NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, April 9, 2023

What Are the Basic Rules of Sexual Consent?

There are some basic rules about sexual consent that everyone should know and abide by.

What is Sexual Consent?
On the most basic level, sexual consent is the mutual, freely given agreement between people who are about to engage in sexual activities.

Understand and Abide By the Rules of Sexual Consent

A flagrant disregard for sexual consent is considered sexual assault or rape, so it's important to be knowledgeable and abide by sexual consent rules.

Unfortunately, there is a serious lack of sex education in US schools and in homes so many people, especially boys and men, don't understand sexual consent.  In addition, some girls and women are also confused about sexual consent.

    The Basic Rules of Sexual Consent
  • A Person Cannot Give Consent If They Are Underage: If someone is a minor, even if they say yes to engaging in sex, they cannot give legal consent to have sex. You must know the age of this person and be aware of the legal age to give consent in the state you are in because the law varies from state to state in the US.  
  • A Person Cannot Give Consent If They Are Impaired By Alcohol or Drugs: Since alcohol and drugs impair a person's judgment and ability to communicate, including the ability to communicate about sexual consent, you must be cautious and aware of the other person's state. Although it can be tricky to gauge someone's state, if you have any doubt about whether a person has the ability to give consent and communicate it freely, don't have sex.  This includes everything from touching, kissing, up to and including sexual intercourse. It is your responsibility to assess the situation and behave accordingly or you might find yourself in bed with someone who doesn't remember giving consent the next day, which could mean legal problems for you.

A Person Who is Impaired Cannot Give Sexual Consent

  • A Person Cannot Give Consent If They Have Diminished Capacity, Judgment or Ability to Communicate Freely Due to Mental Illness or Disability:  This is similar to alcohol and drug impairment. If someone doesn't have the ability to make decisions and communicate clearly on their own behalf or you are not sure whether they do or not, do not engage in sex with this person.
  • A Person Cannot Give Consent If They Are Pressured, Threatened, Tricked or Manipulated: If you have threatened, manipulated, coerced or tricked someone into having sex, you don't have consent.  Consent must be freely given without threat, deception or manipulation.
  • A Person Who is Being Sex Trafficked Cannot Give Consent: The Trafficking Victims Act of 2000 defines sex trafficking as any adult or minor under the age of 18 who is involved in a commercial sex act that was induced by force, fraud or coercion. According to the US Federal Government, sex trafficking is the modern day equivalent of human slavery. People who engage in commercial sex with underage youth are usually men, and they are sexual predators and child molesters. Sex trafficking is a felony offense. The worst states for sex trafficking (as of the writing of this article) are California, New York, Florida and Texas. They are the leading states for sex trafficking. Of all the states in the US, California is #1 and New York State is #4 for sex trafficking. There are serious legal consequences for sex trafficking on the state and Federal level.
  • A Person Who is Unconscious Cannot Give Consent: Whether the person is unconscious due to alcohol, drugs or for some other reason, you don't have consent if the person is unconscious. If you have sex with an unconscious person, you are having non-consensual sex and you will be legally responsible for your actions.
  • A Person Who Gave Consent in the Past Isn't Necessarily Giving Consent in the Present or in the Future: Don't assume that if you had sexual consent in the past that you have consent in the present or that you will have consent in the future. You must have consent each time.
Consent From the Past Does Not Mean Consent in the Present

  • A Person Who is Not Sure If They Want to Have Sex Isn't Giving Consent: When someone says "No," that's clear. But don't assume that "Maybe" means"Yes." If someone isn't sure, you don't have consent so don't have sex.

Consent Can Be Withdrawn At Any Time

  • A Person Can Withdraw Consent At Any Time: Even if you are in the middle of a sexual act, if a person says no or stop or signals in any way that they want you to stop, you must stop immediately, even if you don't like it, because you no longer have consent.

Why Do People Disregard the Rules of Sexual Consent?
A lack of understanding and sex education are part of the issue, but this does not account for the blatant disregard that many people show for sexual consent.

People who choose to blatantly disregard sexual consent are abusing their power in sexual situations.  Sexual assault and rape are not about sex--they are about abusing power over another person.

My Next Article:
This article covered the basic rules of sexual consent.

My next article will go beyond the basic rules to update the sexual consent rules: 

Resources For Sexual Assault and Rape Victims
If you have been the victim of a sexual assault or rape, the following national and New York City resources are available for sexual assault and rape victims:
    National Sexual Assault Hotline:    800-656-HOPE (4673)
    NYC Crime Victims Hotline:          866-689-HELP (4357)

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.