What is Affirmative Consent?
For the full policy definition of consent, see the Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence
Affirmative Consent is:
- Informed (knowing)
- Voluntary (freely given)
- Active (not passive), meaning that, through the demonstration of clear words or actions, a person has indicated permission to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity
Affirmative consent is not the absence of a no, but the presence of a yes.
Affirmative Consent cannot be obtained by Force. There are four types of force:
- Physical violence: Examples of physical violence include hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, restraining, choking, and brandishing or using any weapon.
- Threats: Examples include threats to harm a person physically, to reveal private information to harm a person’s reputation, or to cause a person academic or economic harm.
- Intimidation: An implied threat that menaces or causes reasonable fear in another person. A person’s size, alone, does not constitute intimidation; however, how a person uses their size may constitute intimidation (e.g., blocking access to an exit).
- Coercion is the use of an unreasonable amount of pressure to gain sexual access. Coercion is more than an effort to persuade, entice, or attract another person to have sex.
Silence or passivity does not equal consent. Relying only on non-verbal communication can lead to misunderstandings. When in doubt, ask! It’s important to know what your partner is comfortable with and where their boundaries are.
Affirmative Consent cannot be gained by taking advantage of the incapacitation of another, where the person initiating sexual activity knew or reasonably should have known that the other was incapacitated. Incapacitation means that a person lacks the ability to make informed, rational judgments about whether or not to engage in sexual activity.
Incapacitation is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication. A person is not incapacitated merely because they have been drinking or using drugs.
There are some common signs that should alert you that someone might be incapacitated. Typical signs include slurred or incomprehensible speech, unsteady gait, combativeness, emotional volatility, vomiting, or incontinence.
A person who is incapacitated may not be able to understand some or all of the following questions: “Do you know where you are?” “Do you know how you got here?” “Do you know what is happening?” “Do you know whom you are with?”
If one has doubt about either party’s level of intoxication, the safe thing to do is to forego all sexual activity. Being impaired by alcohol or other drugs is no defense to any violation of this policy.
Guidelines for Affirmative Consent:
- A person who wants to engage in a specific sexual activity is responsible for obtaining Affirmative Consent for that activity.
- Lack of protest does not constitute Affirmative Consent.
- Lack of resistance does not constitute Affirmative Consent.
- Silence and/or passivity also do not constitute Affirmative Consent.
- Relying solely on non-verbal communication before or during sexual activity can lead to misunderstanding and may result in a violation of this Policy.
- Affirmative Consent can be withdrawn at any time.
- An individual who seeks to withdraw Affirmative Consent must communicate, through clear words or actions, that they no longer wish to engage in the sexual activity.
- Affirmative Consent to one form of sexual activity does not, by itself, constitute Affirmative Consent to another form of sexual activity.
- Affirmative Consent to sexual activity on a prior occasion does not, by itself, constitute Affirmative Consent to future sexual activity.