If a part of your relationship with a person involves being sexually involved in some way (whether it’s a long term relationship, dating relationship, or casual hook up), it’s important to talk about consent.
According to Northeastern Code of Student Conduct, “Consent means a voluntary, affirmative agreement to engage in sexual activity proposed by another and requires mutually understandable and communicated words and/or actions that would demonstrate to a reasonable person an agreement by both parties to participate in sexual activity. Consent must be freely given, without physical force, threats, intimidating behavior, duress or coercion. Silence, a lack of resistance, previous sexual relationships or experiences, and/or a current relationship may not, in itself, constitute consent. The initiator, or the person who wants to engage in a specific sexual activity, must obtain consent for the partner(s) for each sexual act. Both parties may be initiators at different points. A persons initiation of a sexual act constitutes consent to that act, but not necessarily to subsequent acts.”
Consent should be mutual, ongoing, and enthusiastic. Being with someone should be fun! Think of consent as a way to check in to make sure you’re on the same page.
Here are some ways to talk about it consent:
I’d really like to _____. What do you want?
What would be good for you?
Can I kiss you?
Are you into this?
Would you like it if I _____?
Do you want me to keep going?
Do you want me to stop?
Does that feel good for you?
How was that for you?
If your partner responds by:
Saying “I don’t know”, “I’m not sure”, “This isn’t a good idea,” “I just want to cuddle,” “I want to go to sleep,” “I should go home…”
Clearly saying “No”
Moving your hands away
These are your cues that your partner probably isn’t entirely comfortable and it's a good idea to check in.
So you think it’s weird to keep asking questions?
Asking for consent doesn’t have to be awkward. It's really about each partner communicating what they want. If you are into something, verbally encouraging your partner lets them know that your consent is ongoing (and it’s nice to hear). Ongoing consent sounds like- “Yes,” “Definitely,” “I want that too,” “Keep going,” “That feels good.” It’s also about feeling safe and comfortable enough to communicate if something doesn’t feel good. You should be able to say “I don’t want to do this anymore” or “That doesn’t feel good, can we try something different?” without feeling threatened.
Consent can’t be given:
- By minors. In Massachusetts, that means a person can legally consent to sex at age 16.
- By mentally disabled persons.
- If someone is forced, threatened, or coerced
- If someone is incapacitated through the use of drugs or alcohol
Someone is incapacitated if they are unable to make clear and rational decisions. Some signs of incapacitation include stumbling, vomiting, passing out.
How do I say no?
Our culture often conveys a message that college students are having sex all the time with many different partners. That social pressure can sometimes cause people to feel pressured into having sex. In fact, over 68% of Northeastern students had no sexual partners or only one partner in the last 12 months. You or your partner shouldn’t be made to feel guilty. People shouldn’t have to explain or defend their choices. It’s enough to say- “No.” “I don’t want to tonight.”
These videos show how a conversation about consent can play out- when your partner is very into something, unsure, or not into it.
 This data was collected in a Northeastern University 2016 National College Health Assessment.