Dating and sex can be a difficult terrain to navigate. Every person you meet will have their own boundaries and expectations — communication is key. This is where consent comes into play. It’s a necessary part of any connection.
Consent is pretty simple, really. It just means getting permission for any intimate activity. Sometimes consent is expressed with words, sometimes with actions. The point is that, if you meet someone online or in person, you have a responsibility to respect their boundaries, and they must respect yours. If you aren’t absolutely sure what they’re comfortable with, just ask.
If you’re meeting up with someone, remember: You must be comfortable and actively consenting for any sexual activity to happen. And if you’re ready to take the next step w†ith them, you must make sure you receive their consent at every step of the way.
Legal definitions will vary, but sexual assault generally refers to any sexual contact or activity that occurs without the consent of the victim. Sexual assault includes rape, nonconsensual sexual touching, or forced acts such as performing or receiving oral sex. Oral sex is now also considered ‘rape’ under law (Section 375 (d) of the Indian Penal Code. It also includes forcing a woman to perform any sexual act with another person (even if not with yourself).
Any sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 18 is considered statutory rape under law, even if it was done with her consent.
There is no consent if a person is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired under the influence of drugs or alcohol - because they cannot understand the fact, nature, or extent of the situation.
Consent is freely given when there is no fear, pressure or threat involved. Offenders do not always use physical force; they may use threats, manipulation, or coercion.
Obtaining consent from a woman by putting not just her but even someone she is interested in, in fear of hurt or death, is also illegal.
You always have the right to say “no”. The lack of a “no” is not consent. If someone seems uncomfortable or hesitant, ask how they are feeling and offer to give them space. “Maybe” always means “no”.
A “yes” for one kind of sexual activity doesn’t mean a “yes” for another. Consent isn't something you give one time—it's something you continuously check in about throughout your time together. Even after initial consent, the other person always has the right to change their mind and say no - and so do you.
If someone does force you to do something you haven’t agreed to: Once you’re in a safe place, let us know through the app or/ go here to understand what you can do.
Consent doesn't always have to be verbal, but verbally agreeing to different sexual activities can help both you and your partner respect each other's boundaries. Verbal consent can include saying “yes,” “don’t stop” or telling a partner what you want. Some examples of non-verbal consent include nodding, pulling someone closer, or active engagement, such as mutual touching.
Remember that nonverbal cues tend to be less clear when you’re with a new partner, so it’s always best to use verbal consent until you know someone well. And besides, asking for consent can be sexy. Consent should always be clear, enthusiastic, and ongoing throughout sexual activity. It’s really important for everyone in the relationship to feel comfortable with what’s happening and communicate that comfort every step of the way.
Keep in mind that consent isn’t limited to sexual activity — work to establish a mutual interest in physical touch to make sure you are aware of each of your comfort levels and that you set clear boundaries when you can. Remember that people who are incapacitated with drugs or alcohol cannot consent. Unequal power dynamics, such as engaging in activity with an employee or student, also mean that consent cannot be freely given.
You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable. One way to do this is to clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and wish to stop. Withdrawing consent can sometimes be challenging or difficult to do verbally, so non-verbal cues can also be used to convey this. The best way to ensure that all parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it, check in periodically, and make sure everyone involved consents before escalating or changing activities.
If you do not feel comfortable engaging in any type of activity, you do not have to and no one has the right to pressure you into it. Be clear about your intentions and know that no date (or anyone) has a right to push your boundaries—and you shouldn’t push anyone else’s.
If you are considering engaging in any kind of sexual activity, let the other person know what works for you — find ways you can both communicate ongoing consent, like checking in verbally as things progress. If you’re not sure about whether the other person is enthusiastic about a particular sexual activity, ask them. Remember, the lack of “no” is not a “yes.”
Physical intimacy is meant to be exciting for ALL parties involved, and the model of ‘enthusiastic consent’ focuses on that excitement. You definitely don’t want to be the only one all fired up for a physical encounter while your partner is just going along for politeness - but more importantly, you don’t want to misread signs and end up hurting or unintentionally assaulting someone. That’s why, it’s not just the absence of a ‘no’ that counts as consent, it’s the (enthusiastic) presence of a ‘YES!’.
Also, some things like erections or other signs of arousal might seem pretty obvious but DO NOT count as consent, since they’re involuntary. When in doubt, just ask!
Non-verbal consent is a thing, but it has to be enthusiastic and not open to interpretation. Clear non-verbal cues can include initiating physical contact or nodding to signify ‘yes’, but acts like smiling or eye contact don’t necessarily count - different people have a different body language, and if you’re even 1% confused, the best thing to do is ask verbally.
Yes, being in a relationship means you can take certain liberties with your partner, but that doesn’t mean consent is guaranteed. There are thousands of reasons why someone may not want to be physically intimate at any given time on any given day - if you’ve been dating for years then you probably understand their behaviour and patterns better than anyone else, so respect their right to say ‘no’ and don’t assume that it’s going to be an automatic ‘yes’.
Contrary to popular belief, consent isn’t just for penetrative sex - it’s for any type of intimate physical (or virtual) activity. People have different levels of comfort with holding hands, hugging, kissing and sex - and can have different levels of comfort with the situations in which these actions are taking place. So respect that, and don’t be shy in asking first!
When you’re engaging in sexual activity, consent is about communication. And it should happen every time for every type of activity. Consenting to one activity, one time, does not mean someone gives consent for other activities or for the same activity on other occasions. For example, agreeing to kiss someone doesn’t give that person permission to remove your clothes. Having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future. It’s important to discuss boundaries and expectations with your partner prior to engaging in any sexual behavior.
Clothing choices are not a proxy for consent, even if someone is wearing a T-shirt that says “Please have sex with me”, so please don’t use someone’s outfit as an excuse to try to initiate touch or further physical contact without asking first.
Consent isn’t a train pass or a Netflix subscription - it doesn’t come with extended validity and only lasts for that particular physical act. People have every right to say yes to sex one day and refuse it the next day. It’s super important for both parties to be enthusiastic and comfortable with whatever’s going on every single time it’s going on - so check in with them regardless of how often you’ve had sex before.
Consent for one physical act doesn’t mean consent for all physical acts - people can be comfortable with kissing but not with taking their clothes off, or with oral sex but not penetrative sex, or even with penetrative sex but not with cuddling. Physical intimacy is the best when both parties are at their most comfortable, and the best thing you can do is to make sure of that as things move from one act to another.
We get it - and it’s not exactly your fault for thinking so. We’ve grown up conditioned to so much stigma about sex that it’s natural for one part of us to wince or cringe to say certain stuff aloud - but consent can be sexy (really!). It doesn’t have to be you signing a contract with someone, but asking if you can take off an article of their clothing, or kiss them somewhere, or if something you’re doing feels good can actually add to the experience. Besides, fighting off potential awkwardness will ALWAYS be a better option than making someone you care about feel uncomfortable and potentially hurting them.
Sorry buddy, but that’s not consent. Consent can’t be coerced or pressured, it has to be enthusiastic. You don’t want your partner to merely be ‘okay’ with the idea of physical intimacy, you want them to be excited and as into it as you are - and so even in the process of asking about that physical intimacy, it’s important to make sure it’s a resounding “YES!” and not an “Umm… Fine”.
Here are some other consent red flags to watch out for:
We actually ask for consent multiple times in our daily lives. If you need to borrow a pen, you don’t just steal it from someone’s pocket. If you need change from a shop, you don’t open the cash register and take what you want. We ask for permission because we want to be respectful - and if you can be respectful of a stranger’s ownership of a pen, it’s only logical that we’re a lot more respectful of those we care about when it comes to their bodies and personal space. Consent is also not just limited to peno-vaginal sexual intercourse but also applies to any other type of sex (oral and/or anal).
Here are some examples of consent in daily life:
Welllll, actually we are. You should ask for consent before initiating any sort of activity of a sexual nature - whether it’s sexting, sending intimate pictures, holding hands, kissing, any other intimate touching and any forms of sex. It might seem like a lot of steps, but the logic is the same - all of these things are meant to be exciting for both parties, and the last thing you want to do is make someone you care about feel hurt, violated, or even assaulted.
Here’s what consent can look like at different stages:
Consent is a nuanced thing, and it’s perfectly normal to be okay with some acts but not others. If you think that saying ‘no’ will come off as too strong, you can start with non-verbal cues, like gently removing your partner’s hand. Verbally speaking up and saying “I’m not ready for that yet”, or “Can we go back to the other thing?” are also options - but remember, you don’t owe your consent to anybody and have every right to deny it for any reason!
Here are other examples of what you can say when you don’t want to say no:
More often than not, someone who is telling you this isn’t looking for advice or a solution as much as comfort and support. Be there for your friend or loved one, hear them out, believe them, and ask how they’d like to be supported in case you’re unsure. You can advise them to take action or file a police complaint, but do NOT be too pushy and remember that this is their decision to make. And definitely do NOT cross-question them or imply that it was their fault that this happened.
There are multiple reasons why someone may withdraw consent - maybe it brought up a bad memory or past trauma, maybe she wasn’t ready for that particular activity - and hey, maybe she just changed her mind. Intimacy is best when both parties want it enthusiastically - you don’t want to be all fired up while your partner is just going along out of politeness, right? So just take it easy - if it has to work out, it will in it’s own time, and trust us, that’s the best possible way for it to work out.
Queer bodies often hold complex trauma in them. It may stem from experiencing abuse of different kinds, in various relationships, for differing lengths of time, and of varying degrees. From low-key, but sustained bullying on the playground to gender-based violence at home to intimate partner violence that is invisibilized due to stigma, queer folx may find themselves in abusive situations without community protection.
Even today, in large parts of the world, being queer is not just frowned upon but openly met with punitive charges,violent attacks, and alienation. As a result of such trauma, your loved one may feel triggered by what you may consider the most innocuous gestures.
In these moments, it is important to hold space for them to safely express what has come up for them. The expression of trauma may not always be verbal, but may show up in ways like irritability, sleeplessness, anxiety, fatigue, shunning social connection, and physical ways such as involuntary jerking of limbs or other motions. While it might take you aback in the moment, it is important to acknowledge that this response is not personally directed at you. In such moments, respecting their refusal of consent could be saying something soothing like: “It looks like something painful has come up for you. Is there something specific I can do for you that will help you relax or make you feel better?”
DO offer them a comfortable blanket, a glass of water and/or a warm bowl of soup/dal & rice. DO step away from them and make sure that the room has enough ventilation and lighting as they require. DO reassure them that you haven’t changed your mind about them and that there is plenty of time to discuss the situation.
DO reassure them that you haven’t changed your mind about them and that there is plenty of time to discuss the situation. DO NOT blame them for ‘ruining a good time’. DO NOT pressure them into ‘being brave’ and ‘giving it a go anyway’. DO NOT shame them for ‘losing their grip’.
Many people approach their queer identities by virtue of being neurological nonconformists. They think about gender and sexuality in terms and ways that are not socially sanctioned. This correlation seemed significant enough to the community that the term ‘neuroqueer’ was coined to explain the intersection of the identities of queerness and neurodivergence (includes autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and other learning as well as developmental disabilities). Due to their idiosyncrasies and differentiated approach to thinking about and responding to relationships, neuroqueer people may have communication needs and styles different from yours. They may not always appreciate spontaneity or surprises, and their responses may make their loved one feel rebuffed, if they are not used to it. Neuroqueer people are also much more likely to have experienced bullying in schooling and workplace environments, which may make them react defensively or shut down when distressed.
DO NOT rush or suddenly intensify pressure on your neuroqueer partner.
DO clearly communicate your expectations (for eg: a conversation about the future of your relationship, a desire to spend the afternoon painting together, your curiosity to explore new sex positions, etc) and check with them for a suitable time for such a discussion or activity.
DO check with them if they need more time to respond to a new question you have posed or a developing situation. Respect their space and privacy during this time.
DO check-in with them when exploring new forms of intimacies in your relationship.
The most common representation of satisfying interpersonal relationships in the media involves people with able-bodies. Conditions like chronic illnesses or disabilities are often sidelined as they are considered ‘imperfect’ in the quest for an idealized version of human relationships, one that is fictional at best and ignorant at worst. In this sense, disabled and chronically ill bodies lie outside of what has been normalized through legal and social acceptance. Their relational (not just romantic and/or sexual) needs may not always align with how they are represented and idealized in the media & society.
For most of us mere mortals, physical health issues (chronic and otherwise) will arise at some point or other in our lives, causing pain, temporary physical impairments, or other forms of discomfort. Nonetheless, we are likely to experience desire for and pursue various forms of intimate relationships. This does not mean that we will hope to get carried away and attempt to go beyond the limitations of our bodies. Prioritizing safety is of utmost importance so as to maintain one’s health and well-being, especially with pre-existing health conditions.
DO NOT expect sex to look or feel the way it is represented on-screen in fictionalized plots. DO ask your partner what helps them experience pleasure. DO check-in with them about pressure being applied when physically intimate. DO enquire about what causes them pain. DO figure out a safe-word or safe-gesture that either of you can use when feeling uncomfortable or experiencing pain BEFORE being physically/sexually intimate. DO respect their wishes when they revoke consent by saying ‘no’, ‘stop’, use a safe-word/gesture or physically push away. DO NOT shame them for changing their mind or call them moody. DO stop immediately if you notice your partner wincing or suddenly going limp or being physically unresponsive. DO discuss emergency medication or life-saving procedures if any, before exploring physical intimacy. DO NOT engage in acts that require physical contact if either of you is sick with symptoms that are infectious or communicable. Seek medical counsel and advice on various forms of protection available to reduce chances of communicability.
Consent when exploring new modes of erotic play
Kink and BDSM are considered part of the queer practice, since they encourage erotic play that goes beyond the traditional notion of P-in-V intercourse. In fact, kink and BDSM challenge these ideas of sex and intimacy and can go well beyond the bedroom (so to speak), such as in the form of elaborate roleplay.
DO discuss safe-word/gestures beforehand and respect them immediately when used.
DO engage in aftercare when the deed is done (whatever the agreed upon deed may be). This is a crucial part of kink and BDSM practices.
DO NOT pressure a partner to try something if they express discomfort or disinterest in something that you’re curious about.
DO openly discuss health conditions and STIs. Seek medical counsel and advice on various forms of protection available to reduce chances of communicability.
DO discuss terms of engagement with your partner(s) and make sure everybody is on the same page about being comfortable with one another.
DO NOT shame or coerce anybody if they express even the smallest of discomforts - it is valid and does not require to be justified. Instead, immediately ensure that steps are taken to help them feel more comfortable with their input.
This is a primer to queer consent and a non-exhaustive list. DO have a deeper discussion with your loved one about their individual boundaries.
If you are in a situation where your consent has been breached or you feel that it has been breached, here is what you can do:
Consent has been defined under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code as “Consent means an unequivocal voluntary agreement when the woman by words, gestures or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication, communicates willingness to participate in the specific sexual act; Provided that a woman who does not physically resist to the act of penetration shall not by the reason only of that fact, be regarded as consenting to the sexual activity.”
Let us break down and understand the legal definition of consent:
Breach of consent is a violation of Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, and hence, illegal and criminal. The first legal step against any criminal act is to file a police complaint. We know that going to the police station can feel intimidating. However, if you are aware of your legal rights, you will definitely feel more confident about filing a complaint. Here are a few basic pointers about police complaints that you should know:
(You can educate yourself further about filing a police complaint here.)
We understand that it can get difficult to prove breach of consent, because sexual activity usually happens in private, behind closed doors. Therefore, keep these pro-tips handy to strengthen your case as much as possible:
If your consent has been breached and you feel any trauma from it, remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. You can reach out to any of the resources below to ease your load:
Mental health resources: