Educating yourself about sexual violence begins with understanding consent.

*Copyright 2015 Emmeline May, and Rachel Brian*

When it comes to any sexual activity it is vitally important to create a safe, equal, and agreed upon environment for all parties involved. The best way to do this is to create a culture of consent through a clearly expressed and mutually understood agreement for specific sexual behavior.

Creating a Culture of Consent…

  • Talk: Ongoing conversation is an important vehicle for consent. Stating your own desires doesn’t ensure consent. Both parties should clearly and unambiguously express consent.
  • Clarify: when in doubt, find out. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if anything is unclear. The responsibility for obtaining consent lies with the person initiating the sexual act. Avoid ambiguity; be verbal. Without verbal conversation, mutual agreement and understanding is difficult, if not impossible, to reach.
  • Mutuality: sex is a two-way street. If sex is mutually and simultaneously initiated, then responsibility for communicating consent (agreeing/obtaining/refusing/denying) continues to rest with all involved.
  • On-going process: Consent should be understood as an on-going process rather than a one-time, one-conversation, open door to any or all sexual interactions. Be aware that consent for one act (such as kissing) does not automatically imply consent for subsequent behaviors. Asking “Do you want to have sex with me?” is a good start but not enough. People have different ideas about what sex is.
  • Respect: Consensual sex is best established when both partners can express themselves, be listened to, and have their desires and needs respected.
  • Check-in: It’s OK to check in and see if your partner is enjoying themselves. If you sense at any point that your partner is not fully participating or not completely engaged in sexual behavior or has changed his/her mind, then ASK if he or she wants to stop. If you’ve changed your mind, say so.
  • No means no: At any point of sexual engagement, anyone has the right to stop any specific act or all sexual interactions. This can be done through verbal statements (“No.” “Don’t.” “I don’t want to do this anymore.” “I don’t like that.” “Stop.”) and/or through nonverbal actions (Pulling away. Pushing away.  Shaking your headGetting up and walking away. Turning away.). At this point, check-in because consent has ended and the other person(s) must comply. No always means NO, not maybe.
  • Accept no for an answer: Do not continue to ask for sex after someone has said no.

Consent is NOT…

  • Silence: Silence and/or non-communication and/or relying on assumptions.
  • Intoxication: Consent CANNOT be given when any person is incapacitated by drugs and/or alcohol, unconscious, or asleep. Some signs of incapacitation include, but are not limited to:
    • Vomiting
    • Slurred speech
    • Decreased motor coordination
    • Unconsciousness
    • Erratic or extreme behavior
    • Knowledge of person’s consumption
    • Bloodshot eyes
  • Violence: The threat of or use of violence or force negates any previous consent or subsequent assumptions of consent.
  • Coercion: Consent which is obtained through the use of fraud or force, whether by physical force, threats, intimidation, or duress, is invalid.
  • Harassment: Sexual harassment and sexual exploitation are always a violation of consent. For instance, masturbating in front of someone without their agreement and/or touching and groping someone at a party is not consensual according to the John Carroll University Interpersonal Violence Policy.