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What is sexual consent?

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Dr Kemi DaSilva-Ibru

Sexual Consent is an agreement to participate in sexual activity. Before getting sexually involved with a person, it is important to ensure that they want to engage with you sexually, as well.

Consenting and asking for consent is about setting personal boundaries and respecting those of others. In the absence of consent, any sexual activity is regarded as sexual assault or rape.

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Consent is about communication and should be established every time. The fact that an individual consent to engage in sexual activity today does not mean he or she will consent to sexual activity with the same individual the next day. Consent is freely given and should be given willingly.

Repeatedly asking someone to engage in a sexual act until they eventually say yes is not consent, it’s coercion. It is a choice you make without pressure, manipulation, or under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Consent is required for everyone, including people who are in a committed relationship or married. No one is obliged to do anything they don’t want to do, and being in a relationship doesn’t obligate a person to engage in any type of sexual activity.

It can be reversed. An individual has a right to discontinue engagement in sexual activity, even after they had previously agreed. Everyone has the right to change their mind at any time. If you are at a point where you begin to feel uncomfortable, you have the right to clearly communicate your feelings to the other person, and your wish to discontinue. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re both naked in bed.

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Consent should never be assumed or implied. The fact that a person is dressed in a certain way, or agrees to go home with you does not mean they have or are consenting to engage in sexual activity. Sexual consent is always clearly stated, there should be no question or mystery. Likewise, silence does not equal consent. It’s important to understand that any type of sexual activity without consent, including touching, fondling, kissing, and intercourse, is a form of sexual assault and can be treated as a crime.

There are laws about who is capable of consenting and who is not. People who are under the influence of drugs, alcohol or passed out cannot consent to sex. There are laws that protect minors (people below the age of 18) and people who are mentally and developmentally challenged from being pressured into engaging in sexual activities.

When and how should a person seek consent?

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IT’S necessary to ask for consent before engaging in any sexual activity. Taking time to openly discuss what you both want, and setting boundaries is important in any relationship, irrespective of the nature of the relationship, be it casual or long term.

Both parties in a healthy sexual encounter should feel comfortable communicating their needs without feeling afraid. If you’re initiating sex, and you become angry, aggressive, frustrated, or adamant when your partner declines any sexual activity, this is not okay.

If you’re engaging in sexual activity and the person expresses their wish to stop or seems hesitant, discontinue for a moment and ask them if they’re comfortable doing that activity or if they want to take a break. Let them know you respect their feelings and boundaries and would not want them to engage in anything they are not comfortable with. In any sexual encounter, it’s the responsibility of the person initiating sexual activity to ensure that the other person feels comfortable and safe.

If you have been raped or you know someone who has, please visit us at The WARIF Centre – 6, Turton Street, off Thorburn Avenue, Sabo, Yaba or call our 24-hour confidential helpline on 08092100009.

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