Consent, rights and responsibilities
What is consent?
Consent is permission to do something.
- Can we cuddle tonight?
- Yes, I would like that.
CAN WE CUDDLE TONIGHT?
Consent involves a shared decision – one person asks for something, or asks to do something, and the other person responds with YES, NO, or I DON’T KNOW.
As a society, we’ve decided one person can’t just take what they want or do what they want to another person.
Every YES must be freely given, otherwise there is no consent. A NO is always a no, regardless of the circumstances.
Consent should be enthusiastic
If a yes is not enthusiastic then it’s a maybe, even a no.
What does enthusiastic consent look like?
Enthusiastic consent leaves you with no doubt that a yes really is a yes.
There are a few different terms and phrases that also mean enthusiastic consent. In some jurisdictions, the term used for legal purposes is affirmative consent. Affirmative consent means that someone must say yes for you to have consent, rather than assuming the absence of a no means you have consent. In all jurisdictions only a yes means yes, and that yes should be enthusiastic and freely given. If in doubt don’t proceed!
It’s not a yes from pressure or guilt or fear, but a YES! Yes! I would love that! I totally want to do that with you!
Explicitly asking for permission is the best way to be certain that a yes is enthusiastic, but it can also be communicated non-verbally.
A person can use body language, gestures or touch to communicate enthusiastic consent.
But because you need to be sure, it’s always best to ask.
You can check in on your own enthusiasm level by asking:
- am I comfortable with what’s happening?
- am I enjoying myself?
- do I feel good?
- am I being respected?
You can check in with your partner by asking:
- are you comfortable with what’s happening?
- are you enjoying yourself?
- do you feel good?
- do you feel respected?
It’s important to remember that arousal is not consent. Just because someone seems aroused, it doesn’t mean that they are enthusiastic or have consented.
When it comes to intimate relationships:
- Check in with your partner on every new decision, big or small.
- Listen to your partner.
- Respect what your partner is communicating to you, either verbally or non-verbally.
- Stop when anything seems unclear.
Stop Ask Listen recognises other people as individuals with their own rich inner worlds and making an effort to understand what they really want from a relationship is essential in a healthy and respectful relationship.
Your sexual rights
Assuming you are legally old enough to consent to sex, your sexual rights are clear. Your body is your own and you decide what happens to it.
- You decide if you want to share it with someone.
- You decide when you want to share it with someone.
- You decide who you want to share it with, and,
- You decide how you want to share it with someone.
No person or situation can take away your right to freely give and refuse consent.
Your sexual responsibilities
If you’d like to become physically intimate with someone then you need their consent. They have the same rights as you do to set the rules for their body.
It’s your responsibility to make sure that at every stage the other person is freely consenting to each new decision and is always 100% comfortable.
Importantly, consent to sex one time is not consent to sex the next time. Consent must be gained each and every time.
Your partner has these exact same rights.
Deciding to have sex is a shared decision. Respectful sex occurs when your rights are acknowledged, and you accept that it’s your responsibility to make sure the other person is able to exercise their own sexual rights.
We each have the right to say no at any point. We also have a responsibility to stop whenever the other person says no or isn’t an enthusiastic yes.