People often think consent is only important when it comes to sex.

Really, consent is about always choosing to respect personal and emotional boundaries.

By practicing consent in everyday situations, you show that you value the choices of others.

Ask for consent when touching. 

  • It’s important to ask for consent before hugging, tickling, or other kinds of touch.
  • Ask sincerely so others understand it is okay to say no.
  • For people who have experienced sexual abuse, any unexpected touch can be scary and traumatic. Others may just prefer more personal space. For example: “Is it okay if I put my arm around you?” or, “Want to hug or wave goodbye?”

Respect privacy.

  • Everyone has boundaries. Some people like to keep things about themselves private, while others are more open.
  • If someone shares personal information with you, it’s important to ask what their boundaries are. For example: “My cousin was assaulted and is afraid they will never feel okay again. Is it okay if I tell them that you’re a survivor, too? It’s all right if you’re not comfortable with that.”

Ask permission.

  • Just like everyone has different boundaries about touch, everyone has different levels of comfort about sharing things online, like photos.
  • It is important to always ask before posting or tagging photos of someone on social media. For example: “This is a great photo of all of us! Is it okay if I share it online?”

Sex and consent

  • Sex without consent isn’t sex. It’s sexual assault.
  • Consent must be freely given and expressed clearly. A person must understand what they are agreeing to, and they can change their mind at any time. Consent should be clear and enthusiastic. The absence of “no,” or silence, does not mean “yes.” Flirting and accepting a drink is not an invitation for sex.
  • Consent must be obtained at each step of sexual activity and can be withdrawn at any time.
  • Past consent does not mean current or future consent. Consent should not be assumed under any circumstances.
  • Understand that drugs and alcohol can impact decision-making.
  • Incapacitation is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication. Incapacity is a state in which someone cannot make a decision because they lack the ability to fully understand what is happening and therefore cannot consent even if they appear to be a willing participant. An individual who engages in sexual activity or behavior with someone, when the individual knew or should have known that the other person was incapacitated, is in violation of UMBC’s Sexual Misconduct Policy.

How to handle the “no.”

  • Whenever you are asking for someone’s consent, they could say “no.”
  • Accept the answer and move on. Don’t pressure someone to change their mind.
  • It’s okay to feel disappointed with a “no” answer. But always remember that respecting boundaries is the right thing to do.

Information provided by UMBC’s Office of Equity and Inclusion (formerly the Human Relations Office) and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.