What consent does—and doesn’t—look like

What consent looks like

Consent means communication every step of the way. Don’t just assume your partner is comfortable with actions. It requires a clear and enthusiastic yes—meaning if someone seems unsure, stays silent, doesn’t respond, or says “maybe,” they aren’t saying yes.

If you’re caught up in the heat of the moment, here are some ways to get a temperature check before going any further:

  • “Are you comfortable?”
  • “Is this okay?”
  • “Do you want to slow down?”
  • “Do you want to go any further?”

Consent also means breaking away from preconceived notions of gender roles. There are no rules about who can initiate intimacy or who might want to take it fast or slow. The more comfortable you feel expressing your boundaries and desires, the more pleasurable your interactions together will be.

What consent does not look like

Behavior like dressing a certain way, flirting, or accepting a ride, gift, or drink is not a form of consent. Neither is saying yes (or not saying no) while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or doing so because you feel pressured or too afraid not to.

Consent means respecting boundaries and never making assumptions.

Red flags that indicate your partner isn’t respecting consent include:

Pressuring or guilting you into doing things you may not want to.

Suggesting that you “owe” them something (material items, sexual acts, etc.) either because you’re dating or because they claim to have done something for you.

Reacting negatively with sadness, anger, or resentment if you don’t consent to something or don’t do so immediately.

Ignoring your indications (verbal and non-verbal) that show you don’t consent.

Remember that it’s important to get consent every time, even if you’ve done something before or you’re in a committed relationship. A person can decide to stop an activity at any time, even if they previously agreed to it.

Most importantly, everyone has a right to their own body and to feel comfortable in their intimate relationships.

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