Con•sent /kƏn’sent/

  1. (noun) permission for something to happen or agreement to do something
  2. (verb) give permission for something to happen or to agree to do something

Consent isn’t exclusively about sex, but we know that it is a necessary element of sex. A person’s autonomy and consent should be respected in every relationship, not just in intimate relationships. Consent is just another way to say permission to cross someone else’s boundary. It can be taught without referring to sex, but when the goal is preventing sexualized violence, relating it to sex is important.

  • Consent must be voluntary, never forced. This includes threats, pressure, guilt, bribery, blackmail, and physical violence.
  • Consent must be enthusiastic. Consent is someone communicating “yes” with their words, tone, and actions. It is not the absence of a “no”.
  • Consent is individual. Only you can consent for you. Even if you’re dating or married, you always need your partner’s consent.
  • Consent is specific. Consent is given to specific people and to specific acts. Consent cannot be given ahead of time, only in the moment.
  • Consent must be sober. People cannot consent to sexual activity if they are highly intoxicated from drugs or alcohol, or if they’re sleeping or unconscious.

Coercion: when someone tries to manipulate or bribe you into doing something without obtaining your consent. Tactics used to coerce someone into doing something may include:

  • Fear: if someone consents because they are terrified, that is not consent.
  • Guilt: if someone consents because they feel guilty saying no, that is not consent.
  • Threats: if someone consents to avoid retaliation, that is not consent.
  • Blackmail: if someone consents because they feel like they have no choice, that is not consent.

This comic strip illustrates a person revoking their consent halfway through an activity in a non-sexual example:

The Canadian Criminal Code (sections 153-159) specifies that consent cannot be obtained in the following instances where:

  • the agreement is expressed by the words or conduct of a person other than the complainant
  • the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity 
  • the accused counsels or incites the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust, power, or authority 
  • the complainant expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to engage in the activity
  • the complainant having consented to engage in the sexual activity, expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to continue to engage in the activity.

In Canada there are laws regarding the age of consent:

  • 16 years of age is the minimum for consent; 15 years or younger cannot legally consent to sexual activity, unless:
  • 14 & 15 year-olds can consent to sexual activity with someone who is no more than 5 years older (peer group exception)
  • 12 & 13 year-olds can consent to sexual activity with someone who is no less than 2 years older (close in age exception)
  • Under 12 years of age cannot consent to sexual activity under any circumstance

Check out our graph below that lays out these close in age exceptions:

Not sure how consent would play out in a real life scenario? Planned Parenthood has some great videos on the topic: