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Understanding Consent

Learning how to talk about consent, gain consent or refuse consent can help clarify each persons responsibility which can minimize the risk of unwanted sexual contact.


The following is not the effective consent policy but to be used for informational, educational, and preventative purposes. For University policies please reference the Student Code of Conduct.

What is Effective Consent?

Effective consent is informed, freely and actively given, mutually understandable words or actions which indicate a willingness or non-willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity.


Consent can be given then withdrawn at any time, regardless previous sexual activity or verbal intention. A person can deny consent in any relationship from casual dating, long term partnership, or in marriage. 


If a person denies consent and is then forced or coerced into sexual activity, it is rape.


A person cannot give consent (regardless of what they verbalize) if:

  • the person is incapacitated as a result of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • the person is asleep or unconscious.
  • the person is mentally disabled to the extent that the person cannot understand the nature or the consequences of the sexual act.
  • the person is not of age to give consent.

Recognizing Consent

Consent is agreeing to an action based on your knowledge of what that action involves, its likely consequences and having the option of saying no. The absence of "no" does not mean "yes." 


Non-Verbal Communication

Withdrawing consent may not be as clear as a verbal "no." Much sexual activity relies on reading body language or facial expressions.


Here are some example of non-verbal communication that might indicate that someone is uncomfortable:

  • Not responding to your touch.
  • Pushing you away.
  • Holding their arms tightly around their bodies.
  • Turning away from you or hiding their face.
  • Stiffening muscles.
  • Not engaging or reciprocating actions.

If someone is showing signs they might be uncomfortable, it's important to stop the activity and ask how they feel about continuing.


The only way to be certain that a person has given consent is if they tell you through verbal communication.


It can be difficult for some people to express that they are not comfortable continuing with sexual activity. The best way to determine if someone is comfortable and willing to engage in sexual activity, is to simply ask.


Here are some examples of the questions you might ask:

  • What do you want to do?
  • Are you comfortable?
  • Do you want to stop?
  • Do you want to go further?
  • Do you like this?

However, if the person incapacitated (as described above) consent cannot be given, even if it is verbalized.

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