Consent means that both people participating in a sexual encounter agree to it. Consenting to one behavior (such as kissing) does not obligate you to consent to any other behaviors (like having sexual intercourse). In addition, giving consent on one occasion does not mean you’ve given consent for future occasions.
To determine if someone is giving consent, you must be able to answer two questions:
Does the person want to give consent?
Consent is permission from a partner to engage in any type of sexual activity. The easiest way to determine if a person wants to give consent is simply to ask, which eliminates the uncertainty of guessing and trying to interpret signals. Consent is an on-going dialogue between you and a partner. If your partner seems to become hesitant or uncomfortable, you should stop.
Is the person capable of giving consent?
If someone is drunk or high on drugs, then that person cannot give consent, which means that, even if someone seems eager to engage in sexual behavior, doing so can legally be considered sexual assault or rape if he or she is intoxicated. Having sex with someone under the age of consent (16 in Massachusetts) is considered a crime called statutory rape, even if the person under the age of consent says that she or he wanted the sexual behavior to take place.
If you are concerned for yourself or a friend, please call the Crisis Counselors at the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center any time of day at (617) 353-7277. Our services are free and confidential. We can help. You are not alone.