Understanding Consent

Consent is about communication. It’s important to clearly communicate what you are comfortable with, and the best way to ensure all parties respect each other’s boundaries is to talk about it. Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in an intimate activity, and it should happen every time.


Consent is defined by the University as an action that is:

  • clear, knowing and voluntary;
  • active, not passive;
  • words or actions, as long as those words or actions create mutually understandable clear permission regarding willingness to engage in (and the conditions of) sexual activity.

Consent is:

  • Explicitly communicated
  • Reversible at any time
  • Informed
  • Voluntary
  • Specific

Consent to any one form of sexual activity cannot automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual activity.

Consent cannot be given:

  • While asleep
  • When unconscious
  • If physically or mentally helpless
  • If disoriented or unable to understand what is happening for any reason, including due to alcohol or drug use
  • If under the age of 17, the legal age of consent.


Incapacitation is a mental or physical state in which an individual is unable to make rational, reasonable decisions because they lack the ability to understand and comprehend the potential consequences of their actions.

A person cannot give consent if they cannot understand what is happening. A person will be considered unable to give consent if they cannot understand the specifics of the sexual interaction (ie. who, what, when, where, and how). A person under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not relieved of their responsibility to appreciate another's inability to consent. Sexual activity as a result of coercion is non-consensual.

What Consent Looks Like

Positive Consent Can Look Like This:

  • Communicating when you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like "Is this OK?"
  • Explicitly agreeing to certain activities, either by saying "yes" or another affirmative statement, like "I'm open to trying."
  • Using physical cues to let other participants know you're comfortable taking things to the next level

Consent Does Not Look Like This:

  • Refusing to acknowledge "no"
  • Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for anything more
  • Someone being under the legal age of consent, as defined by the state
  • Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol
  • Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation
  • Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you've done it in the past

Understanding Consent

Visit consentiseverything.com for more information on how to define consent, how to get consent, and myths and facts about consent.