Last Updated: December 21, 2017, 3:56 pm

The do’s and don’ts of sexual consent


Sex is the less-acknowledged side of many college students’ education.

   While sex is often enjoyed more so than hitting the books, there is something fundamental to a good sexual experience students won’t learn from a textbook.

   College students are at just the right age to really experiment with sex, but without consent, something so hot, loud, passionate and sexy is actually just rape.  

   Consent is important for many reasons, and the most talked about part is the legal side of consent. It is important to understand what consent is so you are aware of your rights. 

   Many victims of sexual assault don’t realize what happened wasn’t OK until after the fact. 

   Consent is the trickiest thing about sex but also the most important. It can be hard to tell when you have obtained consent, but if you follow a few steps it can be very simple.  

   “Consent is not the absence of a no, but the presence of a yes,” said Lindsey Doe, a doctor of human sexuality and the host of the YouTube channel Sexplanations.

   It is often the practice to give consent non-verbally in our society, Doe said. This can include not resisting advances, letting someone take your clothes off, or not saying “no” when he or she touches you. 

   Non-verbal consent is ineffective and can be an unsafe way to have sex because the expectations aren’t clear. There are reasons someone might not stop advances when they don’t actually want to have sex. 

   People usually assume the lack of an answer in this way means yes; however, there are many reasons why someone wouldn’t answer while being advanced upon. A few of these reasons include fear, disability, confusion, intoxication and embarrassment. You need to know they will say “stop” or “no” if they want to.  

   There is a good analogy Doe used once to explain consent. Imagine for a moment sex is a cup of tea. 

   If I were to offer someone a cup of tea, he or she can respond in any way. If he or she says yes, I’ll go ahead and make   tea. If he or she says no, I wouldn’t force tea on him or her. 

   Unconscious people can’t drink tea by themselves, so I wouldn’t offer any to them in the first place. 

   If he or she says nothing or are unsure whether they want tea or not, I can make them tea, but I shouldn’t hold it against them if they decide not to drink it. The other person can decide at any time  he or she doesn’t want tea, regardless of his or her previous answer, and I have to be OK with that even though that may be frustrating since I went to all the trouble of making the tea.

   So what about having sex when you, or a prospective partner, are drunk or otherwise impaired?

   Picture this: You’re at a party, and you’re drinking alongside your peers. The music is bumping in your chest, and everyone is laughing and having a good time. Across the room, you spot someone you are attracted to and would like to engage in sexual activity with. 

   Unless you’ve met this person before or talked about getting drunk and having sex before the drinking started, it is not OK to have sex with him or her until he or she sober up. 

   Drunk people are not able to give consent according to the law, so this can be considered sexual assault or rape depending on how far the sexual activity goes.

   A simple rule to tell if you or your partner are too intoxicated to give consent is this: If you or your partner can’t operate a motor vehicle, because you are impaired by drugs or alcohol, you shouldn’t be agreeing to intercourse.

   Consent is considered complicated, but it really doesn’t need to be. If you ask someone to have sex with you, it doesn’t automatically set you up for failure. Consent doesn’t take the excitement out of sex. It shows you respect your partner, and he or she will appreciate you cared enough to ask.

   “Consent is unbelievably, unarguably, bubbling-sex-cauldron hot,” Doe said.

   Asking can save you and your potential partner a lot of grief. If you ask, you won’t risk facing legal charges, and they won’t have lasting psychological and physiological issues. 

   If everyone understands consent and what it means, we can lower instances of rape and sexual assault, not only on college campuses, but also everywhere.

   Consent isn’t the act of just not opting out. Consent is a yes, said verbally, from your partner directly to you.