Consent and Coercion

What is Consent? To watch a video about Consent, click here.

The word consent means permission. When we’re talking about dating, consent means that both people give permission to engage in sexual activity. Sexual activity includes everything from touching, kissing, and fooling around, to having sex.

It’s important for both partners to talk about what they are comfortable with prior to being physically intimate. If you are ever unsure if your partner is comfortable, ask them! In a healthy relationship, both people are comfortable with the level of physical intimacy, whether that is holding hands, kissing, fooling around and/or having sex.

Some ways to ask for consent are:

  • Do you want to have sex?
  • Are you okay with this?
  • Are you comfortable?
  • Do you want to go further?
  • Do you want to slow down or stop?


  • Consent should be given every time two people are intimate. Even if two people have fooled around or had sex before, it does not mean consent is automatically given again
  • It is always okay for either person to change their mind or stop at any time, even if consent was previously given
  • Boundaries and limits should be an ongoing conversation between sexual partners- it’s NOT a one-time conversation!
  • Consent cannot be given if someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. For example, if someone says “yes” when they are drunk, it doesn’t count
  • Consent cannot be given if someone is asleep or unconscious- that is rape
  • It’s important to talk to your partner about what terms like “hooking up” and “fooling around” mean to you. For example, you might think “hooking up” means kissing, and your partner might think it means something else.

It is against the law and considered sexual assault or rape if consent is not given by both people. 

It is NOT acceptable for someone to:         

  • Make a partner feel guilty for not wanting to fool around or have sex
  • Assume that a lack of the word “no” automatically means “yes”
  • Think that sex should be expected because they’re in a relationship
  • Assume someone wants to have sex because of the way they’re dressed or because they have been drinking

What is Coercion?

When we’re talking about dating violence, the word coercion is often referring to sexual coercion. Sexual coercion is when someone uses emotional pressure, force, or drugs/alcohol to have sexual contact with someone. It can also be defined as persistent attempts to have sexual contact with someone who has previously refused.  It is never okay for someone to feel pressured to engage in any sexual activity!

Examples of sexual coercion:

  • “If you really loved me, you would …”
  • “We’ve done it before, I don’t know what the big deal is…”
  • “Everybody’s doing it.”
  • “Sex is the way to prove your love for me.”
  • “We’ve had sex before, so you can’t say ‘no’ now.”
  • “If you don’t have sex with me, then I’ll just have sex with someone else.”
  • Pressure after you have already said NO
  • Giving compliments that sound extreme or insincere to get sex
  • Put-downs or guilt trips
  • Buying gifts or spending money to make someone feel they “owe” sex

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing sexual coercion:

  • Do you feel pressure to engage in sexual activity from your date, partner, or friends?
  • Are there times you don’t want to have sex, but feel like you can’t say no?
  • Have you ever had a sexual experience that left you feeling frightened, angry, or guilty?
  • Has your partner ever threatened to tell a secret or physically hurt you unless you have sex?
  • Have you ever had sex without using a condom because your partner didn’t want to use one?

Alcohol/Drugs & Sexual Coercion:

Using drugs and/or alcohol is one of the most frequently used sexual coercion tactics. An example of this is giving someone drugs/alcohol to “lower” or “loosen” their inhibitions or taking advantage of the fact that someone is already drunk. Furthermore, if someone is too intoxicated to give a definite “yes” (consent), than this is sexual assault. Remember - Consent cannot be given if someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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