Consent and rape at a glance:
- Consent means that "yes" means yes and "no" means no.
- Without a clear "yes," you do not have consent and sex should not happen.
- Sexual assault is ANY sexual contact without consent, and rape is a type of sexual assault.
Consent means saying "yes." And meaning it. That might seem really simple and straightforward, but in real life it's not always that easy. If there's any doubt, it's probably not consensual. And when there's doubt, it's not okay to continue with sex.
- Freely given — no pressure, no manipulation, and no asking if it was ok to do halfway through or after the fact.
- Informed — telling them about any STDs they should know about, being honest about using condoms and birth control, and being honest about whether you're sexually active with other people.
- Something you can take back — it's ok to stop or change your mind at any time. Saying "yes" once doesn't mean saying "yes" forever, or "yes" to other sexual activities.
- Enthusiastic — being excited about it, not just letting it happen.
When people think about consent, "no means no" often comes to mind. But saying "yes" is really important, too. A straight-up "yes!" means that no one has to guess or assume anything, and you'll know they're really into it. Sexy!
How do I give consent?
The easiest way to give consent is to say “yes.” Silence is not consent. Saying “I don’t know” is not consent. Even in a long-term relationship, you should still say “yes” to what you want to do, and feel comfortable saying “no” to what you don’t. Every single time.
Sometimes in long-term relationships where people know each other very well, they find ways to consent with body language instead of words. Still, “no means no” always applies. Even in these situations, you should check in from time to time to make sure that everything you’re doing is wanted.
Some key consent phrases:
- I like...
- That feels good.
- I think it’s really hot when…
How do I ask for consent?
The only way to know if you have consent is if the person you are with is enthusiastically saying “yes” in a way that is totally clear to you. Not sure? Ask. Don’t get a “yes?" STOP!
It’s not enough to get consent just once — you need consent every time. Everyone has the right to say “no” to anything at any time, regardless of what they’ve done in the past. Also, remember that everyone also has the right to change their mind — so if someone says, “Stop” you need to stop.
It isn’t one person’s job to make sure that they have consent — it’s everyone’s job. So whether you have consent is an important question for each person to ask themselves before they have sex.
Consent doesn’t need to kill the mood. In fact, giving consent is actually super sexy. It can be your way of showing that you’re really into your partner and what you’re both doing. Asking can be hot, too. You can say, “Would it feel good to you if I ___?” “Do you want to try___?” This way you’re not only asking for consent, but you’re also talking about what you both like, which is very important for a healthy relationship.
There are laws that say some people can’t consent to sexual activities at all. This includes people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, mentally disabled, and/or under the legal age to be able to consent (this age varies by state).
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact. It’s the use of force or pressure — physical or emotional — to get someone to do something sexual. How do you prevent sexual assault? Don’t be sexual with anyone unless you know they want to. Not sure if they want to? Ask.
Sexual assault is not about attraction or wanting sex; it’s about power and humiliation. It can also happen when people just assume their partners are into it if they don't they fight back kicking and screaming, or yell "NO" very loudly. It’s important to pay close attention to your partner and how they may be feeling. If they seem uncomfortable or hesitant at all, even if they’re not upfront or direct about it, STOP and make sure they’re okay.
When someone shows a pattern of sexually controlling their boyfriend/girlfriend, that’s a type of dating violence.
Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. While most victims of sexual assault are female, one out of every five victims is male. For more information about sexual assault, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is a great resource.
What is rape?
Every state defines crimes like "rape" and "sexual assault" differently. Generally, rape is defined as forced vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by a body part or object.
Most agree that any sexual contact is a crime if the person doesn't consent. It's also a crime if the person CAN'T consent (like if they're drunk or passed out), even if they're in a relationship or married.
Without consent, these are likely to be seen as crimes:
- Oral sex
- Forcing someone to touch them sexually
- Intentionally touching or grabbing someone sexually
- Penetration of the anus or vagina with an object or a body part, like a finger or penis
If a woman is raped vaginally and she isn't on birth control, she's at risk of getting pregnant. She may want to take the morning-after pill, also known as emergency contraception (EC) to prevent pregnancy.
A nearby Planned Parenthood health center may be able to provide information about support groups or counseling for rape survivors. You may also want to contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network at 1-800-656-HOPE for more information and support.