One reason we tend to blame victims of sexual violence is that we buy into myths about consent. We often perpetuate the idea that consent is confusing or that it is implied when someone is silent or doesn't "fight back."
Note: When it comes to sexual activity, there is no such thing as implied consent.
"No Means No"
While it is the most commonly used phrase related to consent, "no means no" can cause more problems than it solves. It is true that when someone says "no," their partner/s should stop immediately. However, "no means no" is a flawed (and even dangerous) framework for understanding and practicing consent.
- "No means no" does not describe what consent is. It is simply one example of what consent is not.
- A victim does not need to say "no" for it to "count" as sexual assault or rape. For example, if a victim is underage, incapacitated, unconscious, or traumatized they may not say "no." Just because someone doesn't say that word "no" does not mean an encounter is consensual.
- Communication is verbal and nonverbal. If your partner pulls away, freezes , spaces out, or says "stop," "don't," or in any other way communicates disinterest or fear, then consent is not present,regardless of whether or not they said "no."
We prefer to define consent based on what it is, instead of what it's not. Consent is an enthusiastic and ongoing "YES!" Consent must be given freely, without coercion, intimidation, or threats.
If you are still confused, here are some tips:
- Consent to one sexual act does not mean consent to other sexual acts.
- Consent to past sexual activity does not mean consent to future sexual activity.
- Consent can be withdrawn at any time, even midway through a sexual act.
- Some people are incapable of giving consent, i.e. children, people who are unconscious or incapacitated by drugs, alcohol, etc.
- If you are unsure if you have consent, ASK. Never assume.
The video below brilliantly illustrates what consent is…and what it isn't. It starts with one simple question…