No Means No: A Campus Guide to Consent

The start of the school year means the start of dating, flirting, hook ups, relationships, etc. Especially if you’re new to college, it can be exciting when a cute stranger shows interest in you at a party; however, it’s important to stay safe and to know when someone is taking advantage of you. A lot of people picture sexual assault to be a man taking advantage of a woman who is saying no and resisting, but it’s more complex than that. The University of Pittsburgh’s Title IX office defines sexual assault as “any sexual act directed against another person, without consent of the victim, including instances where the victim is incapable of giving consent.” But what exactly is consent? The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network defines consent as “an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity,” but there are many more nuances as to what constitutes consent.


1. No means no, but only yes means yes.

First of all, consent isn’t just someone saying “no.” If someone doesn’t answer or sounds hesitant, that’s not consent. Consent must be a clear, enthusiastic, “yes.”

2. Drunk people cannot consent.

Even if the “yes” seems enthusiastic, if someone is under the influence of alcohol, they can no longer voluntarily consent. Period.

3. Coercion and threats are not consent.

You cannot be coerced or threatened into having consensual sex. If someone goads you over and over, manipulating you into saying yes after you originally said no, that is sexual assault. If you feel pressured to say yes due to someone blackmailing you or threatening you in any way, that is also sexual assault.

4. If you change your mind in the middle of sex, they must stop.

Consent is ongoing. If you go over to someone’s house, get undressed, and then change your mind, you still are under no obligation to have sex with them. Even if you ask someone to stop in the middle of a sexual act, they have to stop or it’s sexual assault.   

5. Consent for one thing, doesn’t mean consent for everything.

Just because you are partaking in one sexual act, doesn’t mean someone has a right to do something else to you without asking.

6. Consent to sex once, isn’t consent to sex from then on out.

Just because you say yes to a particular sexual act one time, does not obligate you to perform that sexual act the next time you see that person.

7. You even need consent for kissing.

It may feel silly, but it’s really not. Every kind of sexual act requires consent. No one has a right to be kissed without their consent.

8. Removing protection without one person’s knowledge is rape.

This is a disgustingly common practice called “stealthing.” It happens when a person removes a condom without the other person’s knowledge during sex. Because the two parties originally consented to sex with a condom, consent is revoked upon removing it. Not to mention, this could subject someone to an unwanted pregnancy or an STD.

9. Just because you’re in a relationship, doesn’t mean you consent.

Sometimes in relationships you might feel like there is an expectation to have sex… but you don’t owe anyone anything. Someone can still sexually assault you if you’re in a relationship with them. All the rules of consent still fully apply.

10. Men can be sexually assaulted too.

I avoided gendered pronouns in this article for a reason. While one in three women experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, so do one in six men, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. The rules of consent still apply to men, and male victims of sexual assault have valid experiences.


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