Skip to main content

Understanding Consent

Consent for sexual activity is verbal, enthusiastic, coherent and freely given. Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault.

The responses to USU's 2017 student survey on sexual misconduct show 90 percent of victims of sexual assault knew the person that assaulted them, including a first date, acquaintance or romantic partner. Understanding consent is essential in preventing sexual assault.  

Consent Must be Coherent

If either party has had too much to drink, either may not be able to make informed decisions or be aware of their consequences. Incapacitated people (male or female) cannot agree to something as serious as sex. Some indicators of incapacitation may include:

  • Lack of control over physical movements.
  • Lack of awareness of physical circumstances or surroundings.
  • An inability to communicate.

It is possible for a person to "black out" and be totally unaware of what is happening, but still appear to be giving consent. Being intoxicated is never an excuse for not getting consent and won't excuse a person from the consequences of violating USU policy or criminal law.

Consent is Freely Given

Consent means both parties have freely chosen to engage in specific activities together. If either party coerces the other to engage in sexual activity through force or threats of force, or because they have financial or academic power over the other party, then consent is not freely given.

Consent is Specific

Consent for one sexual activity does not mean there is consent for any other activity. Consent at one time does not mean there is consent in the future. Being in a relationship does not imply consent. Most victims of sexual assault know their assailant, and many were even in relationships with them.

Consent Means Talking About Sex

Consent is best understood through clear words and actions. To be sure there is consent often requires asking and being specific. If a person doesn't feel comfortable talking about sexual activity, they may not be ready for it. Talking about consent is as simple as:

  • "Is this OK?"
  • "Do you want to do more?"
  • "Do you want to keep going?"
  • "Is this what you want?"

Consent is Not Just the Lack of a "No"

An enthusiastic "yes" by both parties means there is not pressure or coercion into sexual activity. Just because a person isn't saying "no" doesn't mean they are necessarily OK with a sexual activity. Statements like “I don’t know” or “maybe” do not indicate enthusiasm. IF IN DOUBT, ASK.

Get Consent for Digital Activity

Sending explicit videos, images, texts, or snaps – without the consent of the person pictured or the people you are sending it to – is SEXUAL HARASSMENT. Taking explicit images of a person without their consent is also sexual harassment and violates USU policy.

Read USU's sexual misconduct policy and definition of consent

consent is verbal, coherent, enthusiastic and freely given.