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What Does Consent Look Like?

Consent is a voluntary, sober, fully-informed, clear, and active decision by both individuals. 

It is a mutual agreement between partners about what each partner wants to experience. This goes for any physical or sexual experience between individuals— holding hands, kissing, making out, having sex, and everything in between.

Consent can be withdrawn at any time during a sexual interaction.

Refusal to consent does not have to be verbal; it can be expressed with gestures, body language or attitude. Lack of consent may also be communicated through the use of non-verbal expressions or actions indicating resistance. Silence does not imply consent. 

A prior sexual history between two people does not imply ongoing future consent to that same sexual activity with another person. Previous relationships or prior consent cannot imply consent to future sexual acts. 

Consenting to one sexual experience does not mean that consent is given at other points in time for that same behavior, and does not mean that consent is given for other sexual behaviors. It only means that consent is given for that behavior at that point in time.


What’s Not Consent?

If consent is not present, any further or continued action is inappropriate, abusive, and considered sexual assault. If the answer is not a clear, enthusiastic yes, it’s no.

A sexual interaction cannot be consensual if:

  • Force, coercion (manipulation), threats, or intimidation
  • Persons physically or mentally incapacitated, either voluntarily or involuntarily, as a result of alcohol or other drug consumption
  • Individuals who are unconscious, asleep, unaware, or otherwise physically incapacitated
  • Minors under the age of consent
  • Persons whose mental disabilities prohibit sound judgment

“Force” is the use or threat of physical violence to overcome a person's freedom of will to choose whether or not to participate in sexual activity or provide consent. Consent can never be obtained through the use of force.

Coercion is easily understood as manipulation. It is the use of pressure to compel another individual to initiate or continue sexual activity against that person’s will. Coercion can include a wide range of behaviors, including intimidation, manipulation, threats, and blackmail. 

When someone indicates, verbally or physically, that they do not want to engage in a particular sexual activity, that they want to stop a particular activity, or that they do not want to go past a certain point of sexual interaction, continued activity or pressure to continue beyond that point is coercive. Consent cannot be obtained through coercion.

Any continued activity or pressure to continue beyond that point is considered coercion, and is an abuse of power.

“Incapacitation” is a state where an individual cannot make an informed and rational decision to engage in sexual activity because of a lack of conscious understanding of the fact, nature, or extent of the act and/or is physically helpless. 

Individuals who are unconscious, asleep, drunk, or high cannot give sexual consent. 


Quick and Clear Recap:

  • Any hesitation or indication of not wanting to continue a sexual activity is a sign to stop immediately. 

  • Any uneasiness, concerns, questions, pain, discomfort, and requests should be listened to immediately. 

  • If someone is drunk or high or asleep, don't engage in any physical or sexual encounter with that person. Continuing to do so is assault.

  • If a person says stop, stop. No matter what.

  • Trying to talk someone into or pressure someone into sexual activity is coercion- and is a form of abuse of power.

  • Someone can change their mind at any point about continuing the sexual act. If that happens, you have to stop immediately and respect the withdrawal of consent.

  • Using force, threats, or intimidation to make someone engage in sexual acts is assault.

  • Only a clearly communicated yes means you are in agreement to continue

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