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: Seek permission first, and only proceed if you get a ‘yes.’ That’s true of sexual consent too. Sometimes sexual consent is represented to be confusing or complicated, but it isn’t. It’s still the same set of rules. Before you touch someone’s body or property, ask first. Whatever their response, accept it. If you’re genuinely confused, ask for clarification.
Affirmative consent means that sexual interactions are held to the same standard as most other exchanges. 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.