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Consent

Consent VS Coercion


Consent 

Consent is an ongoing process, not a one-time question. If you consent to sexual activity you can change your mind and choose to stop; even after sexual activity has started. 

Past consent does not mean future consent. Giving consent in the past to sexual activity does not mean you have to give consent now or in the future. 

Saying yes to a sexual activity is not consent for all types of sexual activity. If you consent to sexual activity, it is only for types of sexual activities that you are comfortable with at that time with that partner. 

What is NOT considered consent in sexual assault?

  • Silence. Just because someone does not say "no" it doesn't mean she is saying "yes".
  • Having consented before. Just because someone said "yes" in the past does not mean she is saying "yes" now. Consent must be part of every sexual activity, every time. 
  • Being in a relationship. Being married, dating, or having sexual contact with someone before does not mean that there is consent now. 
  • Being drunk or high. 
  • Not fighting back. Not putting up a physical fight does not mean that there is consent. 
  • Sexy clothing, dancing, or flirting. Only "yes" means "yes".

Coercion 

Not all sexual assault involves a physical attack. Sexual coercion is unwanted sexual activity that happens after someone is pressured, tricked, or forced in a nonphysical way. Anyone can use coercion - for example, husbands, partners, boyfriends, friends, coworkers, bosses or dates. 

What are some examples of sexual coercion?

Sexual coercion can be social or emotional pressure to force you into sexual activity that you do not want or agree to. 

See the chart below for ways someone might use sexual coercion.

Examples of Sexual Coercion

Ways someone might use sexual coercion   

What he or she may say                     

Wearing you down by asking for sex again and again, or making you feel bad, guilty, or obligated.

  • "If you really loved me, you'd do it."
  • "Come on, it's my birthday."
  • "You don't know what you do to me."                     

Making you feel like it's too late to say "no".

  • "But you've already gotten me all worked up."
  • "You can't just make a guy stop."

Telling you that not having sex will hurt your relationship.

  • "Everything's perfect. Why do you have to ruin it?"
  • "I'll break up with you if you don't have sex with me."

Lying or threatening to spread rumors about you.

  • "Everyone thinks we already have, so you might as well."
  • "I'll just tell everyone you did it anyway."

Making promises.

  • "I'll make it worth your while."
  • "You know I have a lot of connections."

Threatening your children or other family members.

  • "I'll do this to your daughter if you don't do it with me."

Threatening your job, home, or school career.

  • "I really respect your work here. I'd hate for something to change that."
  • "I haven't decided yet who's getting bonuses this year."
  • "Don't worry about the rent. There are other things you can do."
  • "You work so hard; it'd be a shame for you not to get an A."

How can I respond in the moment to sexual coercion?

Sexual coercion is not your fault. If you are feeling pressured to do something you do not want to do, speak up or leave the situation. It is better to risk a relationship ending or hurting someone's feelings than to do something you are not ready or willing to do. 

Some possible responses include:

  • "I do like you, but I'm not ready for sex."
  • "If you really care for me, you'll respect that I don't want to have sex."
  • "I don't owe you an explanation or anything at all."

Be clear and direct with the person coercing you. Tell him or her how you feel and what you do not want to do. If the other person is not listening to you, leave the situation. If you or your family is in physical danger, try to get away from the person as quickly as possible.