Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault

SHARE answers your questions about consent

Last week we started a conversation about consent, defining it as permission for something to happen or an agreement to do something. This week, we continue the conversation and answer three questions: Isn’t continuous consent awkward? How does consent apply in the cyber world? And finally, what about consent in a relationship?

Isn’t continuous consent awkward?

Some people think needing to ask for consent continuously throughout a sexual encounter is awkward. That is why it is important to talk about sex and what you hope to do during sex, before having sex. The premise is that to enjoy sex, and ensure continuous consent, you need to be tuned in. You need to be able to read your partner’s verbal and physical cues to know if they are still into everything. It is easier to ask for consent than to live with the guilt of traumatizing someone by sexually assaulting them.

What about dating sites? Social media? Sexting?

Consent to sexual activity needs to take place at the time of the activity, and face to face. You must agree in person. No one else can agree on your behalf. If you are exchanging sex stories, images or engaging in online sex, the same rules apply as in person. You have to have consent. You have to say yes.

What about if I am in a relationship?

Continuous consent also plays a role in a committed relationship. According to the Family Violence in Canada report published by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 80 per cent of sexual offences are committed by someone the survivor knows. In fact, most sexual assaults happen in cases where people are dating, are in a relationship or have been in a relationship. While in a relationship, your partner retains the right to reject any or all sexual activity with you at any point, regardless of what you have done or tried before. This may be for one time, a period of time or all of the time. Refusal of a given sex act does not imply a rejection of the relationship.

Long-term partners can have sex without an explicit contract every time, but should also agree that if one says “stop,” that means stop. Talking about sex is a crucial part of consent for many reasons, but a very important one is that it will help your partner know your likes and dislikes, and know when they have crossed the line.

If you have any other questions you would like to have answered about consent, feel free to reach out to Melody Petlock at share@mta.ca.

Melody Petlock