We’ve all heard the term ‘consent,’ thrown around, but what exactly does it mean? By definition, consent is the permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. In an ideal world, everyone would always give permission for something to happen to them but that isn't always the case. Especially when it comes to intimacy and sex.
It’s no secret that romance can be tricky, despite what Hollywood might want us to think—so how do we know when to ask for consent or to give consent? The easiest way is to just always ask someone for their permission whether it's permission to hold their hand or to have sex. Even if you think you are on the same page, the safest way to go is to always ask.
When I was in high school, there were two very common misconceptions about consent that would have made communication a lot easier if I had known aboout them. I'll list them here:
MYTH: A person dressed with minimal clothing or in what is perceived as ‘sexy’ clothing has a lot of sex, is promiscuous, and is inviting you to admire them, touch them, or have sex with them.
You can never know for sure what someone intended when they get dressed and it is NOT OKAY ot make assumptions based on a person's clothing. If you think someone looks sexy in the clothes that they are wearing, it is not an invitation to stare with wide eyes, wolf-whistle, or touch them in any way nor is it any indication that they have sex frequently or are currently looking to have sex. In order to get to know someone or their intentions you have to initiate a conversation, talk to them, and find out directly. Clothing is a form of expression and we are all entitles to express ourselves without being violated by offensive words or unwanted and inappropriate attention.
MYTH: If someone is quiet or doesn’t give their opinion, it means that they do not particularly care and/or do not have an opinion on the subject.
Silence is not consent. If someone doesn’t stand up for themselves direclty say no, it does not mean that they agree with you. Sometimes people have a hard time expressing their own views about sex especially if their view differs from a person they have romantic feelings for. You should never assume you know what someone is thinking or wanting. This means that if you want to know someone’s opinion about sex, or really ANYTHING, you should always ask. If you want to kiss someone and you are unsure if that is okay, you should always ask.
To learn more about communication and relationships, visit our Relationships section!