What is Consent?

Consent is an agreement between people.  Another way to describe consent would be PERMISSION.  When discussing healthy relationships and dating abuse, consent is most often a focus of sexual abuse.  In this context it is vital to be certain that consent is both GIVEN and RECEIVED.

How Do You Know if it's Consent?

All states have laws defining consent and age of consent. Learn about the laws in your state.


  • Consent is expressed in verbal and non-verbal ways that are mutually understood
  • The absence of "no" is not a "yes"
  • "I'm not sure," "I don't know," and "maybe" are not consent
  • Silence is not consent
  • Your partner's choice in clothing is not consent
  • Natural physiological response is not consent.  For example: if actions result in an erection and/or lubrication, that is not the same as giving consent.


Consent cannot be obtained under pressure, through psychological or emotional manipulation, or physical violence or threat. 

For example: "If you're not ready, that's fine, but if you don't, I'll post those pictures you texted me."


A person who is unable to make a clear and willing decision cannot give consent. 

This includes individuals who are underage, folks who are sleeping, or under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.


  • Consent must be granted at every phase of sexual activity, every time.
  • Consent for a kiss is not also consent to remove your clothes. Always ask "is this OK?"
  • Consent given once, is not consent for the future.
  • Consent can be withdrawn at any point during sexual activity. For example: "I know I said I was ready, and I thought I was, but I think I want to stop now."

Asking for Consent

Asking for consent can be awkward, but it doesn't have to be. Keep in mind that asking for consent is not only essential, but it will also help your partner feel more comfortable.
If you aren't completely certain about whether or not consent has been given, stop what you're doing and verbally ask "are you ok with this?" or "Do you want to stop?" etc.
While there are non-verbal cues, they can easily be misinterpreted, so getting verbal consent is always the best way forward.
Always ask your partner to please communicate their comfort level and reassure them that you are comfortable with stopping whenever they want to.
If your partner wants to stop, don't get upset or offended. Reassure them that you respect their decision and gently ask them to let you know when/if they do feel ready.
Do not pester them with statements like, "are you ready now?" or make them feel like you are on some kind of schedule. Comments like that will make your partner feel very uncomfortable and can be considered coercion. Let them communicate with you when they feel ready. Keep in mind it's their body and their decision, not yours.