An affirmative, conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.

The following must occur:

  • Consists of mutually understandable communication
  • Informed and reciprocal
  • Freely and actively given
  • Not unlimited
  • Not indefinite

What is consent?

Consent can not be given by individuals who are underage, under pressure or intimidation or threat, intoxicated or incapacitaged by drugs or alcohol, or asleep or unconscious. Unequal power dynamics, such as engaging in sexual activity with an employee or student, means that consent cannot be freely given.

How does consent work?

Consent is about communication. It should happen every time for every type of activity. Consenting to one activity, one time, does not mean someone gave consent for other activities or for the same activity on other occasions. Having sex with someone in the past does not give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.

You can change your mind at any time.

You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable. One way to do this is to clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with the activity and wish to stop. Withdrawing consent can be challenging or difficult to do verbally, so non-verbal cues can also be used to express this. The best way to ensure all parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it, check in, and make sure everyone consents before escalating or changing activities.

What is enthusiastic consent?

Enthusiastic consent is a new model for understanding consent that focuses on a positive expression of consent. Enthusiastic consent means looking for the presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “np.” Enthusiastic consent can be expressed verbally or through nonverbal cues, such as positive body language like smiling, maintaining eye contact, and nodding.

These cues alone do not represent consent, but they are additional details that may reflect consent. It is necessary to still seek verbal confirmation. The important part of consent, enthusiastic or otherwise, is checking in with your partner regularly to make sure you are on the same page.

Enthusiastic consent can look like:

  • Asking permission before you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like “Is this ok?”
  • Confirming there is reciprocal interest before initiating any physical touch.
  • Letting your partner know you can stop at any time.
  • Periodically checking in with your partner.
  • Providing positive feedback with you’re comfortable with an activity.
  • Explicitly agreeing to certain activities, either by saying “yes” or another affirmative statement, like “I’m open to trying.”

Note: Physiological responses like an erection, lubrication, arousal, or orgasm are involuntary, meaning your body may react one way even when you are not consenting to the activity. In no way does a physiological response mean that you consented to what happened. If you have been sexually abused or assaulted, it is not your fault.

Consent does NOT look like:

  • Refusing to acknowledge “no”
  • A partner who is disengaged, non-responsive, or visibly upset
  • Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for anything more
  • Someone being under the legal age of consent, as defined by the state
  • Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol
  • Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation
  • Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past

If you have experienced sexual assault, you are not alone. To speak with someone who is trained to help, call or text SHC Sexual Assault Response Team at 251-609-1245 or email at

Hill SPEAK website provides general information that is intended, but not guaranteed, to be correct and up-to-date. The information is not presented as a source of legal advice. You should not rely, for legal advice, on statements or representations made within the website or by any externally referenced internet sites. Information regarding consent was adapted from the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). For further information, visit RAINN at

This project was supported by Grant No. 2020-WA-AX-003 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publications/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

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