Consent and respect are key to safe sexual activities and relationships. Check out this section to learn about consent and sexual violence.
Consent is a really important topic these days. It’s become a popular (and sometimes complex) conversation for both youth and adults.
Consent in this case means that both partners agree to sexual activity—whether that means just kissing and touching, having sex, or something in between. In order for sex to be fun, healthy, legal and respectful, consent is essential.
If you are involved in sexual activity with another person, their consent must be clear. They should tell you that they are okay with whatever is happening. At the same time, it’s important to pay attention to non-verbal cues. It can sometimes be hard to say no, even if someone wants to, so pay attention to your partner’s tone and body language. For example, they might seem quiet or physically unresponsive if they are uncomfortable.
It can be helpful to talk with your partner about what you are both comfortable with ahead of time. But remember things might change. It’s good to think of consent as an enthusiastic and ongoing ‘yes!’ to whatever you are doing with your partner.
Other important things to remember are:
- Consent can be withdrawn. A person can change their mind at any time, even about something that they have consented to before.
- Drugs and alcohol can affect a person’s ability to give consent.
- The legal age of consent to sexual activity in Canada is 16. This age can be higher or lower, depending on your relationship with your partner(s) and their age. You can find more information on the Department of Justice website.
- Consent is needed for sharing of sexual photos (like sexting). It is illegal to share these types of photos without consent.
This video is a great example of how to understand consent.
Sexual violence is a sexual act done against a person without their freely given consent. It includes clear examples of sexual assault, like rape, but also things like sending unwanted sexual photos or sharing photos without permission. This image shows how common behaviours, like using sexist language or making jokes about rape, can help contribute to more serious types of sexual violence.
Anyone can experience sexual violence or assault whatever their gender and sexual orientation. It’s important to understand the many layers of sexual violence, and to know that none of these behaviours are ever okay. It is never the victim’s fault.
You can learn more about sexual violence and consent here.
If you have been sexually assaulted, these organizations can help provide medical and emotional support:
- Victim Link BC
- BC Women’s Sexual Assault Service
- WAVAW crisis line
- Battered Women’s Support Services
If you know someone who has experienced sexual violence, you can learn how to support them here.
We need to have confidence and self-respect to practice consent and stand up to sexual violence. If these are things you struggle with, it can help to reach out for support. You can learn more about self-esteem here.
Tip: Check in with your partner from time to time, especially if things are heating up. Ask if they are comfortable or if they would like to try something new so they will feel safe and you will know if they are enjoying themselves.
Tip: Think about the ways that victims of sexual violence are often blamed (sometimes because of what they wore, where they went, or what they have done in the past). Challenge these ideas and know that it is the person who committed the act of violence, not the victim, whose behaviour should be questioned.
Tip: If you are worried about sexual violence in a specific situation, have a buddy system where you and a friend look out for one another. If you see a situation that could be threatening, speak up (as long as it is safe to do so).
Want to explore and learn more? Here are a couple options that will help you.