Defining and Understanding CONSENT

Here is what you need to know to make sure every sexual encounter is a good experience for you and your partner.  The key is a concept called consent.  A sexual encounter without consent is both a crime and a policy violation, so make sure you always have consent.

What exactly is "consent"?

The Whitman College Sexual Misconduct Policy states:

The College defines consent as a freely and affirmatively communicated willingness to participate in sexual activity, expressed by clear, unambiguous words or actions.  It is the responsibility of the initiator of the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the other person's consent to engage in sexual activity.  Consent must be present throughout the sexual activity by all parties involved.  At any time, a participant can communicate that he or she no longer consents to continuing the activity.  Consent may not be obtained through the use of force, coercion, or intimidation or if the victim is mentally or physically disabled or incapacitated, including through the use of drugs or alcohol.

Students cannot assume consent because of the existence of a previous dating or sexual relationship.  The use of alcohol or drugs does not diminish a student's responsibility to obtain consent for sexual activity.

What are the key concepts in understanding consent?

Words or overt actions:  Consent is active.  Non-consent is the "default" that has to be over-ridden by words or overt actions.

Freely given:  Consent is not freely given if there is threat, fear, force, or coercion of any kind.  If you tell him/her that he/she has to have sex with you, you don't have consent.  If he/she allows the act because he/she is intimidated or scared in any way, you don't have consent.

Present:  As in, right now.  The two of you had sex yesterday?  Doesn't matter.  The two of you are going to have sex tomorrow?  Doesn't matter.  Unless he/she states that he/she wants to have sex with you right now, you don't have consent.

A particular sexual act:  Cuddling and kissing in his/her underwear is one specific sexual act that he/she is consenting to.  But that in itself does not signal consent to any other sexual act.  You have to make sure you have consent for every sexual act that takes place.

Consent does not mean the existence of a prior or current social relationship:  You're boyfriend and girlfriend?  Doesn't matter.  Former boyfriend and girlfriend?  Doesn't matter.

Consent does not mean that your partner failed to resist:  Consent is active, and very easy to recognize.  Consent is not the absence of "no".  Consent is not silence.  Consent is "Yes!"

Consent to a sexual act cannot be given by a person who is incapacitated by alcohol, drugs, or passed out.

 

Unsure if you have your partner's consent?  Ask!