7 Things That May Seem Like Consent but Aren’t Really

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In recent years, consent and the concept of consent have continued to come to the forefront of public debate.

By definition, consent is one person given another person clear permission to do something. Within the context of sexual and intimate relationships, that should come down to the simple idea that “no means no”.

While it should be simple, there are still many situations that people consider “gray areas” that are really and truly violations of consent.

Recent studies by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, in partnership with YouGov, has found that men and young adults are less aware of what is considered sexual assault, and are therefor more likely to commit it.

The study found there was a high awareness of sexual assault by its most familiar definitions—that is sexual intercourse without a person’s consent—but that there was a noted disparity among men and women, and especially men of a younger age, about other forms of sexual situations that are still considered sexual assault and still just as violating for the victim.

Here are 7 things that seem like consent, but aren’t really:

1. What A Person Is Wearing

Outfits are not consent and they cannot give consent. Even if a person is wearing what may seem like a provocative or sexually inviting outfit, they are not consenting to unwanted touching or sexual advances.

2. What They Do For A Living

If someone has a job that places them in a sexual light, it can seem confusing to some people that they are not consenting to anything more than performing their job.

A person who works as an exotic dancer, or works at a flashy bar and wears skimpy clothing, or even a sex worker, are still permitted to say no and to not expect people to take advantage of them beyond what they have clearly consented to.

3. How A Person Is Behaving

Flirtation can be confusing. If you’re chatting to someone all evening and they seem like they are interested in taking things a step further, some people might assume that this is consent. But how a person behaves is not what constitutes consenting to sex.

The only thing that constitutes consent is clear communication. So if you’re at a party and someone is flirting with you and you want to take things a step further, ask them if that’s the direction they want things to go.

4. Assumptions Based On Past Consent

If you are in a relationship with someone or have had a past intimate relationship with someone, it can seem like you have something called “blanket consent”, when you are now permitted to pursue sexual activity with this person whenever you want. Sex assault lawyers see these cases all the time and one thing always holds true: blanket consent doesn’t exist. Even your wife or husband is not mandated to have sexual contact with you, nor is a past partner or old flame. Consent has to be given every time.

5. Consenting To A Different Activity

Maybe the person you’re with wants to go skinny dipping or wants to make out. These activities could certainly lead to sex, but if you assume it’s a given and move on the situation without clearly seeking consent, you could end up sexually assaulting someone.

Just because someone has agreed to one activity (no matter how sexual it may be) doesn’t mean they are agreeing to all forms of sexual activity. Remember: blanket consent doesn’t exist.

6. Consenting And Then Changing Your Mind

Let’s say things are getting hot and heavy with a new partner and you’re excited to take things to the next level. You start to remove your clothing they remove their clothing, and then they ask you to stop. What gives? You thought this was leading somewhere. But remember that a person can change their mind and withdraw consent at any time, even in the middle of the act itself.

7. Coercion

That “encouragement”? The reminders of past gifts? Or things you’ve done for them? The “gentle” mentions of promises made? When it comes to sex, these can all be considered coercion. If your partner wants to engage in consensual sex with you, you won’t have to push them to do it, and you certainly never should!

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