Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in a sexual activity. This agreement should be made through mutually understandable words or actions, actively communicated both knowingly and voluntarily, that clearly convey permission for a specific activity. Consent is not effective if it results from: the use of physical force, a threat of physical force, intimidation, coercion, incapacitation, or any other factor that would eliminate an individual’s ability to exercise their own free will to choose whether or not to engage in sexual activity.
Consent is about communication. Communicating about your expectations from your partner and their boundaries is imperative before and during any sexual act. Consent must be given for each sexual type of sexual activity. Consenting to one activity, one time, does not mean someone gives consent for other activities or for the same activity on other occasions. For example, agreeing to kiss someone is not giving permission for your clothes to be removed. Having sex with someone in the past, does not give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.
Consent can be withdrawn at any time if one partner feels uncomfortable. One way to do this is to clearly communicate with your partner that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and you wish to stop. Non-verbal cues can also be used to withdraw consent but consider that at times during a sexual encounter, non-verbal cues may be hard to read. The best way to ensure that all parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it, check in periodically, and make sure everyone involved consents before escalating or changing activities.
How to Respond if Someone is Pressuring You
Do not feel obligated to do anything you do not want to do. I doesn’t matter why you don’t want to do something or if you thought you wanted to do something and changed your mind. Do only what feels right and what you are comfortable with.
When it comes to a situation that makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, do not hesitate to leave or ask someone else to leave. Your personally safety is more important that potentially hurting someone’s feelings.
Develop a code word or phrase with a friend who can help you exit a situation. You might say or text “I have a chemistry test tomorrow,” giving your friend notice that you want to leave or that they can call you and tell you they need you giving you an excuse to leave.
If you are concerned about angering or upsetting this person, you can make up an excuse to leave even if it’s untruthful. It may feel wrong to lie but you are never obligated to remain in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, scared, or threatened. Some examples of these excuses include that you need to leave to help a friend, that you don’t feel well, that you have an early day the next day, or that you told someone you’d meet them at a certain time and need to get there. Whatever you need to say to stay safe is okay – even if it may seem embarrassing or rude at the time.
If you find yourself in a situation that seems dangerous, take a look around and consider how you would leave if you had to leave quickly. Locate windows, doors, and any other way to exit the situation. Are there people close by that can help you? How can you get their attention? Where can you go when you leave?