Consent

Consent is the voluntary agreement to engage in, and continue to engage in, physical contact or sexual activity. Consent means that all persons involved demonstrate, through words or actions, that they freely and mutually agree to participate.

1. A mutual and committed agreement

Everyone involved in a sexual activity must give consent. Consent must be communicated between the individuals taking part in sexual activities. Silence or the absence of a “no” is not consent. Everyone involved in a sexual activity must give consent, and a person cannot give consent on behalf of another person.

2. Always the responsibility of the initiator of the act

It is the responsibility of the person initiating sexual activity or wanting to change to a different sexual activity (e.g. from a hug to a kiss) to ask for and ensure there is ongoing consent.

Be mindful of age limits, positions and power: there is no consent where one person abuses a position of trust, power or authority over another person. Positions of power of the person initiating a sexual activity can impact the ability of the person being asked to provide consent, to say no, ask for what they want, or to engage in fully consensual activities.

3. Enthusiastic

Enthusiastic consent signifies joyful, engaged and fun sexual activity, where respectful and healthy consensual sex is enjoyed among participants.  The absence of resistance is not consent.

Consent cannot be obtained or given when there is force of any kind. This includes coercion, pleading, force, threats, or intimidation, or where there is fraud or withholding or critical information that could affect a person’s decision to consent. 

4. Ongoing and practiced at every step

Just because someone has consented to one thing does not mean they have consented to anything else. Consent can be withdrawn at any time; it is continuous and needs to be given at all stages of physical contact or sexual activity, even if you have done it before or are in a relationship with someone with whom you are sexually active. Never assume that consent has been given, you always have to ask.

5. Not pre-determined

Past consent does not imply future consent. Consent is not a contract; people can change their minds. Consent must occur right before any sexual activity occurs or changes; this involves an on-going check-in process.

6. Best practiced sober

Consent cannot be legally given when someone does not have the capacity to give consent, such as when the person cannot appreciate the who, what, when, where, why, or how of a physical contact or sexual activity.  This can often occur under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Alcohol or drug use is often used to deny responsibility of an assault (e.g. “I was drunk and I didn’t know what I was doing”), or to victim blame those who have been assaulted (e.g. “She shouldn’t have gotten so drunk.”). Intoxication cannot be used as an excuse for not obtaining consent.

Additional considerations

  • Be mindful of age limits, positions and power: Age, position and power of the person initiating a sexual activity can impact the ability of the person being asked to provide consent, to say no, ask for what they want, or to engage in fully consensual activities.
  • Consent cannot be obtained under force of any kind: Consent cannot be given when there is force of any kind. This includes pleading, complaining, threatening, ordering or asking again and again until someone gives in.

Why is consent important?

Consent is the basis of healthy sexual activities, where all parties are fully willing and engaged in the sexual activity taking place.

UVic’s goal is to foster a campus community that is engaged in a dialogue about consent and the prevention of sexualized violence, and is mobilized not only to practice consent in their own relationships, but also to support a culture of consent on campus. 

How to engage in consensual sex

  • Ask: Ask your partner if they are willing
  • Listen: Listen to what your partner has to say
  • Respect: Respect their answer, no matter what

This is an ongoing and continual check-in process.

Learn about the UVic Let's Get Consensual campaign