Everything you need to know about consent

By: Samuel Smith, Columnist

This article discusses sexual assault.

Consent is an important word. You may have heard this word discussed recently, especially. But what does it mean? And what does it mean for us?

Consent comes from the Latin word consentire, which means “to have the same feeling.” According to law.com, the legal definition of consent is “to voluntarily agree to an act or proposal of another.” Basically, consent means to agree to something. This could be legal, like in a contract, or emotional, like dating someone. This article focuses on the emotional aspect of consent with regards to dating.

Consent is vital in college life. Relationships, whether platonic, professional, or romantic, are built upon consent, and consent builds trust. However, there seems to be misunderstanding about how consent works. Consent is not a one time thing, it is not one and done. Consent is a conversation that you have continuously throughout a relationship. According to sexologist Dr. Lindsey Doe, “The most common or frequent way people report giving consent is by not resisting advances… It is the sexual script our culture has written.” This is super harmful though. There is a risk of people not speaking up, due to many factors such as fear, wishing to not hurt their partner/friend and other personal reasons. By not emphasizing enthusiastic consent, society continues to write the dangerous script that it is unnecessary. That simply is not true. Enthusiastic, sober consent is vital to healthy relationships.

Enthusiastic consent is a simple concept. Planned Parenthood uses the acronym FRIES to describe enthusiastic consent. In order for consent to be enthusiastic (and consensual!) it must be

  • Freely given, meaning no coercion
  • Reversible, meaning one can change their mind at any given time
  • Informed, meaning there’s no lying or deception
  • Enthusiastic, meaning one should want to participate, rather than feeling like they have to
  • Specific, meaning you must obtain consent for each different activity. Consent to holding hands does not mean consent to kissing, so on and so forth.

Asking for consent is simple: just ask! Some examples include “May I have a hug?” “Can I kiss you?” “Would you like to get pizza later?” If the person says yes, great! I’m so happy for you! But if not, don’t pursue them. The point of asking for consent is to find out if they consent or not, not to find out if you can push their boundaries. Another tip: don’t ask for consent for one activity, then go for another activity instead. That’s deception and that is not okay.

Also, in regards to altered states, a good rule of thumb is: if they are too drunk or tired to drive, they are too drunk or tired to consent. And, if they say “Hm… Maybe not right now” that means no, which means back off. Don’t push boundaries. Do respect your partner or friend. Consent is not the absence of a no, it’s the presence of a yes!

Remember: you are allowed to say no. Stand up for that right to say no and respect others’ right to say yes or no also.


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