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Consent means actively agreeing to be sexual with someone. Consent lets someone know that sex is wanted. Sexual activity without consent is rape or sexual assault.

Sexual consent is an agreement to participate in a sexual activity. Before being sexual with someone, you need to know if they want to be sexual with you too. It’s also important to be honest with your partner about what you want and don’t want.

Consenting and asking for consent are all about setting your personal boundaries and respecting those of your partner — and checking in if things aren’t clear. Those involved must agree to sex — every single time — for it to be consensual.

Without consent, sexual activity (including oral sex, genital touching, and vaginal or anal penetration) is sexual assault or rape.

Consenting is a choice you make without pressure, manipulation, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime. Even if you’ve done it before, and even if you’re both naked in bed. Remember, saying yes to one thing (like going to the bedroom to make out) doesn’t mean you’ve said yes to others (like having sex).

You get the final say over what happens with your body. It doesn’t matter if you’ve hooked up before or even if you said yes earlier and then changed your mind. You’re allowed to say “stop” at any time, and your partner needs to respect that.

Consent is never implied by things like your past behavior, what you wear, or where you go.

Sexual consent must always clearly communicate — there should be no question or mystery. And it’s not just important the first time you’re with someone. Couples who’ve had sex before or even ones who’ve been together for a long time also need to consent before sex — every time. Silence is not consent however consent can be verbal and nonverbal. Long term couples tend to negotiate nonverbal communication in lieu of expressed verbal consent. No need to pull out the relationship agreement just yet. A yes or no will do.

There are laws about who can consent and who can’t. People who are drunk, high, or passed out can’t consent to sex. There are also laws to protect minors (people under the age of 18) from being pressured into sex with someone much older than them.

The age of sexual consent is how old a person needs to be in order to be considered legally capable of consenting to sex. Adults who have sex with someone younger than the age of consent face jail time and being registered as a sex offender. The age of consent varies in different parts of the U.S. and in different countries. There may also be other laws that define the age of sexual consent by state.

Minors under the age of consent who engage in sexual activity, even with people their own age, are breaking the law and if caught could also end up on the sex offender registry. Sexting or exchanging provocative photos is considered child pornography. I disagree with the criminalization of our youth for acting on age appropriate and generally healthy sexual expressions. If anything, we need to step up as parents and have these conversations with our children so they understand consent and what they could be consenting to.

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