Coerced or Pressured? When a “Yes” isn’t consent

We know that having sex with someone after they’ve said “No” is sexual assault. We know that you have to hear an enthusiastic “Yes” before engaging in any type of sexual activity. But what are some situations where a “Yes” really isn’t consent?

Let’s think about the acronym FRIES: Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, Specific.

Consent cannot be pressured. Saying “you owe me,” or pressuring someone into saying “Yes” before having sex with them just to tick the magic “consent” box does not mean it is consensual.  Consent has to be freely given. Consent is reversible. Someone can consent to something such as kissing, but can take consent away before things progress any further. They can also stop consenting in the middle of a sexual activity, and that is absolutely their right. If they reverse or take away their consent and you still continue what you’re doing, that is sexual assault.

Consent has to be informed and specific to what you’re doing. You cannot just get a broad, all-inclusive “Yes” at the beginning of the night and assume that applies to whatever activities you want. Each sexual act has to be consented to specifically by all parties involved.

It is also not possible to have consensual sex with someone who is drunk or high: Even if someone is saying “Yes,” it doesn’t count as consent if they are incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.

Non-consensual sexual activity is an incredibly traumatic experience, and choosing not to pressure someone into saying “Yes” could save them years of healing.

If you have any questions or would like to talk to someone about consent or sexual violence, email SHARE at share@mta.ca.

Isabelle Spinney
Isabelle Spinney is a Contributor to the Argosy, and the SHARE intern for the 2018-19 Academic Year.