fbpx 5 Things That Seem Like Consent But Definitely Aren't

5 Things That Seem Like Consent But Definitely Aren't

It's essential to be clear about where and when the line is drawn.
Austin Harvey
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Austin Harvey

Gaining consent is an absolute must before engaging in any sexual activity. Consent means all parties involved have actively agreed to participate in sexual activities with one another. If consent has not been obtained—or has been coerced or perceived to have been obtained from someone incapable of giving it—and sexual activities commence, that is sexual assault or rape.

The most apparent sign that consent has been given is a verbal acknowledgment between two well-informed adults, both of a clear mind, typically in the form of the word "yes." Still, some people find it difficult to know where, precisely, the line is drawn. We've compiled a list of things that might, at first, seem like consent, but absolutely are not under any circumstances.

1. Consenting to one kind of sexual act but not another

If two or more people have agreed to engage in sexual activities, there should be a discussion about boundaries, and what types of sexual activities are okay. If, for example, one partner is comfortable with vaginal penetration but not anal, and that boundary is crossed, this is a clear violation of consent.

Discussing sexual interests or wanting to try new things doesn't have to be an awkward conversation. Still, it should be a conversation, and consent must be given before anything further is attempted. A partner saying, "I'm open to trying that" or "Yeah, let's do it," is an affirmation of consent. Keep in mind an involved party can change their mind at any point, and boundaries need to be respected.

2. Silence

The assumption should never be toward having consent. Even if you've taken the necessary step of asking permission for something, you can still violate someone's boundaries if you don't receive an affirmative response. In many cases, someone might have difficulty saying no or expressing their emotions clearly—this does not mean you should assume they are comfortable.

If a partner is giving mixed signals or is quiet, double-check to make sure they are OK and comfortable. Remember, sex is an intimate activity, even when it's a one-night stand or hookup.

3. Assuming consent because of a previous experience

Just because you've had previous sexual encounters with someone, that does not mean you are entitled to more in the future. It's just as essential to have communication after sex as it is to communicate before. When people engage in sexual activities with each other, each party should ensure the other is comfortable. And as with the first point, someone can change their mind at any point during any sexual activity.

Likewise, simply being in a relationship with someone or even being married to them doesn't give you a say over their body. Your romantic partner still has the right to refuse sexual advances for any reason and you need to respect that.

4. 'Nonverbal cues' without clear permission

Some nonverbal cues do signify consent. Commonly recognized signals include a head nod, a thumbs up or someone pulling you in closer or initiating sexual activity. Nonverbal cues that do not signify consent include wearing revealing clothing, not actively resisting, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and being flirtatious.

Body language differs from person to person, however, and one person's idea of nonverbal consent might be different from another's. While nonverbal cues certainly exist, if you're unsure or the communication is unclear, the safest and easiest way to ensure you are receiving consent is to ask for verbal confirmation.

5. Withholding information

Proper consent in a sexual relationship means all people involved can make an informed decision about engaging in sexual activities. If you've been diagnosed with an STI and withhold that from your sexual partner(s), they cannot give consent because they do not have all of the information required to make an informed decision. Withholding information in this way is disrespectful and illegal in many states.

The best approach in any sexual situation is to be direct and honest with your partner before engaging in any sexual activities with them. They are entitled to make decisions about their health and body, and as a responsible partner, you need to provide them with the information to do so. Respecting other people's boundaries is a critical element in entering a sexual relationship, and it's never safe to assume.