Consenting to a sexual act/s depends on a person's ability to understand what the sexual act/s entails, the consequences of the sexual conduct, on the capacity to make an educated choice, without force, manipulation, pressure or coercion, and about whether they want the sexual act/s to occur.
A person’s capacity to consent irrespective of the relationship, is dependent on several factors. This includes their level of reasoning ability and whether they are under the influence of alcohol, drugs or prescribed medication. Sometimes people agree to a sexual act because they are frightened - this is not consent as the understanding is coerced.
There are many myths surrounding sexual assault. These myths deny the reality and diminish the effects of sexual assault, blame the victims, and protect the offender by inferring that they are not responsible for their abusive actions or behaviours.
At the core of consent is the notion that every person has a right to personal sovereignty – the right to not be acted upon by someone else in a sexual manner unless they give that person clear permission. It is the responsibility of the person initiating the sexual activity to get this permission.
Consent should never be assumed
Each of us is responsible for making sure we have consent in every sexual situation. If you are unsure, it is important to clarify what your partner feels about the sexual situation before initiating or continuing the sexual activity. Consent should not simply be assumed by:
- Body language, Appearance, or Non-Verbal Communication: One should never assume by the way a person dresses, smiles, looks or acts, that they to have sex with you.
- Dating relationships or previous sexual activity: Simply because two or more people are dating or have had sex in the past does not mean that they are consenting to have sex with you.
- Marriage: Even in marriage, a person should not assume they have consent for sexual activity. Marital rape is as serious as any other sexual assault.
- Previous Activity: Consent to engage in one sexual activity at one time is not consent to engage in a different sexual activity or to engage in the same sexual activity on a later occasion.
- Silence, Passivity, Lack of Resistance, or immobility: A person’s silence should not be considered consent. A person who does not respond to attempts to engage in sexual activity, even if they do not verbally say no or resist physically, is not clearly agreeing to sexual activity.
- Incapacitation: Alcohol consumption or use of other drugs can render a person incapable of giving consent. Alcohol is often used as a weapon to target individuals and is used by perpetrators to excuse their own actions. It is important to remember that sexual assault is never the survivor's fault, regardless of whether they may have been intoxicated.