When talking about sexual assault cases the topic of “consent” comes up often. There is a lot of confusion surrounding this idea. Nobody seems to be able to provide a clear definition. This is true even among states. Pennsylvania’s definition is different from other state’s because nobody can seem to agree on the exact meaning of consent when it comes to sexual relations. However, there is a lot of discussion about it.
AP News explains the discussion about what defines consent may be adding to the confusion you feel about it. There are a lot of unknowns. For example, some people say once you consent, you have the right to back out. Yet, there is one state that had a law that said you cannot revoke consent once you give it.
Some states say consent means a clear, verbal agreement while other states require only actions that show consent. Of course, this causes issues since body language is not clear and not everyone is good at reading it and picking up on the subtle aspects of it.
Some advocate groups say that consent comes down to power. If someone is in a position of power over you or otherwise has some authority over you, then you cannot consent due to the imbalance in the situation.
Coercion and intimidation may also play a role. In general, you must be mentally able to consent. If someone is intimidating or coercing you, you lose your mental ability to consent.
The issue at hand is there is no one way to define consent, which is why it is a confusing topic. Everyone seems to define it in a different way. So, perhaps, the best way to define it is to ask the person you are with point-blank. Getting a clear affirmation is the best way to ensure consent. This information is for education and is not legal advice.