A Short Guide to Understanding Sexual Consent


If we were not taught about sex and relationships, chances are we were also never taught about consent either, whether it's how to give it or how to receive it. 

holding hands

Consent is about communication, and it should happen every time. Saying yes to one activity, one time, does not mean consent has been given for any other activity, any other time.

Let’s explore what sexual consent is and what it’s not. 

Consent Is…

Informed: Genuine sexual consent means that both of you are fully aware of what is being agreed to. E.g. having penetrative sex, engaging in oral sex, a makeout session, etc.

Freely given: A fundamental aspect of sexual consent is the absence of pressure, threats, or manipulation. It is a decision made without fear of consequences or retaliation. Both of you should be able to share your desires without coercion.

Revocable: It's essential to recognize that sexual consent is always subject to change. You can withdraw your consent at any point, and your choice must be respected without attempts at persuasion or argument.

Mutual: Both of you need to agree and consent to the activity. It can’t be assumed or implied; it requires explicit affirmation from both of you.

Specific: Consent is context-specific, applying to a particular situation or action. Just because you said yes one time, it does not extend to all interactions in the future.

Consent Is Not…

Assumed: This may be the most important one yet — you can’t infer someone’s consent from silence, past actions, or their clothing choices. 

Conditional: True sexual consent should not be given under stress or pressure or come with conditions.

Permanent: Sexual consent is not an overarching agreement for all future interactions. Each engagement requires its own explicit and affirmative consent.

Passive: Consent must be an active and affirmative choice, not a lack of refusal.

How to Give Consent

Giving consent involves clearly and willingly expressing your agreement to participate in a specific activity. It's crucial to communicate your boundaries and preferences honestly. Here's what it could sound like.

You can show your consent verbally:

  • "Yes, I'd like to continue."
  • "I'm comfortable with that."
  • "I'm excited to try that."

Or you could give it non-verbally:

  • Nodding your head enthusiastically in response.
  • Initiating physical contact or moving closer.

You can give consent to specific activities:

  • "I'm okay with kissing and cuddling, but not ready for anything more."
  • "I'd like to explore this, but let's take it slowly."

Or you can cleary state what you're not comfortable with:

  • "I'm not ready for that level of intimacy right now."
  • "I'm not comfortable with that specific activity."

If your feelings change, communicate that too:

  • "I was excited, but I'm not feeling comfortable anymore."
  • "I'd like to stop now."
  • “Can we try this some other time?”


In a healthy relationship built on trust and safety, there is no space for guilt, threats, or being manipulated into doing anything you don’t want to do, even if it’s with your lifelong partner.

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