Defining Consent

Defining consent

Many states now define rape as sexual intercourse without one’s consent.

A sexual act is nonconsensual if it's committed through force, threat, intimidation or against the will of another. Furthermore, an individual cannot give consent if incapacitated from doing so due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other condition.

What to Know About Consent:

  • Consent is present when someone by word or by clear, unambiguous action agrees, gives permission or says yes to sexual activity with someone else. It is always freely given and each participant in a sexual situation must feel able to say “yes” or “no” at any point during sexual activity.
  • Consent to one form of sexual activity does not automatically imply consent to other forms of sexual activity.
  • Consent means the participants are both deciding, at the same time, to do something with one another.
  • There are circumstances when consent is given, but it is not valid. Consent is invalid when forced, threatened, intimidated, coerced, when given by a mentally or physically incapacitated person. The usage of alcohol or drugs can render a person incapable of granting consent.
  • Sexual coercion includes strategies used to pressure someone into having sex that may not fall under a legal definition, including emotional manipulation, social status pressure, constant pressure after an initial refusal, use of alcohol to lower inhibitions, and other types of pressure.
  • Each person is responsible for respecting another’s boundaries and for finding out what those boundaries are if they are unclear.
  • “No” means no. Silence and passivity do not equal permission.
  • Consent can be withdrawn at any time.

Myths around consent

Myth: If you do not say anything, that means you want it.

Reality: No means no, but silence also means no. Passivity does not equal consent. Many times people do not feel like they can say no due to power imbalances. People can also become unresponsive or not know what to say when they are in uncomfortable or frightening situations.

Myth: Consent is generally not something you can communicate because of the nature of sexual interaction.

Reality: If both parties are confident about engaging in sexual activity, they can communicate their consent to each other. Consent can be spoken, but it can also be expressed in action. If in doubt, ask. It will not 'kill the mood'.

Myth: Agreeing to do something sexual means you have agreed to do everything else as well.

Reality: Consent to do one thing does not automatically imply you want things to go further. Sometimes you might just want things to stop at a kiss.

Myth: If you wear revealing clothing then you are asking for it.

Reality: Nobody wants to be assaulted. You might be dressing sexily because you like to look attractive or because you want to attract someone's attention, but none of this means you want to experience assault. If someone chooses to assault, the consequences are their responsibility and their fault. It is not the fault of the person who is assaulted.

Myth: Once a man is sexually aroused, he cannot help himself. He has to have sex.

Reality: This myth infantilises men. Men and anyone else, can choose not to commit crimes or disrespect people, not matter how strong their sexual desire is. Sexual encounters fundamentally rely on communication, not on the power dynamic created by the myth that men cannot control their desire.

Consent Campaigns and Resources-



What to do if you are a victim.