Consent: Continuous ‘enthusiastic yes’ rather than ‘just a definitive no’

Written by Marybeth Loretta / Contributing Writer

A seven-letter word stands between sexual assault and consensual sex, and that word is consent.

Alyssa Delgado, lead peer educator of the Counseling Center and Victim Empowerment Program at the University, said that the difference between rape and sexual assault is that rape includes penetration, where sexual assault is nonconsensual sexual contact.

According to Daniela Valdes, president of the National Organization of Women at FIU, consent has to be a “continuous yes”  rather than just a definitive no.

“There’s been a lot of campaigns about how ‘no’ means ‘no’ and that’s … defining what consent is but I think a better way to put it is that it has to be a continuous yes — an enthusiastic yes,” said Valdes.

Delgado stated simply that consent is essentially giving your explicit permission that you are OK to start or continue in a sexual act. She also went on to explain that both people should be able to enjoy any type of sexual contact.

“Oftentimes (sic) especially [with] people in relationships, we find that you have to know how to read their body language,” said Valdes. “You have to know how to read the person … you’re engaging with and if they’re uncomfortable…[you have] to know that’s not an enthusiastic yes. Consent would be a very happy resounding yes the whole time you’re doing whatever you’re doing,” said Valdes.

She adds that by not defining consent, it leaves room for miscommunication and can blur the lines of consent.

“You have people who say that if someone was drinking a certain amount, then that means that … they’re looking at the situation and not the individuals. So, if you don’t define consent initially … if you don’t know what a happy willing partner looks like, then you’re going to get into the realm of sexual assault really quickly.”

Both Valdes and Delgado mentioned that a person cannot give consent if they are intoxicated, passed out, disabled or a minor.

“By Florida state law, you cannot give consent if you are drunk, high, mentally disabled, asleep or unconscious,” Delgado said.

She then explained that this also applies to couples who made the decision prior to drinking.

“Let’s say a sober couple agrees to have sex tonight but then they drink, even if they agreed before, that goes out the window even if you have a legal contract signed by a lawyer it is invalidated because you are no longer sober,” said Delgado.

Valdes echoed that sentiment on the gray areas that may occur under the influence.

“If you have two people who are both drunk, that’s the only scenario that I can of where it could be be really murky,” said Valdes.

However, Valdes was reluctant to admit of a gray area because it may be used to excuse sexual violence.

“I think it [gray areas] happens most with people [who] are with a boyfriend or girlfriend … It seems like there would be, but you have to be completely sure that the person you’re with is happy and content with what you’re doing,” said Valdez. “When you start saying gray areas … it makes it really easy for people to justify all of their terrible actions,” said Valdes.

She then noted that sexual assault and rape are much more common and usually occur with familiar people, with 8 out of 10 victims knowing their attacker.

“It’s a friend, it’s a boyfriend, it’s a girlfriend. It’s a lot more common and it happens in more intimate spaces than you’d think. So no, I don’t think there’s a gray area,” said Valdes.

For more information on consent, visit or their offices at the Modesto Maidique Campus in the Student Health Center, room 270 or by appointment at the Biscayne Bay Campus.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

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