‘Yes Means Yes’: Affirmative Consent

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Written by Jolene Potter

The Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence Response Team (SAIV-RT) at Eastern Connecticut State University partnered with Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE) to present “The Consent Workshop,” an interactive workshop designed to help students better understand the meaning of affirmative consent. The program was held on Oct. 18.

“The Consent Workshop” was presented by Eastern alumnus Ignacio Heredia. He graduated from Eastern in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and has been working as an Education and Youth Development Coordinator for PPSNE for 10 years. Heredia has extensive experience in developing and implementing sexuality education programs for youth and adults in community-based organizations and schools.

The workshop first explained what affirmative consent was and what it looks like. Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. “It is so important to not only know what consent is, but to know what it looks like and how to practice it,” said Heredia. The interactive workshop accomplished this by engaging in open dialogue regarding safer sex practices. Students also worked with peers to respond to hypothetical scenarios and identify solutions and red flags.

The workshop also discussed different types of communication with students. “Assertive communication is ideal,” said Heredia. “Assertive communication involves speaking in an open, clear and respectful way. Individuals who are passive communicators may be afraid of confrontation and aggressive communicators are often forceful and may even seek confrontation with others. Consent requires assertive communication.”

Students also learned the five major criteria for consent. First and foremost, consent a clearly indicated desire to engage in a particular activity. Consent is also changeable, meaning that an individual can change their mind at any time and that consent once is not consent forever. Consent is also informed, meaning that both parties are aware of the other’s boundaries and are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Consent is also freely given, meaning that neither party is coerced or convinced to do something they don’t want to do. Lastly, consent is enthusiastic.

Heredia recommends continually checking in with your partner to ensure that both parties are engaged and wish to continue. “You should watch, listen and never be afraid to ask,” said Heredia. “You can and should ask your partner if they are comfortable, if something is okay, if they want to slow down or if they want to go further. Silence or lack of resistance does not mean consent.”