Consent Matters

What is consent?

  • Consent occurs when both people agree to the sexual activity. It should be mutual, voluntary, honest, and sober.
  • Consent is the presence of a "yes"--not the absence of a "no."
  • Consent should be based upon open communication in which both people's boundaries are respected.
  • Consent is a process that should be asked for when you move from one level of intimacy to the next. If you want things to go to the next level, just ask.
  • Consent is essential. Without consent, sex is sexual assault.

What is NOT consent?

  • Consent does not come out of coercion or pressure.
  • Consent must never be implied or assumed, even in the context of a relationship. Just because you are in a relationship, it does not mean that you always have your partner’s consent.
  • Consent cannot be given by someone who is asleep, unconscious, or intoxicated.
  • The absence of a "no" does not mean "yes."
  • Consent is never final--either person can say "no" at anytime.
  • If your partner says anything like the following, she or he is saying “NO”
    • “I’m not sure if I’m ready
    • “I don’t know if I want to
    • “I think I’ve had too much to drink
    • “I don’t want to get HIV”
    • “I’m scared”

Why Consent is Important?

  • Open communication, respect, and honesty make sex and relationships better.
  • Asking for and obtaining consent shows respect for both yourself and your partner.
  • Without asking for consent, you risk doing something the other person doesn't want.
  • Sexual activity without consent is a crime.

How Can You Ask for Consent?

Some people worry that asking for consent would be awkward or too formal, but it doesn't need to be. It can be a very simple, "Is this okay with you?" Or it can be as hot, creative, and sexy as you want to make it. Below are some ways you can ask for consent:

  • Is this okay with you?
  • I'd really like to kiss/touch/____ you. Would you like to?
  • Do you like it when I do this?
  • What would you like me to do?
  • Have you ever ____? Would you like to try it with me?

Asking for consent isn't just about getting a "yes" or "no" answer, but also about truly understanding what your partner wants and is feeling. The process of asking for consent should make you both feel respected and more connected to one another.

How Can You Gauge Consent?

Stop LightRED: Signs you should STOP

  • You are too intoxicated to gauge or give consent.
  • Your partner is asleep or passed out.
  • You hope your partner will say nothing and just "go with the flow."

YELLOW: Signs you should PAUSE AND TALK

  • You are not sure what the other person wants.
  • You feel like you are getting "mixed signals."
  • You have not talked about what you want to do.
  • You assume you will do the same thing as before.
  • Your partner stops or is not responding to what you do.

GREEN: Signs you are COMMUNICATING WELL

  • You come to a mutual decision about how far to go.
  • You both clearly express your comfort with the situation.
  • You feel comfortable and safe stopping at any time.
  • You're both excited!

*Adapted from Consentissexy.org and American College Health Association (2008) "Shifting the paradigm: Primary prevention of sexual violence.