Violence Prevention and Response: Consent
Ask. Listen. Respect
Ask for consent at every step. Listen to and respect the response.
How do you ask for you consent?
- It is the responsibility of the person initiating sexual activity to obtain affirmative, verbal consent. Asking for consent doesn't have to be awkward. Here's how some people ask for consent. "Do you like it when I…" "I'd like to _____. Is that ok with you?" "Is there anything you don't want to do?" "Are you comfortable?" "Do you want to stop?" "Do you want to slow down?" "Do you want to go any further?"
How do you listen for consent?
- While asking for consent, you should also be listening—actually listening—to what the other person is trying to communicate. If someone is saying "I guess we could…" or "I don't know, but if you want to…" then you should be picking up on the fact that s/he is not 100% into it. Don't do it.
- Listening also means looking for non-verbal cues. Some ways a person can communicate non-consent if s/he looks uncomfortable, stops engaging, squirms, cries, but there are many other ways.
You need to respect consent.
- The bottom line is that consent is about respect. You need to care about the wellbeing of the person you're with and respond appropriately when s/he is sending you verbal or non-verbal messages about his/her preferences.
What is Consent?
Silence is not consent. Only a sober yes means yes!
- Active, not passive
Consent is not…
- The absence of "No"
- Assumed, especially based on previous sexual encounters
- Implied, especially by a relationship
- Non-verbal: giggling, changing the subject or squirming do not count
- Resulting from coercion or pressure
- Resulting from manipulation or deception
- Influenced by fear
- Possible when one person has more power than the other
- Possible if one person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Need Help Talking About Sexual Encounters?
Here are some good conversation starters to help you have a healthy dialogue about sexual assault.
- "Do you like it when I…"
- "I'm going to _____. Is that ok with you?"
- "Is there anything you don't want to do?"
- "Are you comfortable?"
- "Do you want to stop?"
- "Do you want to slow down?"
- "Do you want to go any further?"
- "I don't want to go any further than____."
- "Can we slow down?"
- "This is great, but I'm tired. Can we finish this another time?"
- "No" (it doesn't matter how loud you say it)
- "I want to stop."
- "Can I____"
- "I'm going to the bathroom."
- "I'm not comfortable with this. Let's stop"
- "Do you want to keep doing what we were doing before?"
- "Ok, it's ok if you don't want to do that tonight. What do you want to do?"
- Don't just get up and walk out. Don't view the no as a challenge to overcome. Use it as an opportunity to engage in a conversation about what you're both interested in.
When a Person Cannot Give Consent
By law there are some times when a person cannot give consent, regardless of what s/he might say or do. Consent cannot be given…
- If a person is intoxicated as a result of alcohol or drugs
- If a person is physically or mentally disabled
- If a person is under the age of consent (16 in Massachusetts)
For more information on MIT's consent policy, visit sexualmisconduct.mit.edu.
Consent in Relationships
Sexual assault can occur in intimate relationships, so it is just as important to ensure consent in long term relationships as it is with people you've just met. Asking for consent is still important, but in relationships the listening and respect become even more crucial. Relationships are about mutual enjoyment of each other's company and support of the other's emotional well-being. Enthusiastic consent is critical to building strong, healthy relationships.
What If I Am Confused about Something That Happened to Me?
- If you have experienced something that is confusing or disturbing to you, you can come in and talk about it. Email us at VPRadvocate@med.mit.edu or call 617-253-2300, 24 hours a day.
If you'd like a presentation about consent for your dorm / sorority / fraternity / independent living group, contact VPR at firstname.lastname@example.org