Consent requires a voluntary and freely given agreement, through words and/or actions, to engage in mutually-agreed upon sexual activity.  Consent cannot be obtained through force, where there is a reasonable belief of the threat of force, or when the other person is incapable of providing consent, including because of Incapacitation. In evaluating whether Consent has been freely sought and given, the university will consider the presence of any force, threat of force, or coercion; whether the Complainant had the capacity to give consent; and whether the communication (through words and/or actions) between the parties would be interpreted by a reasonable person (under similar circumstances and with similar as a willingness to engage in a particular sexual act.

It is important to note that:

  • Consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply or constitute consent to another form of sexual activity
  • Consent on a prior occasion does not constitute consent on a subsequent occasion
  • Consent to an act with one person does not constitute consent to act with any other person
  • The existence of a prior or current relationship does not, in itself, constitute consent.  Even in the context of a relationship, there must be real time and mutual consent to sexual activity.
  • Consent can be withdrawn or modified at any time, and sexual contact must cease immediately once consent is withdrawn
  • Consent cannot be inferred from the absence of a “no”
  • Consent cannot be inferred from silence, passivity, or lack of verbal or physical resistance.

Incapacitation and Consent

Incapacitation is the inability, temporarily or permanently, to give Consent because the individual is mentally and/or physically impaired, either voluntarily or involuntarily, or the individual is unconscious, asleep or otherwise unaware that the sexual activity is occurring.  When a person is incapacitated, they cannot give consent for sexual activity.  In addition, an individual is incapacitated if they demonstrate that they are unaware at the time of the incident of where they are, how they got there, or why or how they became engaged in a sexual interaction.

Alcohol or other drugs may cause incapacitation.  Alcohol does not cause sexual assault.  Incapacitation is a state of drunkenness, intoxication, or impairment that is so severe that it interferes with a person’s capacity to make informed and knowing decisions. 

Common Warning Signs of Incapacitation

  • Clumsiness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Poor judgment
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting
  • Combativeness
  • Emotional Volatility

If there is any doubt as to the level or extent of your own or the other person’s level of intoxication, the safest course is to forgo or cease sexual activity. 

A person’s own voluntary impairment is never an excuse for or a defense to sexual assault or other prohibited conduct.  It also does not diminish your responsibility to determine if your partner has given consent!

Healthy Relationships

A consensual encounter is marked by mutual willingness.  Partners are respectful of each other’s boundaries, carefully looking for active signals to ensure that sexual activity is wanted at every stage. 

Asking about consent does not have to be awkward!

Consent is fundamentally about good communication: paying attention to your partner, asking questions and respecting the answers, and seeking out and honoring feedback about wishes and boundaries.  Establishing consent is about paying attention to words, body language, and comfort levels.  It can be straightforward and direct and it can be about asking if something feels good, or noticing and acknowledging a change in energy or comfort level. 

Remember that the process of ensuring consent is ongoing.  Checking in with each new activity or escalation is essential. 

Ways to do this may include asking:

  • Do you want to have sex?
  • Is this okay?
  • Does XYZ feel good?
  • I really want this to be good for you.  What do you like?
  • Do you want to try XYZ?
  • I want to XYZ – do you want to?

Some examples of verbal and non-verbal consent include:


  • Yes
  • It feels good when you…
  • I’d like to XYZ
  • I want to XYZ


  • Head nod
  • Pulling partner closer
  • Making direct eye contact
  • Initiating sexual activity
  • Actively touching

Consent is all about making sure that each person involved is interested and freely participating.