What Does “Affirmative Consent” for Sexual Activity Mean?

“Consent” is a term that’s used quite frequently when discussing sexual activity, and it’s essential everyone has a clear idea of what this means—and what it doesn’t. Many people falsely believe that crimes like sexual assault or rape are committed by strangers, but the truth is that most victims know their assailants and are in a familiar place. In Ohio, 70% of sexual assault incidents happened inside someone’s home, and in some of these cases, the perpetrator believed they had consent. If you’re in the Columbus, Ohio area and you’re being charged with a sex crime, contact a sex crimes attorney at the Wolfe Law Group, LLC as soon as you can.

Defining Affirmative Consent Under Ohio Law

Affirmative consent means that all parties have voluntarily, actively, and knowingly agreed to engage in a sexual act. This means that a person must use their words or actions to clearly communicate their willingness to proceed and they must be of sound mind and body to make this decision. Silence does not equal consent. Affirmative consent can also be withdrawn, and just because someone consents once to a sexual act, does not mean they consent to subsequent ones. 

Additionally, when discussing consent, it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes, a person may believe they’ve received consent when in reality they haven’t. This is why everyone must take it upon themselves to be clear in their communication and by checking in regularly with the other person. In cases where someone is facing charges of sexual assault and claims they believed they had consent, there are circumstances when this defense won’t be valid. This could be in a situation where force or coercion was used, when the victim shows signs of severe intoxication or was unconscious, or if the victim was a minor.

Can Consent be Withdrawn?

Affirmative consent is an ongoing process and can be withdrawn at any time. Withdrawal of consent can be done verbally or with clear actions At that time, the sexual activity should cease. 

There are a few conditions where consent can be obtained that outwardly seems to contradict the law. For example, minors are considered too young to give consent, but there’s a “Romeo and Juliet” exception where two minors between the ages of 13 and 18 can both consent to sexual activity. There’s also an exception for a minor who’s married to an adult. In Ohio, you can get married when you’re 17, and if your spouse is an adult, you can legally give consent.

How to Avoid Failure to Obtain Affirmative Consent

The best way to avoid getting yourself into a situation where consent wasn’t obtained is to be very clear and direct with your partners. Remember, consent is active, meaning you can’t just get consent once and think it covers everything thereafter. You can help this by verbally asking your partner for consent by saying, “What would you like to do?” or, “Do you want to have sex?” You should also keep communicating during and after sexual activity to ensure you’re both on the same page. Ask questions like, “Do you like this?” or “What would you like now?”

It’s also important to be aware of your situation and know that hooking up with someone who’s not a close friend or existing partner may lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Don’t assume anything in these situations. When in doubt, always ask. You should never engage in sexual activity with someone who’s significantly drunk or high, and you should always be aware of whether a partner is responsive and actively participating in sexual activity.

How Wolfe Law Group, LLC Can Help

By educating yourself and those around you about how to give and receive affirmative consent, you can ensure you’re taking care of everyone around you as well as participating in consensual sexual activity. If you’re in the Columbus, Ohio area including Dublin, Westerville, Gahanna, or Hilliard, and would like to speak with an experienced lawyer about a possible issue with consent, contact the Wolfe Law Group, LLC.


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