Four Tenants of Consent

There four tenants of consent. Consent is clear, coherent, willing and ongoing:

Clear

Consent is active. 

  • It's expressed through words or actions that create mutually understandable permission.
  • Consent is never implied, and the absence of consent of a "no" is not a "yes."
  • Silece is NOT consent.
  • "I'm not sure," "I don't know," "Maybe" and similar phrases are NOT consent.

Coherent

People incapacitated by drugs or alcohol cannot consent.

  • Someone who cannot make reationa, reasonable decisions because she/he lacks the capacity to understand the "who, what, when, where, why or how" of the situation cannot consent.
  • People who are asleep or in another vulnerable position cannot consent.

Willing

Consent is never given under pressure. 

  • Consent is no obtained through psychological or emotional manipulation.
  • Consent cannot be obtained through physical violence or threat.
  • SOmeone in an unbalanced power situation (i.e. someone under your authority) cannot consent.

Ongoing

Consent must be granted every time.

  • Consent must be obtained at each step of phsyical intimacy. If someone consents to one sexual activity, she/he may or may not be willing to go futher.

Consent: Tips & Tools

According to the Student-on-Student Sexual and Interpersonal Misconduct Protocol policy, consent is defined as:

The unambiguous and willing participation or cooperation in act, behavior or attitude that is commonly understood to be consistent with the exercise of free will.

Consent requires participants who are lawful adults, fully conscious, equally free and legally competent to act, have clearly communicated their willingness, cooperation or permission to participate in the specific sexual activity engaged in, are positive and clear about their desires and are able to cease ongoing consensual activity at any time.

Refusal to consent does not have to be verbal; it can be expressed with clear gestures, body language or attitude.

Prior sexual history, by itself, does not constitute consent, nor does consenting to sexual activity with one person imply consent to sexual activity with another person.

Questions to Ask

Getting consent doesn’t have to be awkward. Here are some questions you can ask before moving forward: 

  • Is this okay?
  • Do you want to?
  • Have you been drinking?
  • Are you comfortable with…?
  • Do you want to slow down?
  • Would you like me to…?
  • Are you sure?
  • Tell me what you want.

Non-Verbal Cues

Sometimes people communicate with actions and body language. These are some non-verbal cues that your partner isn’t interested in continuing, and you need to stop:

  • Not responding to your touch
  • Pushing you away
  • Holding her or his arms tightly around her or his body
  • Turning away from you or hiding her or his face
  • Stiffening muscles

Saying 'Stop'

Consent can be revoked at any time. If you want to stop, say so! You always have the right to say no, and you can always change your mind at any time, regardless of your past with your partner or what is happening at the moment. Below are some phrases that you can use if you want to stop:

  • “NO.”
  • “I want to stop.”
  • “I need to go to the bathroom.”
  • “I’m going to be sick.”

Consent is Coherent

A person cannot consent if he or she is incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol. You may be able to tell if someone is incapacitated if he or she:

  • Is unable to stand or walk without wobbling, falling or needing to lean on something or someone for support.
  • Has slurred speech and difficulty communicating.
  • Is passed out or sleeping.
  • Has vomited or urinated on himself or herself.

When in doubt, just stop. Respect yourself and your partner!

FAQs About Consent

Why is consent so important?

Sexual activity without consent is sexual misconduct. You must obtain consent every time you engage in any sexual activity.

Who can consent?

Two adults over the age of 18 who are coherent can consent to a sexual activity based on a shared desire and a mutual understanding that has been expressed clearly.

When is someone unable to consent?

If someone is incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol, is under the age of 18, has been coerced or pressured physically or psychologically, is unconscious or asleep, or is mentally disabled, they cannot consent.

What if my partner consented at the beginning, but changed his or her mind in the middle of it?

A person has the right to change his or her mind at any point during a sexual encounter. If the person changed his or her mind and indicated he/she wanted to stop, consent was revoked. All sexual activity must be stopped immediately once consent is withdrawn.

We’re in a romantic relationship and are sexually intimate. Can I assume that I have my partner’s consent every time in the future?

No. You must obtain consent before each sexual encounter. Just because you are in an intimate relationship doesn’t mean that you always have permission to engage in sexual activities with your partner.

I can tell that my partner has been drinking, but he/she says that she really wants to have sex with me. Is this consent?

A person cannot consent if he or she is not fully coherent due to drugs or alcohol. Even if your partner seems enthusiastic, he/she cannot consent if he/she cannot make rational, reasonable decisions—he/she lacks the capacity to understand the “who, what, when, where, why or how” of the situation. Wait until you can both make rational, reasonable decisions before you engage in any sexual activity.

Is it okay if we’ve both been drinking?

A person cannot legally consent if he or she is incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs. Sexual activity without consent is sexual misconduct. Wait until you have the ability to make rational, reasonable decisions and can consent to engage in sexual behavior.

I asked my partner if he/she was comfortable with it, and he/she didn’t say anything. That’s consent, right?

Consent is always clear. You only have consent if it is given through words or actions that create mutually understandable permission regarding the sexual activity. The absence of a no does not mean yes. Consent can never be assumed.

The person was dancing closely with me, flirting with me, and asked me to come back to his/her room. Can I take that as a yes?

Consent can never be assumed. Someone may dress or act in a sexy way without wanting sex. If you think your partner wants to have sex, just ask! Be specific, and only proceed if he or she says yes.

At first he/she said that he/she wanted to wait, but I kept asking and eventually convinced her/him. Is that consent?

A person that is pressured or coerced is unable to consent. Sexual coercion is a form of sexual misconduct. A feeble or hesitant “yes” after intense pressure, intimidation or psychological manipulation is not consent. Consent is a free choice that is made within a climate of respect and open communication.

He/she said that I wasn’t manly because I didn’t want to have sex with her/him. I gave in so that s/he wouldn’t make fun of me. Does that count as consent?

A person that is pressured or coerced is unable to consent. Sexual coercion is a form of sexual misconduct. A feeble or hesitant “yes” after intense pressure, intimidation or psychological manipulation is not consent. Consent is a free choice that is made within a climate of respect and open communication.

I really wanted to have intercourse, but my partner kept on saying no. Eventually, we had oral sex instead. Is that consent?

A person that is pressured or coerced to perform any sexual activity is unable to consent. Sexual coercion is a form of sexual misconduct. A feeble or hesitant “yes” after intense pressure, intimidation or psychological manipulation is not consent. Consent is a free choice that is made within a climate of respect and open communication.