Q&A: What is Consent?

There aren’t a whole lot of rules regarding sex, except for this one, which is infallible and should be unbreakable under any circumstance. This one rule is consent.

The most important part of any healthy sexual experience is the making and expressing of a conscious decision to want to have sex and knowing which type(s) of sex you are comfortable taking part in. Being educated about consent is essential to having a respectful and legal sex life.


Contrary to the stereotype concerning rape, young females aren’t the only group of people to be victimized or to have to express consent. 1 out of every 10 rapes/sexual assaults has a male victim. Therefore, consent is not a gender or age issue, it’s a human rights issue.

Circumstances in Which Consent Cannot Be Given, By Law

  1. A person is physically or mentally handicapped or both.
  2. A person is severely intoxicated or unconscious due to ingesting a mind altering substance (like drugs or alcohol).
  3. A person is not of legal age to consent to sex. Age of consent varies from state to state in the US.
  4. If a person says “no,” at any time, regardless of whether or not sex has occurred previously. Even if the victim is married, in a long term relationship, separated, divorced, dating or is with a friend with benefits, “no” means no. If one person forces another to perform a sexual act against their will, this constitutes sexual assault or rape.

Sexual Violence Statistics

The non-profit group RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest Network) regularly gathers data and statistics regarding sexual violence in the United States. Here are the up-to-date numbers:

  • 237,868- The number of people over the age of 12 who admit to being victims of sexual assault per year in the US. That’s one person per every 2 minutes of the year.
  • 31- The average age of rapists in the US.
  • 73%- The percentage of rapes/sexual assaults perpetrated by people the victim already knows.
  • 4 out of 10- The ratio of how many rapes/sexual assaults happen inside the victim’s own home.
  • 17.7 Million- The number of American women who have been a victim of an attempted or completed rape.
  • 17,342- The annual number of pregnancies resulting from rape in the US.
  • 34%- The percentage of American Indian women who have been the victim of sexual assault/rape (nearly twice as high as any other race).

Consent and How to Make Our Sexual Pursuits Safer

The word consent is defined by, “giving permission for something to happen.” Once this permission has been granted, then and only then, can things physically progress. In terms of sexual consent, a verbal communication of this permission is required in the form of a “yes” statement. When in doubt, ask. This is because non-verbal communication can be very tricky and so easily misinterpreted. For instance, someone may hug you as a way of saying either, “Yes, let’s proceed,” or “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to.”

Consent is a verbal agreement by a sober, voluntary, informed, honest and genuinely willing person(s). Consent is not assumed, implied or something that can be coerced from someone else. To correctly determine if someone is giving consent they must both want to give consent and be capable of giving consent. If you or your partner seems unsure or hesitant, stop. Make it known that no one has to do anything they are uncomfortable with.

What to do if Your Consent Was Not Granted

  • Remember it’s not your fault. You’re the victim of a crime.
  • Contact the authorities right away. They will most likely require a rape collection kit for court evidence at your local hospital.
  • If unable or unwilling to contact the authorities, immediately schedule a pregnancy and STD test with your doctor.
  • For a free and completely anonymous consultation, contact the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline for help either by phone or by going online.

[Source: WikipediaRAINNNSAOH]

About Kara

Kara is the Creative Director for the Condom Depot Learning Center, Condoms Fast Blog & the Spicy Gear Blog. She's an FSU alumni with a B.A. in Creative Writing and Studio Art & is as sex positive as they come. She be found swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, reading or playing the drums.

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