Consent is necessary for all sexual interactions. While talking about what another person is interested in sexually may seem awkward, the consequences of not getting consent are serious and harmful. Consent is the act of willingly agreeing to engage in each specific sexual contact or activity. Consent must be clear, knowing, voluntary, and expressed prior to engaging in and during each sexual act. Consent may be expressed by mutually understandable words or actions.
There are several circumstances in which consent is not possible. These include, but are not limited to, when someone is: forced, threatened, unconscious, unaware or is incapacitated by any substance (including alcohol). To learn more about the formal UT Austin definition of consent, view the university’s policy.
Communication is vital before and throughout a sexual encounter to ensure that those involved feel comfortable expressing their wants, needs, concerns, and boundaries. The topics and questions below provide some tools to help you have a conversation about consent and what types of sexual activity you are comfortable engaging in.
Consent is a conversation that requires consciousness and clarity.
Mood: How do we want to feel? What’s the vibe? Is it fun and playful? Chill and relaxed? If anyone is anxious or concerned, stop and check in. Expectations and Boundaries: What activities do we want to do today? What do we not want to do? What are we excited about? Remember, even if you’ve agreed to, been excited about, or engaged in something before, you can still say no to that activity today and at any point in the future.
Safety: Do we know if we have any sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? If so, have we communicated about them? How will we keep ourselves safe from STIs (e.g. using a condom, dental dam)? If pregnancy is a concern, will a birth control method be used? For more, visit healthyhorns.utexas.edu.
Communication: How will we communicate before, during, and after? Verbally? Through body language? How will we check in if one of us is uncomfortable once we start?
What’s Next? Do we expect to keep interacting, and if so, in what way? If we’re not on the same page, is that okay? How will we handle that?