I teach a self defense class for women at my police department. It’s a great (free) program that I highly recommend.

As an instructor, I have the opportunity to teach woman techniques that might help prevent them from becoming victims. I take a lot of pride in that.

The great thing about this program is that it allows women to ask questions that they might not have any other opportunity to ask.

In a recent class a woman asked me, “how do you know if you’ve given consent or not?”

After thinking about it for a minute, I think the best answer is:

If you have to ask, you probably didn’t consent.

Of course, this is not a legal answer. This is entirely my opinion, but hear me out.

Consent, by definition, is agreeing to participate in a sexual act or situation. It should be freely given, without concerns about retaliation if denied.

Consent doesn’t necessarily have to be verbal and can be shown in a lot of physical ways, but it’s a conscious decision by all involved.

When you give consent, you are actively agreeing to move forward. So if you aren’t ready to agree, or are questioning whether you want to agree, or have decided that you don’t agree, than you haven’t consented. Basically, if you haven’t made the conscious decision that you are consenting, than you you haven’t consented. There is no in between.

Consent is required each and every time for each and every sexual act. Consenting to kiss someone does not give that person automatic consent to move beyond that. If you freely consented to have sex with someone a week ago, it does not mean you have automatically consented to have sex with them again tonight.

The most effective way to be sure that you and your partner are on the same page with consent is to openly communicate. The more clear you are in your communication, the less question there can be.

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