Kimberly R Faucher, M.D.
What is consent?
At the basic level, consent is when two people agree to participate in a sexual activity--when both people give their consent to continue, and they both are saying "yes".
How do you ask for consent?
In the heat of the moment, it may seem awkward or you may think it will ruin the mood to verbally ask for consent. Nonetheless, it is crucial to in some way receive a "yes" to legally continue with the sexual activity. Consensual sex can become sexual assault as soon as one person changes their mind and retracts their consent, even with the absence of a "no". Only "yes" means "yes". To check if your partner is giving consent doesn't have to be awkward; communication is key. Asking, "is this okay?", "do you want to go further?", or a similar question is a simple way to ask for consent. 
What does consent look like?
Besides verbally saying yes, if your partner is actively engaged in the sexual activity as well, this can be a sign of positive consent. Being aware of their cues, verbally, physically, and emotionally, is important; don't assume anything, communicate. Consent must be given by both participants and continue to be given throughout the sexual interaction. 
What isn't consent?
The way someone dresses or behaves is not consent. Someone's reputation for liking or seeking sexual interaction is not consent. Consent in the past is not consent now, whether it was given in an encounter a while ago or during the current encounter. For example, giving consent to kiss is not consent to touch private areas and it is not consent to continue sexual intercourse. The absence of "no" is not consent. Even your partner showing romantic interest in you is not consent for sex. Only continuous, engaged consent is consent--only a specific and continuous "yes" means "yes".
When does "yes" not mean "yes"?
Even if your partner verbally says "yes", if they are intoxicated they are physically and legally unable to give consent. In most cases, a minor is legally unable to give consent as well. Know the law in your state concerning consent

Practicing open communication is crucial to having safe, consensual, enjoyable sex. Understand that it is your responsibility to ask for consent and your right  to choose to give consent.

If you have been sexually assaulted:
  • Get to a safe place
  • Seek medical attention
  • Do not bathe yourself, wash or throw away your clothes
  • Write down what happened
  • Get support from a counselor, a trusted friend or adult, your doctor, etc
  • Remember, sexual assault is never the fault of the victim