Consent to Sexual Relations


Before engaging in a sexual act, the individual who initiates should receive explicit permission from the other party. Furthermore, consent must be given at all times during the sexual experience. The willingness as well as the intention of the partners in a sexual act is known as sexual consent. Consent is a subjective phenomenon, according to this attitudinal account. In other words, the sexual consent principle makes consent something that exists in the minds of the parties, making it open to the classical metaphysical dilemma of how we can know what is going on in someone else's mind. The simplest way in which we can learn about what another person is thinking is by asking that person (Anderson, 350).

Although we do not have direct access to someone's mind, we have an indirect way which involves asking someone what he or she is thinking and can use signs and symbols to reveal his or her thoughts to us. The fact that sexual interactions can have a mixture of both joy and suffering, it is important for the participants to tread carefully by ensuring that every party consents to the interaction. This assurance will require the other party to be in a position to read the others mind and know his or her attitude towards the interaction (Dougherty, 719). Therefore, each party should be able to identify the signals that clearly and unambiguously indicates the willingness to continue.

Ascertaining Sexual Consent

Some of the conducts that are prohibited by the standard of sexual consent include sexual violence and sexual harassment. Sexual violence can be categorized as sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking. Sexual assault is a criminal offense in which the offender subjects the victim to sexual touching that has not been consented meaning that it is unwanted and offensive. Such crimes range from sexual groping to attempted rape. On the other hand, sexual harassment involves making unwelcome sexual advances or unwelcome requests for sexual favors. This is a common offense at the workplace where bosses make unwanted sexual advances to their junior employees (Anderson, 353). Other prohibited behaviors include watching or allowing others to watch the nudity of a person or sexual acts of that person in which he or she has reasonable expectations of privacy. Besides, taking photographs of someone's nudity without his or her consent is prohibited by the standard of sexual consent.

As explained earlier, sexual consent requires affirmative, voluntary and conscious agreement between the parties engaging in sexual activity. Every party has a responsibility of ensuring that the other person has consented before engaging in sexual activity. If a person is silent, does not protest or show any resistance does not amount to consent. A consent that is ongoing and can be revoked at any time during sexual activity is known as affirmative consent. Evidence of a dating relationship or a history of sexual relationship does not amount to consent. This shows that it is not easy to ascertain affirmative or sexual consent. (Dougherty, 719) To determine consent, one should ask himself or herself whether the person wants to give consent and whether the person is capable of giving consent. The easiest way to know if a person wants to give consent is by asking. Asking eliminates every doubt which may be brought about by guessing and saves one from trying to interpret signals. For instance, if someone puts his or her hand in your hand, it may be an indication that he or she likes what you are doing and it may be an indication that he or she wants you to stop what you are doing. The only way to ascertain what is in that person's mind is by asking. On the other hand, a person may give consent if he or she participates actively in the sexual act (Dougherty, 722). However, it is not easy to gauge such an implied consent. It is advisable that one should stop if a partner becomes uncomfortable or hesitant, which means that the person is not willing to engage in the sexual act. To ascertain consent, the party who initiates a sexual activity should keep on reassuring the other party that he or she does not want to do anything he or she is not comfortable with or does not want.


Sexual consent is similar to consent to a shared activity with a friend in the sense that both involves expressing a willingness to engage in the activity. Secondly, if a friend wants to share an activity with me, the only way he can be sure is by asking me. The same goes for sexual consent. One can ascertain affirmative consent by asking the other party if they want to engage in sexual activity. However, the two standards of consent differ in the consequences of the activity. In a sexual activity, any sign of unwillingness amounts to a crime, and it is sometimes difficult to gauge implied consent when the party actively participates in the sexual activity. In a shared activity with a friend, it is easy to say that I do not want to engage in the activity and if I am actively participating in the activity, then it means I am willing and have consented to engage in the activity.

Works Cited

Anderson, Scott A. "Sex under pressure: Jerks, boorish behavior, and gender hierarchy." Res Publica 11.4 (2005): 349-369.

Dougherty, Tom. "Sex, Lies, and Consent." Ethics 123.4 (2013): 717-744.

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