Consent is part of everyday life, including sexual intimacy.
Consent means asking someone for their permission to do something and accepting their answer.
Sexual consent is a mutual agreement to have some kind of sexual contact, from kissing or touching to intercourse, and everything in between.
When we describe consent as “voluntary, informed, and uncoerced,” that means that consent isn't just the absence of a "no"; it's the continued presence of a "yes."
- Ongoing. For every act, every time, the whole time, consent is needed. That means consent must be an ongoing dialogue, not a one-time conversation.
- Act-specific. Just because consent is given for a certain sex act doesn’t mean it’s been given for any others. For example, consent for penetration doesn’t imply consent for oral, even if people might consider the former to be “more than” the latter. The act-specific nature of consent is one reason why ongoing dialogue is so important.
- Specific in time. Consent to a specific act once doesn’t mean that consent automatically exists for that or any act in the future.
- Revocable at any time. Whenever the person says or does something to stop you, whatever is happening has to stop immediately. Likewise, as soon as you don’t get a “yes” to continue, you must stop.
- Only possible when a person is in sound mind. People need to have the choice to participate or not. This requires a person to be fully informed and have the mental capacity to make a decision.
- Sexy! With a little practice, communicating about consent can be hot.
Emily Nagoski’s model of consent, as explained by Angela Chen, includes willingness on the continuum between enthusiastic consent and coerced consent, and can assist us in ensuring our asexual partners are included in this conversation.
Consent is NOT possible when a person:
- Doesn’t understand what they’re agreeing to
- Is asleep, unconscious, or otherwise mentally or physically incapacitated.
- Is physically forced
- Is coerced to give it through a physical, emotional, or financial threat
- Underage (under 16 years old in New Jersey)
Next: Asking for Consent