harm. Your gender, race, sexuality, orientation, or relationship to the other person does not matter if you don’t have consent.
It always feels better to know someone truly likes what’s going on, and trusts you enough to share that with you. It makes getting a yes that much hotter.
Learn more about consent on campus.