Important Concepts for Understanding Consent
Capacity to Consent: People must be conscious, in control of their mental abilities, of legal age, and in a state of mind where they are able to give and communicate their consent. If there is a large power difference between people, such as between a therapist and their patient, consent is not possible.
Freely Given: It is not consent if someone agrees to an activity because they feel pressured, threatened, manipulated, or lied to. This is true even if a person is threatening to harm themselves if the other doesn’t agree to a sexual activity.
Affirmative Consent: A clear agreement to participate that is expressed through words and action. Consent is more than the absence of a “no”. Affirmative consent is a clear “yes”.
A best practice for affirmative consent is to ask your partner to use full sentences to tell you what they do and don’t want, rather than one word agreements such as “ok” and “sure”. Check out the ‘skills for consent’ section below for ideas of how to improve your relationship interactions.
Enthusiastic Consent: A commonly used phrase is, “Only enthusiastic consent is consent”. It’s important to consider the difference between someone wanting, being willing, and tolerating sex. Tolerating sexual activities is not true consent, because often there is some form of underlying pressure.
For better relationships, people are learning how to use skills for consent to improve their interactions.