The Golden Rule of Consent … Ask

The following guest post comes to us via Erin Callinan, who is the training and technical assistance manager at the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.

holding handsWhen we look at the issue of sexual violence and prevention, we cannot do so without talking about consent. But what does that actually mean? What does consent look and sound like? Ultimately, yes means yes!

Consent works best centered in communication in words; words in whatever language everyone involved can use and understand. Consent means that an agreement has been made between individuals prior to any sexual activity that clearly communicates what each person is comfortable doing.

Obtaining consent is an ongoing process of mutual communication as sexual activity progresses, regardless of who initiates it. So once somebody consents, are you good to go? Not necessarily. Because consent is a continuous process, it’s a good idea to keep checking in with your partner.

Consent can also be withdrawn at any time. Even though your partner may have given consent to a sexual act in the past, it does not mean you have received consent in the present. The golden rule is to ask! This leads to more respectful, consensual, trusting, and communicative intimacy.

It’s also important to know when a partner does not have the ability to consent. A lack of “no” does not mean “yes.” Let’s look at some of those examples. A person cannot consent if:

  • they are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
  • they are passed out, asleep, or coming in and out of consciousness
  • they are under direct harm or being coerced
  • any party is under 18 years of age
  • they have a physical, developmental, or mental disability that impairs their ability to understand the act

Remember that consent isn’t a question. It’s a state!