Consent is an absolute necessity for any form of intimate or physically and psychologically involving experience. This fundamental understanding is widely known, and if it wasn't before, it is now. It might seem straightforward—either you consent or you don't. But what about within a relationship? Is consent assumed, or is it essential to actively confirm consent for every intimate or sexual encounter? Understanding the concept of active consent is crucial in this context.
What is active consent?
I'm not attempting to create the definitive sexual dictionary here, nor do I claim to have exhaustive knowledge as a sexual expert. I can only offer my personal understanding of what active consent entails.
To me, active consent involves clearly granting consent for a specific activity or session. This consent might be verbal, but it can also be communicated in other ways, as we'll discuss later. The key point is that there should be no doubt about whether a person has consented when active consent is given. There should be no room for confusion; active consent means the person has unequivocally agreed.
What is the difference between active and passive consent?
I want to clarify my understanding of these terms. Active consent involves clear and explicit agreement, whether expressed verbally or otherwise. On the other hand, passive consent occurs when someone allows an action to occur without actively rejecting it or demonstrating unwillingness.
Navigating consent can become complex and ambiguous in certain situations. There might be instances where consent seems passive—when a person doesn't speak up or resist an action. However, this lack of active resistance doesn't equate to full consent. Allowing something to happen isn't the same as actively agreeing, and in some cases, it can imply the opposite.
That's why I advocate for active consent in all situations. Relying on passive consent to judge someone's willingness to participate is unreliable. If you genuinely care about your partner in any intimate engagement, insisting on active consent is crucial. And, it's equally important to care about yourself—always ensure you either provide active consent or express your opposition. Recognizing that these situations aren't always straightforward or easily categorized is essential.