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What is Consent?

Consent is an enthusiastic, voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. Engaging in a sexual act without the other person’s consent is sexual assault. Consent is ongoing and cannot be implied based on previous history. A person may have consented on a previous occasion, but this does not obligate them to consent in the future. Therefore, it is required even in long-term relationships.

Some examples of consent are:

  • Each person engaging in sexual activity actively and affirmatively agrees to have sex.
  • Communicating every step of the way (enthusiastic and continuous) during a hookup, while sexting or long-term relationship.
  • Consent is given when individuals are capable of making informed decisions and have clearly and freely demonstrated without being coerced that they want to engage in sexual activity, or sexting.
  • Respecting when someone says “no” or if they are unsure when being asked to engage in sexual activity, or sending photos.

Consenting to one behavior does not mean you have to consent to any other behaviors, and consenting on one occasion does not mean you consent for a future occasion.

There is no consent when:

  • Individuals are sleeping, passed out, staggering, drunk, high, or is not aware of their environment.
  • Individuals have explicitly said or implied “no”, “not tonight”, “stop”, “later”, are silent, crying, or fighting back.
  • A person pressures someone into having sex, such as repeatedly asking someone to have sex until they say yes.
  • An individual uses pressure, threats, or intimidation.
  • A person coerces another to engage in sexual activity by abusing their position of authority, trust or power.

Sharing “intimate images” or “sexts” with others without consent of the people in the images is an act of sexual violence and is also illegal.

Age of Consent laws in Canada

  • The age of consent for sexual activity in Canada is 16 years, but it’s a bit more complicated than that (see below).
  • A 14 or 15 year old can consent to sexual activity with a partner as long as the partner is less than five years older and there is no relationship of trust, authority or dependency or other exploitation of the young person.
  • A 12 or 13 year old can consent to sexual activity when the partner is no more than 2 years older than them, and not of a position of authority or trust.

 Practice healthy communication

Talk with your partner, use respectful language and honour their boundaries when it comes to sex. Please visit the Sexual Rights page if you would like to know more about your rights as a sexual partner.