The Criminal Code of Canada defines sexual consent as the voluntary agreement of a person to engage in sexual activity. In order for there to be consent, a person must actively, willingly and continuously consent to all sexual activity.
This means that consent:
This video “Consent: It’s as simple as tea” demonstrates the concept of consent using tea drinking as a metaphor.
Though consent is a simple concept, our culture often places too much emphasis on the situation and the environment rather than the people involved in the moment. How often have you heard someone say something similar to the statements below?
Statements like these cast confusion on whether or not the person was consenting because they suggest that consent can be determined from the situation. But the situation or environment doesn’t speak for you — only you can give consent.
The only thing that matters in consent is the people in the moment of sexual activity and whether or not each one of them is agreeing to the activity. Everything else — the environment, their clothes, substances consumed, what they said earlier, what they’ve consented to before — is irrelevant.
This Comic provides more metaphors to help clarify the concept of consent and to challenge myths held about sexual participation. The disrespectful behaviours we see in these comics would make us feel uncomfortable. When it comes to sexuality it is even more important that we respect the rights of a person to determine their personal level of sexual participation.
This video “Got consent?” shows examples of people verbally giving and implying consent and non-consent. Some use phrases; others use gestures, body language or facial expressions. A person doesn’t need to scream or run away to make it apparent that they are not consenting.
If you are ever unsure if the person you are with is consenting, STOP and ask them.
Consent is a clear and simple concept. So why does sexual violence happen?
In our society, sometimes people don’t take consent seriously. Think about terms like “getting raped” when losing a video game, or the phrases “tease” and “playing hard-to-get.” Phrases like this reflect that our society often treats consent as a joke, and that “no” just means “maybe” or “try harder.”
But consent isn’t a game. Ignoring someone saying or implying “no” is an act of violence. Disregarding consent is about gaining power and control over another person, and hurting them. When consent is ignored or violated, this is sexual assault.
One tactic that people sometimes use to violate consent and gain control over someone is called coercion. In the context of sexual misconduct, coercion involves using manipulation against someone until they give in. When people are coerced into giving consent, they are not saying “yes” on their own terms. This looks very different from consensual sexual activity.
Coercion is behaviours like the following:
It’s important to understand that in situations involving coercion, the person was not given the space or choice to freely say “no.” It’s not that they did not say “no,” but that they could not say “no.” When this happens, this is sexual assault.
In Canada, when it comes to consent, the law is very clear that:
As for the age of consent, here’s a quick run down: