Let's Talk About Consent
What is consent?
Policy 144, Tennessee Tech's Title IX Policy and Grievance Procedures, defines consent as:
"A clear and unambiguous agreement, expressed outwardly through mutually understandable words or actions, to engage in agreed upon sexual activity. An individual who is asleep, unconscious, mentally or physically incapacitated either through the effect of drugs or alcohol or for any other reason, or who is under duress, threat, coercion, or force cannot give consent. Past consent does not imply future consent. Consent can be withdrawn at any time."
- Important Notes About Consent
- It’s your responsibility to get consent from your partner(s) before any sexual activity.
- If consent is not clearly given, be intentional about checking in with your partner(s).
- Consent is an ongoing process. It can be withdrawn at any time during any activity and should always be clearly communicated to your partner(s).
- Consent to some sexual contact does not imply consent to other forms of sexual contact.
- Consent is not automatically present just because you were in or are currently in an intimate relationship.
- Consent can in some instances be given non-verbally (e.g. pulling a partner closer, nodding, active touching, initiating sexual activity).
- Consent cannot occur if a person is incapacitated (i.e., disoriented, unconscious, heavily intoxicated, etc.) and unable to understand what they’re consenting to.
- Consent needs to be freely given. If someone feels pressured into saying yes to an activity, it’s not consent.
- How to Ask for Consent
Although you may worry that asking for consent will be awkward or uncomfortable, it is actually easier than you may expect! Asking permission is a great thing - it shows your partner(s) that you respect them and their desires. Consent requires good communication and that communication must be present the whole time, every time.
- Be direct by naming or describing the act clearly, e.g. “Can I kiss you?”
- Ask your partner(s) what they prefer: “What do you want to do?”
- Ask open-ended questions as a way of starting an ongoing dialogue about what you each want, e.g. “Tell me what you like."
- Create space for your partner(s) to respond.
- Set clear expectations and boundaries beforehand, including desires and limits. Note: these can change at any time during a sexual act or encounter.
- Frequently check in with your partner(s) to make sure you’re on the same page.
- Don't proceed with an activity or pressure your partner(s) if they indicate they don’t want it.
- Examples of Ways to Ask for Consent
- “Do you want to have sex?”
- “Wanna make out?”
- “Is it okay if I touch you here?”
- “Do you like that?”
- “Does that feel good?”
- “How far do you want to go?”
- “Do you want me to...?”
- “Will you do... to me?”
- Verbal & Physical Signs That Indicate Slow Down or Stop
- “I want to, but...”
- “I’m not sure if I’m ready.”
- “I don’t know if I want to.”
- “I don’t know you well enough.”
- “I think I’ve had too much to drink.”
- “Whoa, this is moving too fast.”
- “I don’t feel right.”
- “I feel sick.”
- “I’m scared.”
- “Please stop.”
- Covering up parts of their body
- Staring off into the distance
- Crying or tearing up
- Visible discomfort or squirming
- Pushing you away
- Tense, rigid posture
- Freezing, not responding to you physically
- Ways to Check in if Your Partner Seems Hesitant
- “What would you like to do right now?”
- “Is this okay?”
- “Are you all right?”
- “Do you want to stop?”
- “You seem quiet. Are you sure?”
- “Is there anything you don’t want to do?”
- “Are you comfortable right now?”
- Consent & the Laws
- In the state of Tennessee, the legal age of consent is 18 years old. When both parties are minors, there is a "Romeo and Juliet" age exception where minors can have sex if they are within four years of each other's age and are both 13 or older (Tenn. Code § 39-13-506 (2018)).
- Someone cannot legally give their consent if they are incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.
The question, “How drunk is too drunk to have sex?” is overly simplistic. A person’s level of intoxication is dependent on many variables—their sex, weight, medications, how much they’ve eaten, how much they’ve had to drink, and how quickly they’ve ingested the alcohol. This question also implies that a potential sexual partner is only an object to use for sex, versus an engaged and enthusiastic participant. If you have any doubt about the capacity of a potential partner to consent, wait until you are both sober.
These are some signs that someone is not fully aware and is likely unable to make informed decisions and provide consent:
- Slurred speech
- Unable to Stand
- Glassy, watery or droopy eyes
- Frequent trips to the bathroom
- Vomiting, urinating or defecating on themselves
- Difficulty staying awake
- Being passed out or fading in and out of consciousness
If you are worried that someone is too drunk to give consent, wait until you are both sober to have sex.