Sexual consent is defined as an agreement to participate in a sexual activity. It is a term of common speech, with specific definitions used in a variety of fields, including medicine, law, research & sexual relationships. 

Consenting and asking for consent are all about setting your personal boundaries and respecting those of your partner and checking in if things aren’t clear. When you’re engaging in sexual activity, consent is about communication. And it should happen every time for every type of activity. Talking openly about what you both want and setting boundaries is important in any relationship, regardless of whether it’s casual or long term. 


  • Clear means consent is unambiguous. There’s only one way to know for sure if someone has given their consent: if they tell you. Active consent means that you and your partner give each other a clear and explicit ‘yes’ to the sexual activity. It’s no good just to assume that the other person is as into what you are doing as you are. The absence of a ‘no’ isn’t enough.
  • Consent is ongoing means that you should have permission for every activity at every stage of a sexual encounter. It’s also important to note that consent can be removed at any time. After all, people do change their minds! 
  • Consent is coherent means every participant in sexual activity must be capable of granting their consent. If someone is too intoxicated or incapacitated by alcohol or drugs, or is either not awake or fully awake, they’re incapable of giving consent. Failure to recognize that the other person was too impaired to consent is not “drunk sex.” It’s sexual assault. In addition, the age of sexual consent is how old a person needs to be in order to be considered legally capable of consenting to sex. Adults who have sex with someone younger than the age of consent face jail time and be registered as a sex offender. 
  • Consent is voluntary means it should be given freely and willingly. Repeatedly asking someone to engage in a sexual act until they eventually say yes is not consent, its coercion. Consent is required for everyone, including people who are in a committed relationship or married. No one is obliged to do anything they don’t want to do, and being in a relationship doesn’t obligate a person to engage in any type of sexual activity.
  • You might worry that asking for consent is going to be a total mood killer, but the alternative — not asking for consent and potentially sexually assaulting someone — is unacceptable!
  • Examples on ways to talk about consent include:
    • Can I…?
    • Do you want to have sex, or would you like to wait?

Without consent, any kind of sexual activity (including touching, kissing, fondling & intercourse) is sexual violence. It counts as rape, attempted rape, sexual abuse and sexual assault; as they have different legal definitions & different legal charges in each country. According to research, sexual assault affects one out of every five women, and it is a substantial public health and human rights problem in developing countries including Ethiopia.