In different countries of the world and in different situations, the term “consent” is defined in different ways. This can make the term difficult to comprehend, and to add to the confusion it is often applied as a legal term. At the same time, to understand the term “consent” a legal education is not needed. It is very important for each of us to understand what consent is, and why and how it manifests. How is it possible to define consent?

Consent is a conscious and reasonable agreement between partners/participants engaging in voluntary sexual activity.

It’s important to know:

  • Consenting to sexual activity once does not mean that a partner has given consent for all sexual activity. For example, consenting to kissing doesn’t mean a partner is consenting to other sexual activities. Also, having consensual sexual relations once doesn’t mean that a partner has consented to future sexual relations. Consent must be confirmed each time, for all sexual encounters and activities.
  • A partner can withdraw consent at any time, for any reason.
  • Forced consent is not consent.
  • Without consent, sexual relations are considered forced.
  • Silence does not mean consent.

There are people who cannot give consent for sexual activity due to impaired abilities, alcohol, drugs or other substances, age and other reasons. There are often cases where a person has stated that they give consent out of fear or under threat. These situations cannot be considered consensual.

It is not mandatory that consent be verbal; consent can be given though different modes of communication including body language. Consent must be obtained in every instance of sexual activity.

What does the process of obtaining consent look like?

To create healthy relationships it is important to talk to your partner about personal boundaries, and to discuss the possible limits of sexual activity or desires and boundaries. For example, to obtain consent it is possible to have a discussion with your partner on whether or not they feel good in the moment. Lack of consent or can be communicated through words, but also through body language, passiveness or obvious lack of desire to participate in a sexual activity. Therefore, it is necessary to be careful and to respect your partner as you do yourself, to respect the other’s boundaries and to value consent in each sexual activity.