What is Consent?

This section talks openly about consent in sexual relationships. Take care of yourself while reading.

Consent is something we do everyday – when we say ‘yes’ to helping out a friend, deciding where we go out for food or asking for a hug.

The definition of Consent is “a free agreement” – meaning everyone is freely agreeing (up for) whatever activity you’re about to do – without any pressure or feeling like you have to.

When it comes to intimacy and sex, consent looks like when everyone in the relationship feels safe and comfortable to decide what they want to do and asks their partner what they want to do.

Consent has to be ongoing – meaning it’s okay to change your mind no matter what you’re doing, and it’s ok to be up for some things and not for others!

Consent involves actively checking in with your partner, and observing their body language in case they start to feel uncomfortable.

Consent is NOT just waiting to hear a No!

Things that make it hard to say ‘No’ and practise consent

It can be hard to say ‘no’ to someone that has more power than you. Power could look like:

  • Someone more popular at school
  • Your partner who’s more experienced in sex
  • Societal power imbalances: Gender stereotypes give women and girls less power in their relationships with men.
  • People who are Trans or Non-binary have less societal power than cis-gendered people

For example, a person who is able to talk has more agency/power than someone who is mute.

You may be unsure if you’ll like it and need more time to talk and think about it.

Then older person in a relationship has access to more resources (like money or a car) which afford them more power than their younger partner. Older people in relationships also have greater life experiences and this can give them more confidence and power in relation to younger people.

You’re too drunk or high to think straight or passed out and can’t talk!

Someone is threatening, pressuring or guilt tripping you.

For example, a teacher has more power than their student – so this is not a consensual relationship.

Watch these videos to understand consent

Say goodbye to your inner people pleaser…

Many women and folks raised as women (or assigned female at birth -AFAB), are taught to be polite, kind and to put others’ needs first. Many women and AFAB people are told to not listen to their intuition and to ignore their body’s signals for when they’re uncomfortable or in danger.

This can lead to women and AFAB folk to not feeling able to speak up when they’re uncomfortable and to go along with what their partner wants to please the other person.

  • To get out of the habit of people pleasing, spend some time reconnecting to your body and your body’s signals around what feels good and what feels uncomfortable or scary.
  • Take some time thinking about what it is you want and need – away from anyone else’s influence.
  • Practice with friends and safe people, using your voice – saying “No” and asking for what you want – rather than saying “I don’t mind”.

LISTEN: Q&A by survivors on the topic of people pleasing