As defined by UTK Policy, consent is “an active agreement to participate in a sexual act. An active agreement is words and/or conduct that communicate’s a person’s willingness to participate in a sexual act.”
What does consent sound like? How do you practice consent?
Ever ordered a pizza with your friends? How do you negotiate toppings? Gluten free? Vegetarian? There are a lot of ways to make a pizza. Also maybe you don’t like pizza. How do you communicate that? What if you had to communicate your pizza preferences with only eye contact and body language?
Just like you wouldn’t order a pizza exclusively non-verbally, healthy consensual sexual activity requires verbal communication. If it feels too awkward to have an open conversation about consent, consider whether or not you’re ready for sexual activity.
Consent can be as simple as
• Can I kiss you?
• Do you like this?
• How far do you want to go?
Even if it’s simple, the important part is making sure you’re aware of your partner’s feelings, because consent is also mandatory. If you don’t have consent, it’s sexual assault.
Consent to one activity does not mean consent to all activities. You wouldn’t assume your roommate loaning you a pencil also meant loaning you their car, right? Consent is an active agreement. That means it is ongoing, mutual, and okay to withdraw at any time.
What isn’t Consent
What does it sound like when there isn’t (or can’t be) consent?
- Avoiding eye contact
- When someone seems “out of it”
Who cannot give consent?
- A person who is Incapacitated, and a Reasonable Person in the same situation would have known that the person is Incapacitated;
“Incapacitation” means that a person lacks the ability to actively agree to sexual activity because the person is asleep, unconscious, under the influence of an anesthetizing or intoxicating substance such that the person does not have control over their body, is otherwise unaware that sexual activity is occurring, or their mental, physical, or developmental abilities renders them incapable of making a rational informed judgment. Incapacitation is not the same as legal intoxication.A person violates this Policy when they engage in sexual activity with another person who is Incapacitated under circumstances in which a reasonable person would have known the other person to be Incapacitated.
- A person who is Forced
“Force (Forced)” means words and/or conduct that, viewed from the perspective of a reasonable person, substantially impair(s) a person’s ability to voluntarily choose whether to take an action or participate in an activity. Examples of Force include, without limitation:
- Physical force (e.g., hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, restraining, choking, kidnapping, using a weapon, blocking access to an exit);
- Words and/or conduct that would cause a reasonable person to fear:
- Physical force or other harm to the person’s health, safety, or property, or a third person’s health, safety, or property;
- Loss or impairment of an academic benefit, employment benefit, or money;
- Disclosure of sensitive personal information or information that would harm a person’s reputation;
- Disclosure of video, audio, or an image that depicts the person’s nudity or depicts the person engaging in a sexual act(s); or
- Other immediate or future physical, emotional, reputational, financial, or other harm to the person or a third person.
- If the sexual penetration of a person would constitute mitigated statutory rape, statutory rape, or aggravated statutory rape under state law
- This article from LoveisRespect.org provides some conversation starters for how to talk about consent with your partner, as well as why it’s important.
- This page has several resources and videos about Consent, as well as free poster downloads. Check out the Hat Consent video for a great metaphor for asking for consent
- This page from Action Canada outlines the components of consent with red, yellow, green light points to help you navigate the path to consent.
- No matter your sexuality, gender expression, or relationship status, consent is mandatory. One Love’s website provides some helpful information for LGBTQ+ individuals regarding sexual health, including consent:
Want to learn more?
Check out these videos about consent!