What Is Consent And How Can It Vary?

Consent occurs when people agree to engage in sexual activity. As Amnesty International points out a sexual encounter where one of the parties does not give consent what takes place is rape.

Legally speaking consent is a highly contentious issue. If it can be proven that somehow a victim agreed to the acts that took place in a sexual encounter, then no rape was committed. Although that does not rule out assault, of the two, rape is the more serious crime.

Minors cannot consent

Consent is such a horrendous issue that we encoded into law that a minor was incapable of giving consent.

Equally, someone who is incapacitated cannot have given their consent. If a person is unconscious they are never deemed to have consented, in truth it is hard to see how they could make any consensual action.

Consent varies from state to state

To add to the complexity there is no overarching definition of what consent means, and in some states like Pennsylvania consent is not even defined. Rather the state states the occasions that sexual conduct will be construed as a felony.

Defining consent

Is it possible to put a boundary around consent a define it? Because we need to know in law, there have been all sorts of attempts to define it.

Consent must be freely given. A person who is given or taken alcohol or drugs, or is manipulated or threatened into saying yes, is deemed not to have consented as far as the law is concerned.

Consent is reversible and must be specific

A person can give consent at one point, and then literally vole face and say stop, and thereafter consent is withdrawn. At any time, a person who indicates they do not want to continue on the current path there is a withdrawal of consent.


It is not enough to have a general agreement. Consent applies to all of the steps leading up to a sexual event, and it is possible for an inexperienced person to give some consent but to stop.

A person needs to know the whole story and agree to all of it

If there is any element of deceiving a person then there is no consent. If you don’t have the full deck of cards then you can’t make an adult decision. Having had sex with a partner in the past doesn’t mean a person has consented this time.

Consent is not defined by past behavior

Just because you did consent to sex with a person before, does not mean you consent this time. Spousal partners can be guilty of marital rape if either party says no.

Consent is put there to protect us

The point of consent is to give both parties a chance to enter into the exchange properly. It is not a long drawn negotiation. For those who are at risk, and there too many, consent protects them from the predatory who would take advantage of them.