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Consent? That's easy! Right?

Yes! Consent can definitely be easy. Unfortunately, if everyone had a solid understanding of consent, the rates of sexual assault and rape would drop dramatically. Since 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, clearly there are still misunderstandings about consent. This section will detail what consent looks like and hopefully answer all of your questions about consent!

The State of Colorado defines consent as:

  1. Cooperation in act and attitude
  2. Exercise of free will
  3. Knowledge of what's happening

You must have all three components from the other person in order to obtain consent. Without consent, any sexual act is sexual assault.

"But I get mixed messages all the time!" Totally. There can be times where people are unsure about what they want. However, it is your responsibility to stop and ask if you feel like you are getting mixed signals. If they are unsure, then you DO NOT have consent.

"It sounds like asking for consent would kill the mood..." It might. But it certainly doesn't have to. There are tons of sexy ways to ask for consent. Check out these Rams showing off how they ask for consent at one of our Consent Turns Me On events!

Consent is sexy! And exciting! And it's really important to understand that once consent is given, it can be taken back as well. You can do your part by respecting those boundaries and keep yourself and others safe!

"Awesome! I got consent for a make-out sesh. I'm gonna have sex tonight!" Not so fast. Just because someone consented to one thing, it does not mean you have consent for everything afterward. Continue to check in, and definitely respect your partner's (or partners's) boundaries. This is especially important with your intimate relationships (girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, husband, wife, friend with benefits, etc). Every sexual interaction requires consent regardless of you relationship status. Your partner never owes you sex.

"Wait... If both people are drunk, who is charged with sexual assault?" Great question. Colorado law states that the person performing the action is charged. The person who initiates sexual contact is at fault. A good analogy is this: When a drunk driver hits a pedestrian on the sidewalk, we never ask if the pedestrian was drunk because the driver caused the accident. Same thing with sexual assault. Whoever initiates and causes the incident is charged with the crime because the victim/survivor cannot give consent.

"There seems to be a lot of grey areas here." Nope. You either have consent from the other person or you don't. If they are drunk or high, they can't give consent. If YOU are intoxicated, you can't give consent. If you are not sure, double check. Hopefully this makes consent much more clear! No blurred lines from us.

Check out our Red Whistle Brigade, who do an incredible job of digging deeper into understanding consent:

If you have any further questions about consent, feel free to email us at wgac@colostate.edu

One of the analogies that we love to use when talking about consent is "The Stoplight Analogy" where red means stop and green means go. For many, yellow currently means "floor it!" So the way we are socialized to view consent looks a little like this:

For many, we see that our potential sexual partners do not want to move forward when they say "no" or "stop" or are kicking, yelling, or screaming. However, when we (and particularly men) hear things in the yellow box above, many (not all) tend to "floor it" in a sense. We think we're close and we just need to push a little more to get the yes. In society today, we tend to assume that we (and particularly men) have the green light by default and are waiting/looking for the red light. This mentality can put many people in vulnerable situations that could potentially lead to sexual assault.

If we were to continue with the driving analogy, let's say you pull up to an intersection at the exact same time as another driver. In order to proceed, you must communicate explicitly with that other driver. To move through the intersection for yourself, you must obtain the right of way (consent) from that driver. Or you have to give the right of way (consent) to them so they can go. If the two of you don't have this communication, you would either crash (sexual assault) or never move (boring).

Consent works the same way. It is yours to give to the other person. AND it is yours to take back at any point. If you or your partner move forward without the other's consent, it is sexual assault. This means that maybe you say "sure, let's make out" but they turn out to be a terrible kisser. You have the right take consent back and say, "actually, I'm not feeling it so let's stop."

With this reframe, the stoplight should actually look like this:

As you might notice, many things have moved up into the red light. A lack of a "no" is NOT a "yes". AND maybe most importantly, the red light should be your default.