What is Consent?
Consent to sexual activities is about communication, boundaries, control, and comfort. It is more than a legal obligation; it’s also a way to learn about your partner, bring you closer, and make sure everyone feels safe and is having fun. Consent to sexual boundaries is a wonderful expression of care and respect for another person. Consent to sexual activity must be freely given, ongoing, informed, unimpaired, explicit, and enthusiastic. There should be an enthusiastic ‘yes’ both verbally and physically.
Consent can be portrayed physically by reciprocating advances, open body language, and gently guiding the other person’s body. When someone is not reciprocating advances, has closed off body language, is avoiding eye contact, appears to be uncomfortable or somewhat frozen, these are all signs that you should check-in before continuing with sex. Physical consent often depends on someone’s demeanor and ability, which is why it is important to have both a verbal and physical yes.
Boundaries should be discussed together before and during sexual activity – that can sound like, “I don’t like that” “I’m not ready to do that,” and “I want to try something else first.” Discussing consent and boundaries can also be sexy, it can sound like “how are you feeling about this?” “would you like it if I… ?” “let me know if you want to go slow…”
All partners should be awake, alert, and sober. It is not your partner’s job to resist or say ‘no.’ It is your job to respect boundaries and seek clarification if you are unsure. Don’t assume what your partner wants or doesn’t want. There is no implied consent – what someone wears, what or how much they are drinking, or what they have done before does not imply consent. Consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to another activity; it is okay to say no to one thing and yes to another. Consent is an ongoing process involving verbal and physical check-ins.
Consent and the Law
This site is not intended to be used for legal advice. We recommend that you connect with a legal aid off, legal clinic or lawyer if you need legal advice. If you require assistance finding legal advice, you can connect with a support worker at the SASC.
Sexual activity without consent is a criminal offence. In the Canadian Criminal Code, consent is defined as “the voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question” (s. 273.1 (1)). There are several situations where the criminal code says there is no consent:
- Consent is given on behalf of someone else
- Someone says or does something to indicate they do not consent
- Someone says or does something to indicate they revoke their previous consent and no longer agree to continue the sexual activity
- Someone is incapable of giving consent—for example, if they are unconscious
- Consent is given due to someone abusing a position of power, trust or authority
- Someone is under the age of 16 (unless they fall under close-in-age exceptions). The age of consent is 18 when there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency.
For more information regarding consent and the law, see: https://www.leaf.ca/the-law-of-consent-in-sexual-assault/
Watch these videos to learn more about consent: