Consent is a term often used when looking at the law and our rights, but as a part of sexual assault it is a term that can have many meanings. In general, the term means to voluntarily agree to something. In this case, it is the voluntary agreement to engage the sexual activity in question (LEAF, 2020).
The general age of consent is 16; however, when prostitution or pornography are involved, the consenting age becomes 18. Though these are the most common ages for consent, there are some exceptions (LEAF, 2020).
A person who is 14 years old can give consent to sexual activity if it is with a person who is no more than 5 years older. This means that if a person is 14 and is with someone who is 17 or 18, they can legally consent to the sexual activity. On the other hand, if a person is 14 and is with someone who is 19 or older, they can not legally consent to the sexual activity (LEAF, 2020).
A person who is 12 or 13 years old can give consent to sexual activity as long as the other person is less than 2 years older. In this case, a person can be 12 and give consent to the sexual activity with a person who is 13 or 14. If the other person is 15 or 16, there is no longer consent (LEAF, 2020).
In every situation, it is important that there is no relationship of authority, dependency, or exploitation.
What Does Consent Look Like?
Consent can consist of many things, and it can be presented in many ways. Before we look at what consent is, we can look at what consent does not look like to help us better understand consent as a whole.
The absence of consent occurs when the person, in their mind, did not want sexual touching to take place. The thoughts and feelings of the person matters, and the perception of their state of mind is also important. The person must have affirmatively communicated by words or conducted an agreement to engage in the sexual activity. Without this agreement, there is no consent to the sexual activity.
When looking at consent, a person can not say they misunderstood and believed a person consented in the following situations:
- The belief is based on their own intoxication. If a person was drinking or somehow impaired by a substance of their own doing, their understanding of what is going on becomes limited, and in some cases unrealistic.
- The person was reckless about weather the person was consenting.
- The person chose to ignore things that would tell them there was no consent.
If the person did not take proper steps to check if there was no consent.