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What Does “Affirmative Consent” for Sexual Activity Mean?

Feb. 25, 2022

When it comes to hookup culture and college life, it’s often difficult to tell when sexual consent has been obtained. At what point have you given consent? Are there times where you have declined, but your partner still continues, and you “consented by not objecting”? Well, many colleges across the nation are now implementing affirmative consent standards in an attempt to tackle this very issue. But what does that mean, exactly? And how are they defining it?

What Does Affirmative Consent Mean?

Affirmative consent means just that—affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sex. It is the obligation of the person who initiates the sexual activity to ensure that they have given their consent. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative approval can be rescinded or withdrawn.

When Can Affirmative Consent Be Given?

Affirmative Consent must be voluntary and given without coercion, force, threats, or intimidation. It must be given by someone who is capable of giving consent. Affirmative Consent cannot be given by a person who is asleep or unconscious, incapacitated due to the influence of drugs or alcohol, disabled, and/or unable to give consent due to any other reason (including due to age).

How to Make Sure that You Have Received Affirmative Consent?

Ask before you make a move: This may seem obvious, but it's essential. If you're in a new relationship, or if you've been drinking or taking drugs, it's even more important to ask. 

Make sure your partner is responsive: It's also critical that your partner responds to your advances verbally or nonverbally. You should both be on the same page about what's going on at all times.

Use body language and vocal cues: When you're kissing someone, for instance, look for nonverbal signs that they're into it. Be aware of their body language and the signals they are sending — leaning in, touching you back, and so forth.

Make sure your partner is sober: Make sure you have consent from a sober person who can think clearly and speak clearly. Drugs and alcohol can't give consent — only humans can do that.

Having any type of sexual contact without a partner's consent is sexual assault. A clear, definite agreement amongst all parties involved to engage in specific sexual activity is known as consent. Affirmative consent means the victim does not have to say no for it to be considered rape. Words or actions can give affirmative consent. Silence and passivity are not affirmative consent.