Santa Clara University

Wellness Center

What Is Consent?

"Consent is based on choice. Consent is active, not passive. Consent is possible only when there is equal power. Giving in because of fear is not consent. Going along with something because of wanting to fit in with the group, being deceived or feeling bad is not consent. If you cannot say "no" comfortably, then "yes" has no meaning. If you are unwilling to accept a "no," then "yes" has no meaning."

--YWCA rape Crisis Center, San Jose

Leagally speaking, for two people to have sex, you've both got to agree to it - that's called consent: a voluntary, verbal, positive affirmation that you both want to have sex. It includes positive cooperation and exercise of free will. A current or previous dating or marital relationship shall not be sufficient to constitute consent. Problem is, things can get hazy if either you or your partner is drunk.

So keep these points in mind:

     1. Consent is not just the absence of the word "no." So ask your partner if he or she
       wants to have sex. A NO answer means "NO."
     2. Even if you hear the word "yes," explicit consent may not be considered legally
       established. If you've been drinking, any sexual activity will still be considered
       assault in some cases.
     3. Remember you or your partner can change "yes" to "no" at any time. In California,
       consent can be withdrawn by either partner at any time. If the act continues, it
       is considered rape.
     4. If someone is passed out or is highly intoxicated/disoriented/groggy and can't give
       his or her consent and you have sex with this person, you will be committing
       sexual assault. Period.
     5. Don't think you can claim you were drunk and didn't know what you were doing
       if you commit and act of sexual assault. You will be held accountable for your conduct.


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