The idea of getting consent before doing something with someone else’s body or property is a basic one that most of us learned at an early age. Still, when it comes to physical intimacy, sometimes consent can seem confusing or more complicated than it really is. Essentially, it’s the same rule as always: Before you touch someone’s body or property, ask first. Whatever their response, accept it.
Affirmative consent—the explicit, informed, and voluntary agreement to participate in a sexual act—means that sexual interactions are held to the same standard as most other exchanges. It’s important that students learn about affirmative consent as early as possible. Just as you can’t enter someone’s home or take someone’s stuff unless they’ve said it’s OK, you can’t touch someone unless they’ve said it’s OK. Consent can never be assumed.
Affirmative consent laws and policies make it harder for sexual assailants to argue that their victims “consented” to the assaults. These policies recognize that the absence of physical resistance doesn’t mean consent, just like the absence of fighting back against a mugger who takes your wallet doesn’t mean that the wallet was your gift to them.
Remind your students to:
- Always respect people’s physical and emotional boundaries.
- Take affirmative consent policies seriously.
- Respect all requests to avoid touching, working with, or being alone with specific people.