Texas Tech University

What is Consent?

Consent is...

  • freely and actively given;
  • mutually understandable words or actions;
  • words which indicate a willingness or non willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity.
  • A voluntary, imaginative, enthusiastic, creative, wanted, informed, mutual, honest, and verbal agreement.
  • An active agreement: Consent cannot be coerced.
  • A process, which must be asked for every step of the way; if you want to move to the next level of sexual intimacy, just ask. Never implied and cannot be assumed, even in the context of a relationship. Just because you are in a relationship does not mean that you have permission to have sex with your partner.

A person CANNOT give consent if (regardless of what he/she might verbalize):

  • The person is incapacitated or unconscious as a result of alcohol and/or drugs
  • The person is mentally disabled to the extent that the person cannot understand the nature or the consequenses of the sexual act
  • The person is not of age to give consent

Once a person says “no,” it does not matter if or what kind of sexual behavior has happened previously in the current event, earlier that day, or daily for the previous six months. It does not matter if it is a current long-term relationship, a broken relationship, or marriage. If one partner says, “NO,” and the other forces penetration, it is rape.

What if the person you're with is unable to give consent?

Drugs and alcohol can affect people's ability to make decisions, including whether or not they want to be sexual with someone else. This means that if someone is really out of it, they cannot give consent.

Being with them in a sexual way when they don't know what is going on is the same as rape.

If you see a person who is unable and is being intimate with someone, you should pull them aside and try your best to make sure that person is safe and knows what he or she is doing. If it's the opposite situation, and your friend is trying to engage in a sexual encounter with someone who is out if it, you should try to pull them aside and stop them from continuing their behavior

How do you know if the person you are with has given their consent?

The only way to know for sure if a person has given consent is if they tell you. It's not always easy to let people know that you are not happy about something. Sometimes the person you're with might look like they are happy doing something, but inside they are not. They might not know what to say or how to tell you that they are uncomfortable. The best way to determine if someone is uncomfortable or unwilling in any situation, especially a sexual one, is to simply ask. Here are some examples of the questions you might ask:

  • Is there anything you don't want to do?
  • Are you comfortable?
  • Do you want to stop?
  • Do you want to go further?

However, if the person incapacitated (as described above) even if consent is verbalized, it is not consent!

Recognizing Non-Verbal Communication

There are many ways of communicating. The look on a person's face or their body language are also a way of communicating. Often non verbal communication has more meaning than the words that come out of their mouth.

Some examples of non verbal communication that signal a person is uncomfortable with the situation are:

  • Not responding to your touch
  • Pushing you away
  • Holding their arms tightly around their bodies
  • Turning away from you or hiding their face
  • Stiffening muscles

Asking questions and being aware of body language helps you to determine if the person is consenting and feeling comfortable, or not consenting and feeling uncomfortable. If you get a negative or non-committal answer to any of the questions above, or if the person's body language resembles any of the above examples, you should stop what you are doing and talk to them about it.

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