What is Consent?

A close up photo of the torsos of two people are holding hands

Consent is how we make sure that people feel safe, comfortable and respected!

It’s a mutual, ongoing and enthusiastic agreement without threats or head games. Listening when someone says “yes” or “no” is important, but it’s not the whole picture: consent looks like checking in with another person and paying attention to their body language and emotions, too. Everyone is allowed to change their mind at any time! Consent isn’t just a box to check once and forget about. 

If you’ve said yes in the past (maybe even lots of times), it doesn’t mean that anyone can automatically assume you’ll consent to the same thing again. And if you do say yes, you’re only agreeing to what you said yes to, nothing more.

We’re talking about sex, right?

Yes and no! Consent is a necessary part of all sexual activities, but we already use it in every part of our lives. Checking if someone is comfortable uses the same consent skills no matter if we’re asking if they want to hang out or if they want to kiss.

Why do we ask for consent?

Common myths about asking for consent are that it is unattractive or awkward, but the reality is that it’s a lot more unattractive and awkward to do something without seeing if someone is into it. 

Asking for consent shows people you care about their needs as much as your own, and helps protect yourself and others from harm.

A transmasculine gender-nonconforming person and transfeminine non-binary person are cuddling in bed. Close up of their faces, smiling.
How do I ask for consent?

The key to getting good at asking consent is practice! Checking in is simple. Use whatever words feel good for you, making sure the person you’re communicating with understands what you mean.

Make sure you’re checking in with others anytime activities are starting or changing:

  • I love kissing you. How would it feel for you if I took this shirt off?
  • I’ve had a really rough day, are you able to listen to me vent for a bit?
  • I know we planned to chill but I’m full of energy. Will you come for a walk with me instead? 

Just because someone agreed to something before, doesn’t mean they’ll want to keep doing it:

  • Last time you loved it when I went down on you, can I do that again?
  • I really like that you’re comfortable cuddling while we watch a movie. Can we cuddle when we have other friends over, too?
  • You’ve been giving me rides when we spend time together lately, just checking in if you’re still okay doing that?

Most people aren’t taught what it looks like to ask for consent. Practicing new skills might feel weird at first, but it’s essential to everyone having a positive experience. Take a look here for some more helpful tips!

What are some challenges around consent?

Consent is informed and enthusiastic. That means that if you are lied to or misled about something you wouldn’t have agreed to, you’re not capable of consenting. One common sexual example of this is the idea of stealthing

Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol also means that you are not legally capable of consenting. Intoxication can make one feel more confident, but it can also lower inhibitions, make communicating difficult, and make one more vulnerable. 

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