10/27/2014 05:29 pm ET Updated Dec 26, 2014

The Meaning of Consent

So guys, picture this scenario:

You're at a frat party on a Saturday night and notice a cute girl across the room, dancing with her friends. You have an interest in her, decide to approach her and ask for her number. She gives it to you and you two begin conversing. You discover that you have a lot in common and have mutual interest in each other and are thinking about taking it to the next level. How do you know if she wants to have sex? How do you approach this question?

What would you do in this situation?

Some common answers probably include kissing her, asking her if she wants to leave with you, pulling her into a bedroom and telling her she's making you hard.

Some of these answers are based in a coercive model of consent, while others come from an enthusiastic model of consent.

Want to know how to differentiate between the two? How do you figure out if she wants to have sex with you without making assumptions?

Keep reading.

1. Understand What Consent Is

Consent is simply having the permission for something to happen, or agreeing to do something.

This definition also applies when talking about sex... but it gets a little more complicated.

For consent to happen during sex everyone has to want it to happen and express that; there has to be an active "yes" expressed on the part of everyone involved.

Consent is not the absence of a "no," but the presence of a "yes."

While the best way to get consent is verbally, it's not the only option. Yes, consent can be and given and received through other cues such as body language and reciprocation. Yes can be given in other ways.

But again, it's complicated. In general, the less that you know someone, the more active consent becomes pertinent. You're not going to know someone's intentions or desires when you've just met an hour ago, but when you've been with someone before or have a longstanding friendship or relationship with them, you may to be able to read their nonverbal cues better.

So does that mean you have to get an explicit "yes" from someone you're having a one night stand with every time? Not necessarily. But it's a much better way to go.

Consent can never be assumed. If your partner seems uncomfortable, unresponsive or anxious, you need to check in.

Consent is an active process and it isn't constant; someone might consent to oral sex, but not to vaginal. Someone may want to kiss you, but not go any farther. That's why you need to make sure that you're checking in to make sure you have consent along the way.

And yes -- once someone gives consent, it can be removed.

2. Consider the Other Factors

In order to get consent, there are a few other factors that come into play.

Firstly, there's age. In order to legally consent to sex, you have to be of a certain age. This depends on where you live. In the U.S. it's mostly 16, but in some countries it's as young as 11 or 12. Use this graph to find out what that age is if you're in the States, and this one if you're not U.S.-based.

But here's a very important note: Even if everyone is of the proper age, you have to consider power dynamics. Are you in a position of power over the person you want to bed? If so, that relationship is not equitable.

For example, a boss sleeping with one of his employee's is sexual harassment, because that boss holds power over their employee. Learn more about sexual harassment and weather or not you might be committing it in this document.

Now comes the most controversial factor... sobriety.

Here's the thing: You can still drink and have consensual sex. No one is trying to say that consuming one drop of alcohol before having sex all of a sudden qualifies it as rape.

But, someone who is drunk cannot consent. Period.

Now is where a lot of the backlash ensues. People have said that since there is no legal definition of "drunk," this doesn't hold up. Others claim that since people have different alcohol tolerance levels, it's impossible to ever really know if they're too drunk to consent.

Even worse are those who claim that drinking too much makes it your fault if you were sexually assaulted.

Did you know it is actually illegal to have sex with people who are intoxicated?

Yes, even though the law doesn't clearly define what it means to be drunk, it's up to you to be responsible.

Firstly, you should know what signs of intoxication are. Some common ones are slurred speech, difficulty walking and droopy eyelids. Here's a complete list of things to look for. If you notice these signs in a potential partner, your own partner,or, honestly, anyone you've seen drinking a lot: You shouldn't be having sex with them.

It's always best to air on the side of caution.

3. Get Consent

Now, it's time for the fun stuff. Since you have an idea of what consent is, let's talk about how to get it.

Let's go back to the scenario presented in the beginning of this article; what would you do now? Has your answer changed at all since learning more about consent?

In that situation, you need some signals to really know whether or not she wants to have sex. You have to ask in some way, of course, but subtle queues can suffice. (That's assuming neither of you are drunk.)

So if all of the circumstances of a girl being interested you are right, here's exactly what to look out for!

#1: Clear Intentions

Since consent should always involve some sort of "yes," if she asks you to do ________, if she can do _________ to/with you or if you'd ever like to _______ together, then the ball is in your court! And if you make your intentions clear, you empower her to make her own choices, too.

Believe it or not, a lot of people actually do ask for what they want, when they want it. And believe it or not, the sex is actually a lot better (and a hell of a lot more consensual) when this happens.

#2: Flirting

Of course, flirting is a part of most dating or sexual encounters. Body language can be a great indication of someone's interest and also a great flirting technique! If she's lightly touching your arm, facing her body towards you or holding your gaze for longer than a second or two, these are may be sign that she wants to do more (that said, you still have to get consent!)

#3: She Wants to Spend More Time With You

This might be more of a prelude to dating, but in many cases, this can lead to sexual interactions aside from that. If you meet at a social event like a party, there might be too much going on around you to really talk one-on-one. Asking to get coffee later that week could mean she's interested in taking things further.

#4: She Invites You to Her Place

This is a little bit of a cliché, but it's sometimes true! When someone invites you into their intimate space (without being coerced, pressured or asked to do so), it may mean that they want to get in yours -- wink wink, nudge nudge.

#5: She Initiates Physical Contact

If she starts holding your hand, leaning against you or lessening the space between the two of you, that's a subtle hint that she may be interested.

#6 She Communicates With You!

If she starts a conversation about sex or asks what you're into, this is a good sign! Communication also makes for the best sex, even if it is just a one-time hookup. (Trust me.) Talk about boundaries, things you like and things you don't!

#7 She Gives You Sexual Compliments

Is she commenting on your gorgeous eyes? Your strong biceps? Your great smile? All of these can be subtle cues that she's interested in you physically.

#8 She Doesn't Leave Your Side

If you've just met and she doesn't really seem interested in mingling with the general crowd, she probably wants to get to know you more. Engage!


All of these can be subtle signs that she wants to have sex, but always make sure you have consent! No matter what signals someone is giving off, no always means no.

It is inexcusable to push someone when they've set a clear boundary. If she isn't interested, there are billions more women on this planet and it's likely at least one will want to have sex with you.

Remember, consent is mandatory. It just doesn't have to be a chore.