When the Evening Turns Intimate: Understanding Consent

Friday Mar. 26th, 2021

If you love the nightlife, you probably enjoy all the opportunities that it provides. You might love to go out dancing at some of the hottest nightclubs. Maybe you prefer a sports bar where you can shoot some pool and enjoy a pitcher of IPA from one of your city’s breweries.

Sexual opportunities can come along with nightlife as well. If you’re single and looking for a partner, either long-term or for the night, there’s nothing wrong with hitting the bars or clubs and seeing if you connect with someone.

However, you need to make sure that consent happens if you’re going to get physical. Let’s take a couple of moments and talk about consent and precisely what it means.

Express and Implied Consent
Did you know that there’s a difference between implied and express consent? The law calls it consent when someone freely agrees to do something. You have to make sure someone consents to have a sexual encounter with you, or else you might find yourself facing down a sexual assault allegation sooner rather than later.

However, the law also talks about two consent types, implied and express. With express consent, a person you meet gives you a direct, clear agreement statement. That statement does not have to be something like “yes, I agree to have sexual intercourse with you,” but it should be something along the lines of “yes, I’m fine with what’s happening.”

Implied consent can be trickier to identify. If you start making out with someone, and they don’t rear back and slap you, you might feel like that implied consent has occurred, and a court may side with you. The person with whom you’re interacting is demonstrating consent through their actions.

If someone tells you, in plain and simple language, that they’re okay with having a sexual encounter with you, then you should be fine to move forward from a legal standpoint. You might feel like it kills the mood to stop kissing someone once you have gone back to their apartment to suddenly ask them, “hey, are you okay with what we’re doing?” If you want to cover yourself legally, though, it’s always best to do this.

Another scenario might arise, though. Maybe you met someone at a bar or nightclub. You danced with them, or you did some shots together. You were laughing and having a good time, and they suggested heading back to their place.

They have now given explicit consent to return to their domicile, so no problems there. Once you get back to their place, you start making out with them, and they seem to be into it. Then, abruptly, they stop responding, and their body goes slack.

What is Your Responsibility Now?
You might feel like you can go further with that person because they invited you back to their place, you were kissing them, and they had no issues with what you were doing. If they lose consciousness, though, you cannot do anything further. They can no longer give either implied or explicit consent, and you have to back off.

If you ever get into a situation like this, you need to take a moment to consider what you’re doing. Maybe that’s a little difficult if you’ve consumed quite a bit of alcohol that night, as sometimes happens.

You have to remain at least clearheaded enough to realize the situation in which you find yourself. You might be on the verge of making a huge, life-altering mistake if you let your impulses carry you further than what the law allows.

When someone cannot give either implied or explicit consent to a sexual encounter, then legally, an encounter cannot take place. If you force one, such as if you continue to touch or otherwise engage with a person who cannot or will not consent, you are committing a crime. This isn’t a gray area, and you need to realize that in the moment, intoxication or no.

If the Other Person Doesn’t Have Control, Back Off
You might meet someone at a bar, and it seems like sparks fly, and there’s magic between you. The evening might culminate with a sexual encounter, and both of you will be fine with what happened when you wake up the next morning.

If the other person gets to the point where they slur their speech or they’re no longer in control, it’s best to back off. Ask for their number and extricate yourself from the situation.