Yes, 96 per cent of Canadians believe all sexual activities should be consensual, but only one in three Canadians actually understand what giving consent means, according to a 2015 study from the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
What is consent?
Consent is permission for something to happen, or an agreement to do something. It is required when two or more people have sex. Consent needs to be verbal, and requires saying a full and enthusiastic “Yes!” Consent is required continuously during a first sexual encounter and, within reason, all subsequent encounters. Neither going on a date nor several dates means you agree to have sex.
This means that if I said I wanted to do a certain sexual activity with you and then, five minutes into it, I said, “I changed my mind, let’s stop,” then you must immediately stop – with no further pressuring or convincing. Saying “No” or “Stop” or suddenly clearly not participating by lying still, moving away or rolling over does not mean “Try harder,” it simply means “I no longer consent to partake in this activity.” The messages meaning “No” can be verbal or physical. So read the cues and if they mean or suggest “No,” stop!
What if we are both drunk?
Sex is legal when the participants consent to it and are legally and mentally able to give consent. Consent means saying yes to something, provided that you are able to understand what you are agreeing to and can give your consent freely. If one or both parties are extremely drunk they will not be considered able to give consent. If either of you is too drunk or too high to completely know what you’re doing, then it’s impossible to have informed consent. If you or your partner is inebriated, you can’t give consent and you won’t know if you’ve truly got consent.
What if we are both part of hook-up culture? Does that not imply consent?
Discussing all of our sexual preferences, including what turns us on and what turns us off, may sound like something only deeply committed and intimate partners would feel comfortable doing. But some people are new to hook-up culture, and some may claim they are comfortable with hook-ups because they just want to try it out or do not want to look naive or inexperienced. In hook-up culture, it is still your responsibility to be sure you have consent.
Do I really have to ask and do they really have to say “Yes?”
Consent means affirmative agreement, not quiet acquiescence. Not saying “No” does not mean “Yes.” Not pushing away or resisting does not mean “Yes.” Consent needs to be verbal. This means that the word “Yes” needs to be said out loud. Simply put, the only way consent can be given is if the person says, “Yes,” including “Yes, I want to do this,” or “Yes, let’s continue doing this,” or “Yes, I like that.” Sex without that “Yes” is sexual assault. The only word that can be used to give consent is at the beginning of this column.
Still not sure you understand what consent means? Do you feel shy or awkward about what to say or how to say it? SHARE can help! SHARE can provide advice, arrange counselling, organize education sessions for one, three or any number of people, or even provide advice by text or email. Feel free to reach out to Melody Petlock at firstname.lastname@example.org.