Consent: Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get consent?
Talk with your partner about likes and dislikes and personal boundaries before engaging in sexual contact. Consent can be verbal or non-verbal, but verbal consent is the clearest form of consent. Ensure that you obtain a verbal "yes" from your partner before all sexual acts, including kissing, touching, oral sex, vaginal or anal penetration, and all other forms of sexual contact. If you are unsure that you have consent, ask your partner.
Remember that a "yes" that is obtained after coercing your partner is not consent.
Some ways you can ask for consent are:
- I'd really like to do (fill in the blank). Would you like that?
- May I (fill in the blank)?
- How do you feel about (fill in the blank)?
What does non-verbal consent look like?
Nodding "yes," pulling someone closer, and actively participating in the sexual activity are all signs of non-verbal consent. Remember - verbal consent is best - if you are unsure if you have consent, stop and ask.
How does consent work if both parties have been drinking or using other substances?
Everyone has a responsibility to obtain consent from their partner regardless of alcohol or other drug use; being drunk or high is not an excuse for not obtaining consent.
Keep in mind that individuals who are asleep or passed out due to alcohol or other drug use are incapacitated and cannot consent to any sexual activity. Individuals can also be awake and somewhat functional and still be incapacitated and unable to consent.
Signs of incapacitation include:
- Inability to dress/undress without assistance;
- Inability to walk without assistance;
- Lack of awareness of circumstances or surroundings;
- Unresponsiveness; and
- Inability to communicate coherently.
What if my partner changes their mind?
STOP, immediately. Your partner has the right to withdraw consent at any time.
My partner and I have been together for a while, and we have had sex many times. Do I still need to ask for consent?
Yes. Consent must be obtained for each individual sexual act.
What does it look like when there is not consent?
If a partner says "no," "stop," or "I don't want to" there is not consent. But, a lack of no does not mean there is consent, either. If your partner shows the following non-verbal signals, or if you are unsure if you have obtained consent, stop immediately and check in:
- Turning their head away;
- Not participating; and
- Avoiding touch.
Also, remember that individuals who are incapacitated (i.e., by drugs, alcohol or sleep) cannot consent to sexual activity.
What is UTC's definition of consent?
The following definition of consent is excerpted from UTC's Policy on Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Dating and Domestic Violence, and Stalking.
“Consent” means an active agreement to participate in a sexual act. An active agreement is words and/or conduct that communicate a person’s willingness to participate in a sexual act.
Consent can be revoked at any time.
- Valid Consent cannot be given if:
- The sexual penetration of a person by the Respondent would constitute mitigated statutory rape, statutory rape, or aggravated statutory rape under state law, based on the ages of the Respondent and the other person.
- A person is Forced; or
- A person is Incapacitated and a Reasonable Person in the same situation as the Respondent would have known that the person is Incapacitated;
- During a sexual encounter, each person has responsibility for obtaining Consent from the other person. During a University investigation or disciplinary hearing, the University has the burden of proving that a sexual act(s) occurred without Consent (and it is not a Respondent’s burden to prove Consent).
- Whether a person has communicated Consent to participate in a sexual act generally is evaluated from the perspective of what a Reasonable Person who perceived the individual’s words and/or non-verbal conduct would have understood; however, in the context of a relationship that has involved sexual activity and a pattern of communicating Consent, whether Consent has been communicated may be evaluated based on a subjective standard (i.e., What did the specific person who initiated the sexual act conclude based on the pattern of communication?).
- A verbal “no” (or words equivalent to “no”) or the nonverbal communication of “no,” even if it sounds or appears insincere or indecisive, means that Consent has not been communicated, or if previously communicated has been withdrawn. The absence of a verbal “no” or the absence of a nonverbal communication of “no” does not necessarily mean that Consent has been communicated.
- Consent must exist from the beginning to the end of each sexual encounter and for each sexual act that occurs during a sexual encounter. A person has a right to change their mind; thus, Consent to participate in a sexual act may be withdrawn at any time. A withdrawal of Consent is communicated through clear words and/or conduct that indicate that a person no longer agrees to participate in a sexual act. Once a person’s withdrawal of Consent has been communicated, the other person must cease the sexual act for which Consent was withdrawn and must obtain Consent before reinitiating that sexual act. Consent is automatically withdrawn when a person becomes Incapacitated or is Forced to participate in a sexual act.
- Consent to one sexual act (e.g., oral sex) does not constitute or imply Consent for another sexual act (e.g., vaginal intercourse), whether during a sexual encounter or based on a previous sexual encounter.
- The following do not communicate a person’s willingness to participate in sexual act(s):
- Silence, unless accompanied by non-verbal conduct conveying a willingness to participate in sexual act(s);
- Consent communicated by the person on a previous occasion;
- Consent communicated to a third person;
- The person’s failure to resist physical force (however, for purposes of the Policy, the person’s resistance to physical force will be viewed as a clear demonstration that the person has not communicated Consent);
- A current or previous dating, romantic, intimate, or sexual relationship with the other person;
- Currently or previously cohabitating with the other person;
- The person’s attire, reputation, giving or acceptance of gifts, sexual arousal, or extension or acceptance of an invitation to go to a private residence, room, or other location.
- One’s own use of alcohol, drugs, or other substances does not diminish one’s responsibility to obtain Consent from the other person. Another person’s use of alcohol, drugs, or other substances does not diminish one’s responsibility to obtain Consent from that person.