Written by Kelly Couture, MEd, LPC-S
Consent is giving permission for something to happen and/or an agreement to participate in an activity. The concept of giving consent for sexual interactions has long been discussed. However, there is still a stigma placed on providing consent and what constitutes consent. There have been many cases in which this topic has been covered extensively bringing about strong feelings and opinions. But, what are some of the basic components of consent?
- Consent is given by someone (or a group of people) that allows for certain actions to take place. If consent is not given, the actions are not permissible.
- Consent must be given when decision making capacity is intact. Decision making capacity involves four components: a) having an understanding of the activity, b) being able to retain this information long enough to make a decision, c) being able to weigh the information in order to make an informed decision, and d) clearly communicating their decision. If any one of these is not present, consent cannot be truly given.
- If one is incapacitated due to intoxication or an altered mental status of any kind, he/she/they are not able to provide consent.
- The way one dresses does not indicate he/she/they are consenting to a sexual activity. For example, a short skirt does not indicate someone is asking for sexual encounters.
- Teaching children at a young age about consent is paramount to children being able to learn about what is and is not allowable for their minds and bodies. For example, forcing children to hug a family friend or family member may teach a child that they are not able to make personal decisions regarding consent.
- Consent is not something that can be forced. Coercion of any manner to engage in an activity is not permissive.
- No means No. If someone indicates they do not wish to engage in any activity, the wishes of that individual need to be honored.
This list is far from exhaustive. If you ever find that you have not given consent for a sexual activity, please contact the National Sexual Abuse Hotline at 800-656-4673. Ask to remain anonymous if that helps you feel more comfortable, and ask for more information on what you can do. Consult with a trusted member of your support system. Lastly, please remember that therapists are available to assist you through any trauma you may be working through, including sexual trauma. Remember, No Means No.