Consent for sexual activity is simultaneously a buzzy topic, critically important, and, somehow, hard to discern in the moment.
For example, if you're at a college party and are interested in pursuing a fun night with another attendee, you might be looking for signs of consent. You might also both be drinking as you talk or dance. The room might be loud, and you might feel like your window of opportunity is closing as you try to figure out whether you've received sexual consent.
Let's try to find some ground rules. How do you know for sure when it's okay to move forward?
How to Know You Have Received Consent for Sexual Activity
One rule of thumb for gauging sexual consent is simple: Check in with your partner — often. If they reply enthusiastically in the affirmative and continue to do so, you're good to go.
Taking a direct route is often the best plan. Before you initiate sexual activity, check in and ask your partner: “Is this okay?” Do the same thing before you change the type of sexual activity you and your partner pursue, as well. Phrases like “is this still okay,” “how are you doing,” or similar variants will come in handy as you discern whether you have the consent to move forward.
Physiological, involuntary responses to sexual stimuli (e.g., arousal) do not indicate consent.
How to Know You Haven't Received Consent
Knowing you can't proceed with valid, consensual activity may be easier to define. Here are a few examples:
- If your prospective partner is incapacitated due to alcohol, fatigue, or any other reason
- If your prospective partner is under the local legal age of consent
- If your prospective partner has said ‘no' several times, and ‘yes' only after consistent pressure from you
- If you assume consent now because you've gotten consent before
- If your prospective partner is visibly distressed
- If there's an unbalanced power dynamic (e.g., one person is the other's teacher) and one person is leveraging that relationship over the other
If you haven't explicitly received consent, there is something you can do to shed some light on the matter. You can simply ask your prospective sexual partner if they consent to sexual activity.
That can sound stilted, but it'll give you a lot of clarity and peace of mind as you proceed with your evening (or decide to spend time with someone else if you get a “no”).
Mistakes, Miscommunications, and Misunderstandings Happen. The Lento Law Firm Can Help
Sexual activity without consent is wrong under any circumstances, but there can be blurred lines at times that young people may not recognize are being crossed. There are also countless situations where students are wrongly or falsely accused. Being accused alone, however, does not mean you did something wrong.
If you're facing sexual misconduct disciplinary proceedings, you might be scared. You might wonder if there's any chance you can work towards a favorable outcome. Your school likely recommends steep sanctions for nonconsensual sexual activity, and you're terrified that — because of one night — your entire future is about to go down the drain.
That's where a Title IX student defense attorney can provide essential support. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can review your school's Title IX policies and code of conduct, help find evidence to bolster your case, and negotiate with your school to achieve a reasonable resolution. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 for more information.