Understanding Sexual Consent
Most simply put, consent is when you and your sexual partner both agree to have sex. While it sounds simple, consent is often misinterpreted.
- Consent has to be explicit. A head nod, shrug, or look is not consent. You should never assume someone wants to have sex with you. The only way to be sure that someone wants to have sex with you is if they explicitly say they want to.
- Consent can be changed or taken away. If you consent to have sex with someone, but halfway through are uncomfortable with what’s happening or no longer want to have sex, you have the right to change your mind and stop at any time.
- Drugs and alcohol affect your ability to consent to sex. If someone is drunk or high, they’re unable to give consent.
Consent is Not
- Silence. Even if your partner doesn’t say “no” that doesn’t mean they’re willing to have sex.
- Based on previous sexual activity. Even if you have had sex with someone a dozen times before, they need to give their consent before each time. Never assume someone wants to have sex with you simply because they have before.
- Determined by a person’s clothes. No matter how short their skirt is or how tight their shirt is, that’s never an excuse to assume someone wants to have sex with you or anyone else that night.
The Effects of Sexual Assault
Sexual assault can have a lifelong effect on a survivor’s mental and physical health. After an assault, survivors often experience,
- Depression: Survivors of rape and sexual assault often feel depressed and hopeless. These feelings can have a major effect on a survivor’s quality of life.
- Flashbacks: When memories from the trauma feel as though they’re happening at that moment, survivors can feel anxiety, stress, and fear.
- PTSD: If feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear of the person who assaulted you begin to interrupt a survivor’s day-to-day life, they may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Regardless of if you’re gay, straight, bi, trans, or cis, consent should be present in every relationship and sexual experience.