Want to know the ins and outs of consent? You’ve come to the right place. Most people understand that sexual activity without consent is assault. But, there’s a lot more to it than that. Allow us at Leda Health to break it down for you!
What exactly is consent?
Affirmative, enthusiastic consent requires an enthusiastic affirmation (duh). It might sound like “yes!” from your partner(s) in response to a question like, “Do you want to have sex right now?” It’s important to know that consent can be withdrawn at any time during sexual activity. So, even if your partner(s) consent to something, they're entitled to change their mind at any moment.
Previous sexual encounters don’t imply consent currently. Consent is granted in the present moment, and it can't be predetermined or granted on someone else’s behalf. Consent also cannot be given by someone under the influence of substances or someone who is unconscious.
Wondering what the "age of consent" is? The age of consent is the age at which an individual is legally allowed to consent to sexual activity. The ages vary by state here in the U.S., and you can find the age of consent for your state here.
Affirmative consent is exclamatory, aware, and elective sexual consent. It means giving a verbal indication of willingness to engage in sexual activity of any kind. Consent is an important way to demonstrate respect and provide clarity in every sexual encounter. There is no gray area when it comes to consent; that is what makes it affirmative.
It is obvious to understand that “no means no” when it comes to sexual activity. If you say “no,” your sexual partner(s) should understand it as a negative statement and cease. Affirmative consent offers a different kind of policy – a “yes means yes” sort of policy.
With affirmative consent, a clear and enthusiastic“yes” or otherwise affirmative statement is necessary in order for a sexual act to proceed. This applies when you initiate sexual activity, switch between different activities, and all other manner of mutual sexual decisions.
How do you ask for affirmative consent?
Great question! Here are a few direct ways to ask for consent. Be mindful of your partner(s)’ response to ensure you are seeking enthusiastic, affirmative consent:
- Can I kiss you?
- Do you want to continue making out?
- Can I take off your shirt?
- Can I touch you?
What isn’t affirmative consent?
To better understand affirmative consent, it’s important to know what it isn’t. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but affirmative consent definitely isn’t:
- Having sex previously
- Saying yes while intoxicated
- Saying yes with hesitance
- Setting a date
- Entering the bedroom
- Wearing lingerie or seductive attire
None of the above mean that you or your partner(s) have consented to sexual activity. In sexual situations, it’s never safe to assume that a partner(s) are fully comfortable. You shouldn’t proceed unless you’re given a definite, enthusiastic, affirmative answer.
Affirmative consent laws
Affirmative consent has made its way into state laws across the U.S. in an effort to protect people against unwanted sexual activity. Many of them are specific to colleges and universities, where sexual assault is a major issue.
To explore legislation regarding affirmative consent, visit AffirmativeConsent.com.
Why is affirmative, enthusiastic consent so important?
All sexual relationships should be built on communication, honesty, and respect. Respect for yourself and your sexual partner(s) can be shown by asking for and receiving affirmative consent.
The goal of affirmative, enthusiastic consent is to ensure that every person gives genuine, voluntary consent to proceed during a sexual encounter. This is important to ensure that every individual is met with the human respect they deserve.
If you or someone in your life has struggled to ask for consent, visit AccountabilityCircles.co to learn about our transformative justice informed group for folks who have caused sexual harm. Our virtual support group explores accountability, release, and recovery, and provides a brave space online to explore healing and coping practices to support you on your pathway forward.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault navigating your next steps, you don’t have to do it alone. We are here to help you heal. Visit Leda.co for resources.