In some situations, consent is straightforward. In others, it can be murky. Let the Campus Times break it down for you.

What is consent?

Consent is the approval of any sexual behavior including kissing, touching, oral or penetrative sex. It must be informed, freely given, and mutual.

Who can consent?

People over the age of 18 who share a mutual desire for one another and are not incapacitated due to alcohol and drugs, haven’t been coerced emotionally or physically, aren’t unconscious or asleep, or aren’t mentally disabled can give consent.

What is affirmative consent?

In three words: Yes means yes. UR, like many colleges around the nation, is an  affirmative consent school. Affirmative consent requires that both partners give permission to engage in any sexual acts.

What about “no means no”?

“No means no” is what a lot of us have been taught growing up. While true, it can be easily misconstrued. It gives the upper hand to the person that initiates sex because, under this guideline, they can assume consent until their partner says no, which could be due to a myriad of reasons, including fear. This lacks any discussion of or insight into what the non-initiating partner wants.

How do I get affirmative consent?

You ask! This is where the arguments about losing the heat of the moment or being robotic come in. But asking your partner what they want doesn’t ruin sex—it enhances it. Let’s say this together: We cannot read minds, so we don’t want know what our partner wants until they tell us. Body language or clothing can deceptively suggest a yes, but it cannot be assured until you get a verbal yes.

It doesn’t have to be robotic—asking can improve your sexual experience. Ask questions like: “Do you like that?”; “Can we keep going?”; “May I take your shirt off?”; and “Is this okay?” throughout the advancement of sexual acts. If the person says yes, then sexual activities can continue. If your partner doesn’t give you the green light, then stop the act.

Is it okay to have sex if we’re both drunk?

Sex after drinking alcohol is ubiquitous on college campuses. UR has developed guidelines in the Sexual Misconduct policy to address this. If you and your partner can both affirmatively consent to sexual behaviors, then yes, it’s okay. But if you or your partner is incapacitated, then consent cannot be given.

What blurs the line is that incapacitation looks different on different people. Some guidelines, If someone is slurring their words, cannot sit or stand up straight, cannot walk straight, and is clearly not in complete and total control of their body, then that person is incapacitated. Even if they manage to squeeze out a yes, it would be wrong and illegal to engage in any sexual activity with them. The least murky option would be to stay on the safe side and not have sex while under the influence of alcohol or with someone who has had alcohol.

What if you’re both incapacitated?

This still falls under inability to consent. You’re probably not going to be doing much of anything, anyway, because, for many people, incapacitation signals the loss of precise motor functions. i=If both of you can’t move, there probably isn’t much sex going on.

What if we’re dating or we’ve had sex before? Can I assume consent?

Assuming makes an ass out of you and me, as the saying goes, and assuming consent—well, that’ll ruin two lives. Never assume you have consent. The best way to not assume is to communicate your desires and wait for an affirmative response to continue. Also note that consenting once isn’t a free pass; even during the act, consent can always be withdrawn.  

Consent doesn’t have to be a mystifying, scary thing. At the heart of consent is communication. It’s as simple as asking your partner if they want to continue and having your partner check in with you. Not only does it improve your sexual experience with another person, but it’s the best way to show respect for someone else.

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