two hands forming the symbol of a heart at sunsetRelationships of all kinds are important to develop, maintain, and constantly assess if they are positive and helping all people in the relationship thrive. Relationships include those with friends, family members, sexual partners, romantic partners, acquaintances, and many more. Creating healthy, positive relationships will help you to become a better partner yourself.

Creating a Culture of Consent

Consent is:
  • an ongoing physical and emotional process between people who are willing, equally free of coercion, communicating unambiguously, and sincere in their desires.
  • a mutual agreement to be fully present with one another throughout all interactions, to prioritize both yourself and your partners’ needs, and to understand that someone may choose to disengage from the experience at at any time.
  • knowing and feeling―without a doubt―that the other person is excited to engage with you in whatever activities you agree upon, regardless of whether the experience is amazing or mediocre.

Creating a culture of consent is everyone's responsibility. We must ensure that people have the right to enjoy and engage with their academic, professional, and social spaces free from harassing language and harmful behavior.

What steps can you take to promote consent?

  1. Explore your likes and dislikes before you are in a sexual situation with someone else. This will help you understand your own boundaries and how you want to communicate those boundaries to others. How do you like to give and obtain consent? What does consent mean to you?
  2. Every person is different. Every person's likes and dislikes vary. Taking the time to get to know how someone varies demonstrates that you prioritize being present. Educate yourself on what consent looks like, how it is informed through cultural socialization and media representations of gender and sex. If you had to pick out a gift for this person's birthday, decide on a place for lunch, or recommend a film for them to watch, wouldn't you ask questions that would give you context? You'd want them to enjoy themselves. If asking questions feels like too much effort, you should not be engaging in anything with this person in the first place.
  3. Engage with other(s) only if you have taken the time to understand what consent means to you and your partner(s). When everyone comes to the table with different levels of information, this creates a power imbalance. Understand your power, and acknowledge your privilege in every situation. People come from very different backgrounds, with very different communication styles and very different views on what is attractive, sexy, and pleasurable. Leaving things "unsaid" is not sexy - it only invites confusion. If it ruins the moment to ask, the moment was probably not that great in the first place.