Receiving and giving sexual consent is important, respectful, and attractive. Sexual consent can be the seeds of trust and communication in your relationships. Sexual consent means there is a clear agreement by all participants for any type of sexual encounter for that one time. Sex without consent is not only a crime, it can also have long lasting emotional effects. Sexual consent is not just about sexual intercourse, it also includes kissing, making out, cuddling, or touching. Giving and receiving sexual consent can be complicated. Laws about sexual activity are meant to protect minors (people younger than an adult) however; the age of legal consent varies from state to state. In the United States legal age of consent is between 16-18 years old which means that sex under the legal age is considered sexual assault or rape. International laws are similar but also vary from country to country.
- Consent can be sexy. Asking consent doesn’t need to kill the vibe. In fact, it sets the right tone for a healthy relationship or sexual encounter. It will make you a better partner and can boost your confidence that your partner also wants you. Relationships built on sexual consent often grow to have strong roots of trust.
- Silence does not mean consent. Consent is not assumed or hesitant. Consent is clear and understood by everyone involved. How do you know if there is consent? Simply ask and wait for your partner to answer. Be honest with yourself and your partner to make sure there are no doubts or discomfort.
- You can change your mind at any time. Sexual activity should feel right every time. Just because you did something once before doesn’t mean you need to be okay with it again. Anyone can change their mind in the future for reasons such as time and mood. You can even change your mind in the middle of a sexual encounter.
- No one can consent after using drugs, alcohol, or any substances. If someone is buzzed, high, or blacked-out, they cannot give consent. A lack of resistance is not permission to continue. If someone is motionless, they do not have a voice to agree or disagree.
- Using force, control, or threats is NEVER okay. If it takes convincing, it is not consent. The bottom line is that everyone deserves emotional and physical respect and has the right to make decisions about their own body. Consent should be guilt-free, willing, and crystal clear.
- Check in with yourself and your partner by asking questions. Are you okay with this? Do you want to stop? Do you want to slow down? Do you feel comfortable? These are some questions you may want to ask before and during a sexual encounter. It is also important to have a conversation ahead of time about different contraceptive options such as condoms or birth control pills and methods for preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- “No” means no. “I don’t know” does not mean yes. “Yes” means yes. Saying or hearing “no” may not always feel great, but respect is important for any relationship.
Resources for victims of sexual assault: