This is how sexual offenders start to coerce a person into giving consent
“If you really loved me, you would have sex with me”
“You don’t find me attractive anymore otherwise you’d have sex with me”
“If we don’t have sex I don’t think we can be together”
Consent is an active, affirmative, conscious, direct, unimpaired, and voluntary agreement to engage and continue to engage in sexual activity. Sexual activity includes kissing, sexual touching, and sexual intercourse (e.g., oral, anal, vaginal). The choice to have sex, or not, is very personal. Only you can decide what is right for you. Consent means partners agree to the sexual activity and everyone understands what they’re agreeing to. Partners must give and get consent every time they have sex. Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault.
- needed for every sexual activity
- understanding what you’re saying yes to
- asking your partner if they understand what they’re saying yes to
- checking in with your partner and accepting that either of you can change your mind at any time
People cannot give consent if they’re:
- high or drunk
- forced, threatened, bribed, intimidated, or offered rewards to do something sexual
Consent does NOT look like this:
- Refusing to acknowledge “no”
- A partner who is disengaged, nonresponsive, or visibly upset
- Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for anything more
- Someone being under the legal age of consent, as defined by the state
- Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation
- Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past
Consent cannot be given while impaired
All of the elements of consent must be present, even if alcohol or drugs have been consumed. It is not acceptable for a person who is said to have engaged in sexual violence to use their own consumption of alcohol or drugs as an excuse for their mistaken belief that there was consent.
Consent is ongoing
Consenting to one kind of sexual activity does not mean that consent is given for another kind of sexual activity. A person may withdraw consent at any time during the sexual activity and consent only applies to a specific instance of sexual activity.
Consent cannot be given ahead of time
The existence of a relationship or past sexual activity does not alone constitute consent. Subsequent consensual sexual activity, communication, or other conduct of a sexual nature does not suffice as evidence of consent to prior sexual activity.
The act of using subtle pressure, drugs, alcohol, or force to have sexual contact with someone against their will. Sexual coercion is ongoing attempts to have sexual contact of some kind with another person who has already expressed that they do not want to have sexual contact.
Alcohol is the most widely used date rape drug. Because drinking is socially acceptable, perpetrators can camouflage their actions by employing excessive drinking to disarm a potential victim. It’s typically not the case that someone is going to slip something into your drink, but rather that they are going to buy you multiple drinks.
Examples of coercion
Hounding is when someone repeatedly asks, and through the process of wearing a victim down, they eventually receive a constrained “yes”.
Be they physical threats, or threats to harm someone else, somebody who makes you fearful to say “no” is engaging in coercive practices. If you are afraid of the repercussions of “no”, then consent is not freely given.
You can change your mind at any time.
You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable. One way to do this is to clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and wish to stop. Withdrawing consent can sometimes be challenging or difficult to do verbally, so non-verbal cues can also be used to convey this. The best way to ensure that all parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it, check-in periodically, and make sure everyone involved consents before escalating or changing activities.
What is enthusiastic consent?
Enthusiastic consent is a newer model for understanding consent that focuses on a positive expression of consent. Simply put, enthusiastic consent means looking for the presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “no.” Enthusiastic consent can be expressed verbally or through nonverbal cues, such as positive body language like smiling, maintaining eye contact, and nodding. These cues alone do not necessarily represent consent, but they are additional details that may reflect consent. It is necessary, however, to still seek verbal confirmation. The important part of consent, enthusiastic or otherwise, is checking in with your partner regularly to make sure that they are still on the same page. Enthusiastic consent can look like this:
- Asking permission before you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like “Is this OK?”
- Confirming that there is reciprocal interest before initiating any physical touch.
- Letting your partner know that you can stop at any time.
- Periodically checking in with your partner, such as asking “Is this still okay?”
- Providing positive feedback when you’re comfortable with an activity.
- Explicitly agreeing to certain activities, either by saying “yes” or another affirmative statement, like “I’m open to trying.”
Using physical cues to let the other person know you’re comfortable taking things to the next level
Note: Physiological responses like an erection, lubrication, arousal, or orgasm are involuntary, meaning your body might react one way even when you are not consenting to the activity. Sometimes perpetrators will use the fact that these physiological responses occur to maintain secrecy or minimize a survivor’s experience by using phrases such as, “You know you liked it.” In no way does a physiological response mean that you consented to what happened. If you have been sexually abused or assaulted, it is not your fault.