Chapter 1 - Consent Subchapter: Yes No I Don’t Know


It sounds obvious but…

Sometimes relationships can get really tricky.

Whether you’re in the early stages of an intimate relationship with someone you don’t know that well, or in a long term relationship with lots of history and assumptions, there are always significant shared decisions that can be hard to figure out.

Yes No I Don’t Know is just a tool to bring some clarity to your relationships, and show both of you how to think about your own rights and responsibilities.


Yes No I Don’t Know fundamentals

  • Yes No I Don’t Know is about consent.
  • If Stop Ask Listen helps you work out where you stand on a decision, Yes No I Don’t Know is a framework for working through what to do next.
  • The first step is to recognise the decisions in play.
  • You need to ask if this is a personal or formal relationship.
  • The Field Model applies to personal relationships, not formal relationships—however we need to be aware that formal power can be misused to influence personal decisions.
  • You need to ask if this is really a shared decision.
  • The Field Model only applies to shared decisions. It should not be applied to individual decisions, because this becomes a way to control someone else’s freedom.
  • Share decisions are we, us, you type decisions.
  • The way we frame a decision can change whether we see it as shared or not, so we need to be careful and think about the power of no in different framings.


Yes: The Action Zone

  • If both people say yes, you can move to the Action Zone.
  • Both people need to agree (and continue to agree).
  • The yes needs to be an active agreement, not just the absence of a no.
  • Yes is only valid if freely given.
  • For most decisions in life, it’s okay to try to persuade someone or get them to change their mind, but we can’t use pressure or coercion—this is a balancing act.
    • I want to eat pizza for dinner, you want a healthy salad.
      • “It’s Friday night and I really feel like pizza. How about we make our own so we can make sure it’s a healthier version?”
    • You want to watch a comedy movie, but I want to see a horror film.
      • “Horror films give me nightmares. If you’ll come to the comedy movie with me, you can choose the restaurant for dinner. Deal?”
  • But when making decisions about any sexual activity, it’s never okay to try and get someone to change their mind, including by making ‘deals’ or using pressure or coercion. 

IMPORTANT: Sexual coercion is when someone pressures, tricks, threatens or forces someone else into sexual activity.  See the 1800respect webpage for more details.

    • “Why did you come over if you didn’t want to do this with me?”
    • “We’ve been together for months now. What’s the point of us being together if you won’t let me touch you?”
    • “If you don’t do this, I’ll tell everyone you’re boring and frigid.”
    • “If you hang out at my place and fool around with me, I’ll take you to Joe’s party on Saturday night.”
  • Sometimes we go along with what other people want, and that can be okay – provided it’s not sexual coercion.
    • OK: “Fine. We can have pizza tonight. I’ll eat healthily for the rest of the weekend.”
    • NOT OK: “I’m not ready to let you touch me under my clothes, but I don’t want everyone at school to be told I’m boring, so I guess I’ll go along with it.”
  • Sometimes a yes can come with conditions – again, as long as it doesn’t involve sexual coercion.
  • The Action Zone has its own rules:
    • The yes is limited.
    • You can change your mind at any time.
    • Moving to a new decision means going back to Stop Ask Listen.


No: The End Zone

  • If either person decides no, then both people enter the End Zone.
  • Only one person needs to decide no.
  • We can experience social and emotional barriers to saying no.
  • We need to make it safe to say no.
  • Because receiving a no can be hurtful or upsetting, we need to manage our own emotions in the End Zone.
  • Moving to a new decision means returning to Stop Ask Listen.
  • A really big no might make you decide to end the relationship.
  • No’s can be used abusively if you frame the decision back to front (for instance, “Should we break up?” vs “Should we stay together?”), or if one person interferes in another person’s individual decision.


I Don’t Know: The Maybe Zone

  • If either person doesn’t know what they want, then you’re both in the Maybe Zone.
  • The Maybe Zone is all about taking time and getting more information, until you’re ready to make a decision.
  • The trickiest thing with the Maybe Zone is getting that information without feeling pressure or harassment.


Communicating Yes No I Don’t Know

  • We need different communication skills for each part of Yes No I Don’t Know.
  • To communicate yes we can use encouraging and affirmative phrases and body language.
  • When we’re nervous, we can mix positive and negative signals—there’s nothing wrong with this, though it can be confusing.
  • The person who is hearing yes is responsible for checking that the other person is really saying yes.
  • We can feel bad about saying no, but saying no is even more important than saying yes. 
  • It’s easy to send mixed signals with a no, but it’s better to be clear—and the other person is responsible for managing their emotions in response.
  • If you’re not certain you’re hearing a yes, assume it’s a no.
  • We need to be careful because, if it goes too far, persistence can turn into harassment.
  • There’s nothing wrong with not knowing what you want and needing time to figure it out.