Consent is words or actions that demonstrate a knowing or voluntary willingness to engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity.
Through its sexual misconduct prevention efforts, response resources, and Title IX sexual misconduct process, Methodist University strives to create a climate in which all community members feel safe and respected. Promoting a thorough understanding of sexual consent is crucial to establishing such a climate.
- Voluntary (freely given),
- Active, meaning that, through the demonstration of clear words or actions, a person has indicated permission to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity at the same time, in the same way.
Silence, without articulable actions demonstrating permission, cannot be assumed to show consent.
A person who wants to engage in a specific sexual activity is responsible for obtaining Consent for that activity. Consent may be withdrawn by any party at any time and is not unlimited. A party withdrawing consent should clearly communicate the withdrawal by words or actions. Once Consent is withdrawn, the sexual activity must cease immediately. Consent to one form of Sexual Contact or activity does not constitute consent to other or all forms of Sexual Contact or activity. Each person in a sexual encounter must consent to each form of Sexual Contact or activity with each participant. Having a previous relationship or sexual encounters does not imply consent for future Sexual Contact or activity. However, in cases of prior relationships, the manner and nature of prior communications between the parties and the context of the relationship may have a bearing on whether there has been Consent.
Consent cannot be obtained by Force. Force includes (a) the use of physical violence, (b) threats, (c) intimidation, and/or (d) coercion. These types of conduct also constitute Prohibited Conduct under this policy. (Defined terms, below, are for the reader’s understanding and are not included in the MU official Code of Conduct.)
- Physical violence means that a person is exerting control over any person through the use of physical force. Examples include but are not limited to hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, restraining, choking, and brandishing or using a weapon.
- Threats are words or actions that would compel a reasonable person to submit unwanted sexual activity. Examples include but are not limited to threats to harm the person physically; to end a relationship unless they submit to sexual activity at that time; to reveal private information to harm a person’s reputation; to cause a person academic or economic harm; or threats to harm oneself or others.
- Intimidation is an implied threat that a reasonable person knows or should know menaces or causes fear in another person. A person’s size alone does not constitute intimidation; however, a person’s size may be used in a way that constitutes intimidation (e.g. blocking access to an exit or phone).
- Coercion is the use of unreasonable pressure to gain sexual access. Coercion is more than a momentary effort to persuade, entice, or attract another person to engage in sexual activity. When a person makes clear a decision not to engage in sexual activity, or makes a decision to stop sexual activity, or a decision not to go beyond a certain sexual activity, continued pressure to engage can be coercive. In evaluating whether coercion was used, the University will consider: (i) the frequency of the application of pressure; (ii) the intensity of the pressure; (iii) the degree of isolation of the person being pressured; (iv) the duration of the pressure; and (v) any other similar or related conduct.
Incapacitation means that a person lacks the ability to make rational, reasonable judgments about whether or not to engage in sexual activity and give Consent. Consent cannot be gained by taking advantage of the Incapacitation of another person, where the person initiating sexual activity actually knew or reasonably should have known the person was incapacitated.
A person who is incapacitated is unable, temporarily or permanently, to give Consent because of mental or physical helplessness, sleep, unconsciousness, or lack of awareness that sexual activity is taking place. A person may be incapacitated as a result of the consumption of alcohol or other drugs, or due to a temporary or permanent physical or mental health condition.
Incapacitation is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication. A person is not necessarily “incapacitated” merely as a result of drinking or using drugs. The impact of alcohol and other drugs varies from person to person.
In evaluating Consent in cases of alleged incapacitation, the University asks two questions (1) Did the person initiating sexual activity actually know that the other person was incapacitated? (2) If not, should a sober, reasonable person in the same situation have known that the other party was incapacitated? If the answer to either of these questions is “yes,” Consent was absent and the conduct is likely a violation of this policy.
Sexual consent is NOT:
- The absence of a “no”
- The absence of physical resistance
- The result of one partner wearing down another partner
- Deducible through things like chosen attire or known sexual history
- Obtainable from someone who is intoxicated to the point of incapacitation or otherwise unaware
- An entitlement
How do I make sure I have full sexual consent?
Clear and sensitive communication is vital to ensuring that you have full consent from a prospective sexual partner. Although you may worry that asking for consent as you initiate and increase physical intimacy will ruin the mood, consistently checking in with a prospective partner does not have to be difficult. You can ask:
- May I kiss you?
- May I hold your hand?
- Do you want to have sex with me?
- How far would you be interested in going?
- Have you ever done…? Would you like to try it with me?
- I would like to…? What do you think?
- Is this feeling good to you?
- Are you still okay with this?
- You seem quiet…Are you sure?