Affirmative Consent: What Is It and How to Practice It
Consent. What is it and why is it important? Consent is an agreement for something to happen. In this case, we are talking about consent in the context of sexual activity. Now let's take it a step further to affirmative consent.
“Affirmative consent is defined as “informed, freely and affirmatively communicated willingness to participate in sexual activity that is expressed by clear and unambiguous words or actions.” Clear and unambiguous words or actions are those that are freely and actively given by informed individuals that a reasonable person in the circumstances would believe communicate a willingness to participate in a mutually agreed upon sexual activity”. So what does that mean?
Consent requires action. Silence is not consent. A feeling someone is giving consent, is not consent. A past history of sexual contact is not consent. Not saying “No”, in not consent. According to MN law, a person cannot give OR receive consent if they are impaired (i.e. drunk, unconscious, high, unresponsive). A person has to be at least 16 years of age to legally give consent in MN.
How do I practice affirmative consent?
Talk about it beforehand. Discuss what each person is comfortable with and make it clear that you care about the other person and wouldn’t want to do anything that would make them uncomfortable. This should not be the only step but is a good start. It is also important to remember that anyone can change their mind at any time and revoke their consent.
Pay attention to body language. This is an important step because sometimes people don’t say what they are thinking or feel they are unable to say anything. Be aware of if your partner doesn’t seem interested or isn’t enjoying themselves and take a step back. Ask them if they would like to stop or change what is happening. This may be uncomfortable in the moment but is an important part of affirmative consent. Remember silence or lack of protest does not equal consent.
Ask. Ask Ask. It is always best to ask before doing anything. You may think you know what the other person wants, but if you don’t ask, you won’t know. It may seem awkward to talk to someone during such an intimate moment, but by asking you will be making sure you are both enjoying the moment - making it all the more fun!
TL;DR YES MEANS YES.
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