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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 17, 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 If the person changed his or her mind and indicated he/she wanted to stop, consent was revoked. All sexual activity must be stopped immediately once consent is withdrawn.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 who 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 who 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 who 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.

Adapted from Loyola Marymount University.

Last Modified: 4/7/16