Consent is clear, knowing, and voluntary words or actions that give permission for specific sexual activity.
- Consent is active, not passive. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent.
- Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create mutually understandable permission regarding willingness to engage in (and the conditions of) sexual activity.
- There is no consent when force, coercion, intimidation, or threats are used. Consent to any one form of sexual activity cannot automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual activity, nor can previous relationships or previous consent imply consent to any future sexual acts.
- Consent can be withdrawn once it is given, as long as that withdrawal is clearly communicated.
- One must be of legal age to grant consent. Legal age in North Carolina is 16 years of age.
Once an individual says “no” or makes any other verbal or non-verbal indication they want a behavior to stop, the activity must stop immediately. Ignoring objections or otherwise failing to immediately stop the activity constitutes sexual misconduct.
Elon University strongly encourages students to follow best practices for obtaining consent. While consent may involve verbal and non-verbal communication, requesting verbal affirmation is the best way to ensure clear understanding of expectations and boundaries.
Though consensual sexual activity can occur between two people who are drinking alcohol, Elon University cautions students to ensure their partner is fully aware of their own behaviors and of the situation as it progresses. Students who choose to initiate sexual activity with someone who has consumed impairing substances increase their risk of perpetrating sexual misconduct.
Best Practices for Effective Consent
The following information is intended as guidance on best practices for requesting and receiving effective consent. For information on requirements and potential violations under the Sexual Misconduct and Interpersonal Violence Policy, please refer to the Elon University Sexual Misconduct and Interpersonal Violence Policy.
- Clear Communication: Words or actions must be used to establish consent. Only a comprehensible, unambiguous, positive and active communication of consent for each sexual act qualifies as consent. The absence of no does not equal yes. Only YES means YES.
- Freely and Willingly: Effective consent must be established without any coercion, including emotional, psychological or relational pressure or influence.
- Unimpaired Decision Making: Effective consent must be established without impairment by either person. Impairment can include the effects of alcohol or other drugs. In addition, if someone is asleep, passed out, has consumed alcohol or drugs, or is in any other way impaired, she or he may not be able to give legal consent.
- Step-by-Step: You must establish effective consent for every sex activity. Consenting to one sex act does not mean consenting to any other sex act. Prior sexual activity or an ongoing relationship cannot substitute for effective consent.
- Subject to Change: At any point during a sexual encounter both partners should be free to change their mind. If one partner changes his or her mind, then the other partner must respect the decision to limit or end sexual contact.
Asking for consent is awkward! Do I really have to ask every time? YES! Effective consent protects you and your partner. You might think you know what your partner is or is not willing to do. You might even be right. Nonetheless, you still have to secure consent EVERY TIME. Your partner has the right to consent to or refuse a sexual act at any time – including when you are enjoying other consensual sexual activity. If you are not used to asking for or giving consent it may feel awkward at first. Do it anyway! You will get better at it.