- freely choosing to participate in an act
- without being forced for threatened
- while being fully conscious
- and mentally capable of making an informed decision
Consensual sexual behavior is mutually desired and freely chosen. If you have been forced or coerced into sexual contact with someone without your consent, it is not your fault.
Consent vs. Assent:
The definition of assent is to "give in, to yield, to comply with." If you assent to your partner's repeated requests to participate in a sexual act, you may be giving in to avoid further manipulation, harassment or pressure. You may feel forced into sexual behavior you are not comfortable with because you were not really given the choice to reject your partner's advances. Bottom line? The absence of consent = sexual assault.
A verbal "yes" or the absence of a "no" does not necessarily mean there is consent in a given situation, especially if "consent" is given under false pretenses, or if there is force or threats.
Force and Threats:
So what actually qualifies as a use of force or threat that might result in someone "assenting" to unwanted sex? Such situations might include a partner:
- Threatening to end the relationship if you refuse sex
- Calling you a prude or tease, in private or around others
- Using manipulation to go further sexually than you are comfortable with
- Claiming that his or her body is out of control, so it will be worse if you stop the behavior
- Withholding affection, time or compliments until you comply
- Using physical force if you refuse sexual acts
You may be wondering, how do I know if I have another person's consent? Well, besides keeping a mental checklist of what consent involves, there are several ways you can ensure that all behavior between you and your partner is consensual. You could try:
- Asking for consent to kiss or hold hands. This can help you to create a pattern of asking for permission, so that when it comes time for more intimate acts, the "asking" isn't so awkward.
- Talking about sexual boundaries. If you know ahead of time what you partner is (and is not) comfortable with, then it will be easier for you to respect their bodies.
- Talking about sexual history. Discussing past partners and sexually transmitted diseases may help you and your partner make a fully informed decision about sex.
- Communicating what you like. If your partner knows what turns you on, the whole experience can be better, even if you have set boundaries. And be specific!
- Find creative ways to ask. Asking for consent doesn't have to be awkward and out of place. Have fun, talk sexy and let the "asking" enhance the experience.