According to Planned Parenthood, consent is an active process of willingly choosing to participate in sex and physically intimate activities of any kind. It is an important element of a healthy relationships and sexual activity. Consenting and asking for consent involves communicating boundaries, respect, and checking in with yourself and your partner. All parties involved must agree to sex and other physically intimate activities every time for it to be consensual.
Freely given. Consenting is a choice you make without pressure, manipulation, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Reversible. Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime. Even if you’ve done it before, and even if you’re both naked in bed.
Informed. You can only consent to something if you have the full story. For example, if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, there isn’t full consent.
Enthusiastic. When it comes to sex, you should only do stuff you WANT to do, not things that you feel you’re expected to do.
Specific. Saying yes to one thing (like going to the bedroom to make out) doesn’t mean you’ve said yes to others (like having sex).
In a recent study, the majority of UW students agreed that consent must be given at each step in a sexual encounter. Consent is the responsibility of all sexual partners involved and includes active permission, willing participation, enthusiasm, and enjoyment.
Consent is Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, Specific.
Consent requires clear communication from all partners involved. Check-in with your partner(s) before starting a sexual activity and when moving to a new or different sexual activity, and wait for their response before proceeding. Consider these examples of asking about consent:
Describe your intentions clearly, e.g. “Do you want to have sex?”
Ask your partner(s) what they prefer: “What do you want to do?”
Check in with them: “Does this feel good?” or “Do you like this?” or “Are you comfortable with this?”
Some verbal and non-verbal signals that may indicate your partner(s) wants to slow down or stop may include:
“I don’t know about that” or “this is moving kind of fast” or “I want to, but…”
Silence, lack of eye contact, visible discomfort, freezing up, or tense body language
Continue to check in with your partner(s) throughout sexual activity and before starting a new sexual activity. It might be helpful to ask:
“Is this okay?”
“You seem quiet. Are you sure?”
“Do you want to stop?”
ALCOHOL & CONSENT DON'T MIX: Keep in mind that your partner(s) can’t consent if they are coerced, forced, or under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Silence and discomfort do not equal consent. If you are ever unsure of what your partner(s) wants, check-in. Be sure to communicate your boundaries to your partner(s), too.
Types of Sex- and Gender-Based Interpersonal Violence
Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can include gender discrimination, which conveys hostility, exclusion or second-class status about members of a gender. Sexual harassers can be students, co-workers, supervisors, current or former intimate partners, family members, acquaintances or strangers. Sexual harassment affects people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, social classes, ages and abilities.
Sexual assault includes any sexual contact without consent — without clear initial consent and/or without ongoing consent throughout additional sexual activity. Perpetrators can be acquaintances, classmates, colleagues, supervisors, former or current intimate partners, family members or strangers.
Dating & Relationship Violence
Dating violence is another type of interpersonal violence that’s defined as a pattern of behaviors meant to control someone, coerce them into doing things they might not want to and isolate them from others.
Dating violence can include the use of physical and sexual violence, threats, intimidation, emotional abuse and controlling of finances. Physical abuse does not have to be present for it to be a controlling and abusive relationship. An abuser may use many different controlling behaviors within an intimate relationship. Dating and relationship violence and sexual assault affects people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, social classes, ages and abilities.
Stalking is unwanted, repeated and continuing contact that causes a person to feel uncomfortable, fearful or harassed. Stalking can be serious and sometimes violent, and it often escalates over time.
Stalking can happen in person or via social media or texting. Stalkers can be students, co-workers, supervisors, current or former intimate partners, family members, acquaintances or strangers and affects people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, social classes, ages and abilities. It can be difficult to know what to do next if you are being stalked or someone shares with you their concerns about being stalked. Know that you are not alone.
Sexual exploitation is when someone takes non-consensual or abusive advantage of another individual for the purposes of sexual arousal or gratification, financial gain, or another personal benefit. It can include the use of force, fraud, and/or coercion. Some examples of sexual exploitation can include sharing pictures or videos of another person’s nudity or sexual activity without consent, or blackmailing another person by threatening to send pictures of them with their same-gender partner to their family who is unaware of the person's sexual orientation.
UW Tacoma provides free confidential advocacy support for students affected by sexual assault, rape, relationship violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual harassment and other related experiences. Advocacy is the only confidential starting point for any student affected by these issues. Meeting with an advocate will not automatically lead to any kind of investigation by the university or the police and you do not need to make a formal report to receive support from an advocate.
The UW Tacoma confidential advocate provides compassionate and empowering support and can help you explore your rights and options, and get you connected to resources. All decisions to pursue next steps, if any, are entirely up to you. Get connected to the advocate today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-692-4750.
The Advocate believes survivors and is trained in trauma-informed and survivor-centered skills. The Advocate helps survivors to understand their experience, informs them of their rights and options, helps them decide what next steps to take if any, and offers accommodations and referrals for wrap around care. Survivors can share as much or as little information as they want in a safe and confidential space.
SafeCampus is the University of Washington’s violence-prevention and response program. SafeCampus supports students, staff, faculty and community members in preventing violence. You can call SafeCampus at 206-685-7233 anytime – 24 hours per day and 7 days per week – no matter where you work or study to anonymously discuss safety and well-being concerns for yourself or others. In urgent situations, call 911.
What can I expect when I call SafeCampus?
A trained professional will listen in a non-judgmental, empathetic way. They are here to offer support and guidance when you have concerns for yourself or others. You can tell SafeCampus about something that happened or share your safety concerns. You’re welcome to say as much or as little as you want to. During the call, the SafeCampus professional might ask questions about the details of the incident, concerns for safety, and what next steps you would like to see happen.
Learn more about SafeCampus, signs of dating violence and stalking, and how to respond and what to do when someone discloses an incident of sexual assault.