What is consent?

Consent for any sexual activity must be given freely by both/all individuals. It is a voluntary agreement. It is necessary. It is a human right.

Getting consent is the responsibility of the person who wants to engage in physical contact or sexual activity to make sure that they have consent from the other person(s) involved.

Consent is….

F ….. Freely given. Need to have a clear YES. Doing something sexual with someone is a decision that needs to be made without pressure, force or manipulation.

R ….. Reversible. Anyone can change their mind about what they want to do, at any time. Even if you’ve done it before, have said you wanted to do it beforehand or are in the middle of a sexual activity.

I ….. Informed. Be honest, specific and clear. For example, if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, that’s not consent. Know laws around who can legally give consent or while drunk or high.

E ….. Enthusiastic. Yes because you want to say yes! If someone isn’t excited or really into it, that’s not consent. The absence of “NO” does not mean YES.

S ….. Specific. Need consent for each activity and each sexual act. It’s ongoing and active. Saying yes to one thing doesn’t mean they’ve said yes to others. Saying yes today doesn’t mean they are saying yes tomorrow.

Any indication of a NO is a firm NO, whether it’s verbal or non-verbal. We have an affirmative consent law in Canada. Anything but a freely given, enthusiastic YES means NO.

(Copyright ©2015 Emmeline May and Blue Seat Studios)

Consent at CBU

Here at CBU, we aim to build a campus environment that is built around mutual consent. Understanding that consent is in our every day lives is very important. See below to learn more about consent and consent culture.

Consent culture is a culture in which asking for consent is normalized and condoned in popular culture. Consent culture is understanding that each person knows what is best for their own selves. It is respecting a person’s response even if it is not the response you had hoped for.

Consent culture is believing that you and your partner(s) have the right over your own bodily autonomies. Nobody has a right to use their power against another person for their decision not to participate.

Consent culture is also not exclusive to sex or sexual activity. Not insisting that someone try a bite of food and instead allowing them the space to choose not to eat any is consent culture.

It is also not tickling someone when they don’t want to be tickled.

It’s asking before you start something and it’s stopping when you are being told to stop.

Some ways you can generate consent culture are by:

  • Not street harassing anyone
  • Asking for consent
  • Respecting the answer
  • Listening to the likes and dislikes of your partner(s) and not pushing boundaries
  • Being a good bystander. If you see something happening that looks out of the ordinary, try to help the person instead of turning your back because you feel like it isn’t your problem.
  • Stopping when you are told NO, or asked/told to STOP

Living in a consent culture means not feeling weird or embarrassed to ask someone if they want to move forward. It means not feeling bad if you aren’t interested anymore. Open dialogue and mutual respect for your partner(s) and yourself will create a safe space for the both (or all) of you.

We will live in a consent culture when we no longer objectify people and we value them as human beings.

If someone makes you feel obligated or forced to do something you don’t want to, you may be experiencing coercion. Coercion is using pressure and/or manipulation against someone until they give in. When people are coerced, they are not saying “yes” on their own terms. This looks very different from consensual sexual activity.

Sexual coercion exists on a continuum. It can be verbal and emotional in the form of statements that make you feel pressure, guilt or shame.


Pressuring involves contact with someone who does not want it. For example, repeatedly asking someone until they are worn down.


Using jealousy to gain sex. For example, “I’ll break up with you if you don’t have sex with me.” or “If you really loved me you would have sex with me.”


Threatening, using drugs, alcohol and/or force to access sex. For example, smashing something when someone says “no” or “I’ll tell everyone you’re gay if you don’t.”

Coercion can look different in different situations, but ultimately all coercion is manipulation. 

In this glossary, terms are defined in plain language to help students understand the module content. When engaging with CBU campus processes, the definitions as written in the policy will be used.

Please carefully review CBU’s Consent Glossary: Consent Glossary

Culture and Perspectives on Sexual Assault Policy:

Our purpose is to help universities and colleges in Nova Scotia to

  • increase their ability to prevent sexual violence
  • share the CAPSAP study results with the community
  • support survivors in culturally sensitive and anti-racist ways

Visit: to learn more.


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