Sexual Misconduct Prevention

Understanding Consent

It is easy for individuals to become desensitized to the issues related to sex, sexual assault and consent. Individuals are bombarded by sexually explicit material in our everyday lives. Whether images/pictures featured in the magazines, movies, television, music, social media, or specific advertisements, sex is all around. Consent is rarely discussed or highlighted in any of those messages. Learning how to talk about consent, seek consent and clearly obtain consent is a key component to minimizing the risk of unwanted sexual contact.

What is Consent?

Consent is defined as a positive, unambiguous and voluntary agreement to engage in specific sexual activity throughout a sexual encounter.

  • Consent cannot be inferred from the absence of a “no”; a clear “yes”, verbal or otherwise, is necessary.
  • Consent to some sexual acts does not imply consent to others, nor does past consent to a given act imply present or future consent.
  • Consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter and can be revoked at any time.
  • Consent cannot be obtained by threat, coercion or force. Agreement under such circumstances does not constitute consent.

Consent cannot be obtained from someone who is asleep or otherwise mentally or physically incapacitated, whether due to alcohol, drugs or some other condition. A person is mentally or physically incapacitated when that person lacks the ability to make or act on considered decisions to engage in sexual activity. Engaging in sexual activity with a person whom you know – or reasonably should know – to be incapacitated constitutes sexual misconduct. Consent can only be accurately gained through direct communication about the decision to engage in sexual activity. Presumptions based upon contextual factors (such as clothing, alcohol consumption or dancing) are unwarranted and should not be misconstrued as evidence for consent. Although, in most state laws and college/university policies, consent does not need to be verbal, verbal communication is the most reliable form of asking for and gaining consent, and you are thus urged to seek consent in verbal form. Talking with sexual partners about desires and limits may seem awkward, but serves as the basis for positive sexual experiences shaped by mutual willingness and respect.

Remember that everyone has the right to say “no”, and everyone has the right to change their mind at any time regardless of their past experiences with other people or the person they are with.

Why is Consent Important?

  • Shows that you have respect for both yourself and your partner.
  • Enhances communication, respect, and honesty, which make sex and relationships better.
  • Ability to know and be able to communicate the type of sexual relationship you want.
  • Knowing how to protect yourself and your partner against STIs and pregnancy.
  • Opportunity to acknowledge that you and your partner(s) have sexual needs and desires.
  • Identify your personal beliefs and values and respecting your partner’s personal beliefs and values.
  • Builds confidence and self-esteem.
  • Challenges stereotypes that rape is a women’s issue.
  • Challenges sexism and traditional views on gender and sexuality.
  • Empowers people to have positive views on sex and sexuality and eliminates the entitlement that one partner might feel over another. Neither your body nor your sexuality belong to someone else.

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