We define consent as an enthusiastic and freely given ‘yes’ to any sexual activity. Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault. Consent must be given during all sexual activity, even if consent has been given before. Consent can be withdrawn at any time.
Someone is not able to give consent if:
- They are forced, threatened, intimidated or coerced
- They are under 16 years of age or fall under close-in-age exceptions
- They are sleeping, passed out, or unconscious
- They are drunk or under the influence of drugs
- They implying ‘no’ by making excuses (e.g., ‘I’m tired’)
- Their body language says no (e.g., moving away, pretending to be asleep, freezing up or becoming silent, etc.)
- They are incapable of giving consent (e.g. intellectual disabilities or mental health crises)
You DO NOT have consent if:
- You coerce someone into saying yes by begging, pleading or threatening them
- You make someone feel guilty for saying no
- You imply threats (e.g., by towering over them, blocking the door, etc.)
- You lie about what you’re going to do
- You’re abusing your position of trust, power and/or authority
You DO have consent if:
- The enthusiastic and freely given ‘yes’ you receive is reflected both verbally and in your partner’s body language
- You partner is awake, alert, sober, and interested
- You have discussed with your partner what one another’s boundaries are, and continue to communicate with your partner before and at each stage of an encounter
Other important points about consent:
- Consent means both people deciding together to do the same thing at the same time, in the same way with each other
- Consent is active, not passive
- Getting consent means you don’t make assumptions about what your partner does or does not want
- Consent to one form of sexual activity does not automatically imply consent to other forms of sexual activity
- The responsibility for consent rests on the person initiating each sexual activity
- Touching someone or making them touch you in a sexual way without their permission is sexual assault
- If someone says no and you keep pressuring them, that is considered coercion
- It is not your partner’s job to resist but your job to respect their boundaries and seek clarification if unsure
Some common questions about consent
- How drunk is too drunk? How high is too high?
Canadian law states that a person who is intoxicated cannot legally consent to sexual activity. That being said, many people do choose to use substances and have sex. A guideline people may use to discern whether someone is able to give consent would be to consider if they would legally be able to drive a car, sign a contract, or make other significant decisions. If you’re unclear if someone is too intoxicated to give consent, play it safe. There will be other chances, but sexual assault is permanent.
- What if I’m not sure the other person is consenting?
If you’re not sure, ask!
- I’m in a relationship. Do I still need to have consent from my partner every time we have sex?
Yes. Consent must be present in every sexual encounter, including if you have had sex with the person before, or if you’re in a relationship with them. Sexual assault happens in relationships, so checking in with your partner is extremely important. By Canadian law, consent is required in every sexual encounter and must be ongoing during all encounters. Just because someone said ‘yes’ once it doesn’t mean they give a blanket ‘yes’ to all future sexual activity. If you don’t have consent, you’re committing sexual assault.