Consent | University of Portland


University of Portland Definition of Consent

Consent means informed, freely, and voluntarily given mutual agreement understood by both parties and communicated by clearly understandable words or actions, to participate in each form of sexual activity. Consent will not be assumed by silence, incapacitation due to alcohol or drugs, unconsciousness, sleep, cognitive or mental incapacitation, physical impairment, or lack of active resistance.

A current or previous dating or sexual relationship is not sufficient to constitute consent, and consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Ultimately, consent must be freely and voluntarily communicated, verbally and/or physically, for every sexual act.

There is no consent where:

  • There is coercion, threat, intimidation, or physical force involved (as explained in more detail in Code of Student Conduct);
  • One party has taken advantage of a position of authority that he or she has over the other party (as explained in more detail in Code of Student Conduct);
  • One party is incapable of giving consent due to incapacitation (as explained in Code of Student Conduct);
  • No verbal and/or physical communication indicating consent has taken place; or
  • The reporting party is under the legal age of consent.

 Please go to UP Code of Student Conduct for more definitions and information. 

Consent is clear, informed, willing and ongoing


  • Is consent passive? Consent is active.
  • Can it be through words or actions? It is expressed through words or actions that create mutually understandable permission. However, actions are easier to misinterpret. Consent by words is more clear.
  • Is the absence of a no a yes? Consent is never implied, and the absence of a “no” is not a “yes.”
  • Is silence consent? Silence is NOT consent.
  • “I’m not sure,” “I don't know,” “Maybe,” “I’m scared,” and similar phrases are NOT consent.


  • People incapacitated by drugs or alcohol cannot consent.
  • Someone who cannot make rational, reasonable decision because they lack the capacity to understand the “who, what, when, where, why or how” of the situation cannot consent.
  • People who are asleep or in a similar vulnerable position cannot consent.
  • Minors cannot consent.


  • Consent cannot be obtained through coercion, threat, or intimidation.
  • Consent cannot be obtained through physical violence or threat.
  • Someone in an unbalanced power situation (i.e., someone under your authority) cannot consent.


  • Consent must be granted every time.
  • Consent must be obtained at each step of physical intimacy. If someone consents to one sexual activity, they may or may not be willing to go further.

Getting consent doesn't have to be awkward. Here are some questions you can ask before moving forward:

  • Is this okay?
  • Do you want to?
  • Have you been drinking?
  • Are you comfortable with…?
  • Do you want to slow down?
  • Would you like me to…?
  • Are you sure?
  • Tell me what you want. 

Non-Verbal Cues

Sometimes people communicate with actions and body language. These are some non-verbal cues that your partner isn't interested in continuing, and you need to stop:

  • Not responding to your touch.
  • Pushing you away.
  • Holding their arms tightly around their own body.
  • Turning away from you or hiding their face.
  • Stiffening muscles.

Consent can be revoked at any time. If you want to stop, say so! You always have the right to say no, and you can always change your mind at any time, regardless of your past with your partner or what is happening at the moment. Below are some phrases that you can use if you want to stop:

  • “NO.”
  • “I want to stop.”
  • “I need to go to the bathroom.”
  • “I’m going to be sick.”

A person cannot consent if he or she is incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol. You may be able to tell if someone is incapacitated if they:

  • Are unable to stand or walk without wobbling, falling or needing to lean on something or someone for support.
  • Have slurred speech and difficulty communicating.
  • Are passed out or sleeping.
  • Have vomited or urinated on themselves.
  • However, not all persons look or act the same when they are incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol. A person may not show any of the prior indications but still be incapacitated so that they cannot provide consent.

Even if a responding party did not know that the other person was incapacitated or the responding party was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the responding party may still be in violation of the Code of Student Conduct:

  • Engaging in sexual activity with a person whom an individual knows, or should reasonably know, to be incapacitated constitutes a violation.
  • If there is a question about whether the reporting party was incapacitated, the relevant standard is whether the respondent knew, or a reasonable person not under the influence of a judgment-impairing substance in the respondent’s position should have known, that the reporting party was incapacitated and therefore could not consent to the sexual activity.

When in doubt, just stop. Respect yourself and your partner!

Leave this page (or press esc key)