Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

What Is Consent?

Effective consent must be based on mutually understandable communication that clearly indicates a willingness to engage in sexual activity.

Elements of Consent

The college's Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy defines four elements of consent that need to be present in each sexual interaction in order to establish consent.

Being aware of what is actually going to happen.
Example: a discussion about safer sex (STI and pregnancy prevention) or what each partner wants to get out of the experience

Freely and actively given
Consent is given of someone’s own free will.
Example: someone can decide to engage in sexual activity without threat of consequences

Mutually understandable
Consent is given clearly and unambiguously, so that all partners understand each other, without any doubts or uncertainty.
Example: all people involved have the same or similar understanding of sexual vocabulary and/or terms used during sexual activity

Specific to a given situation
Consenting to something in the past doesn’t imply that you’re consenting to it now.
Example: consent is discussed at the beginning, and throughout, each new sexual interaction, regardless of previous involvement or relationship status

All four elements of consent must be present throughout all sexual interactions in order for it to be consensual. Consent should be an ongoing conversation, verbal or nonverbal, between all people engaged in a sexual interaction. 

Barriers to Consent

Oberlin’s Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy also identifies four barriers to consent. If one or more of these barriers is present in a sexual interaction, sexual misconduct may have occurred.

The legal age of consent in Ohio is sixteen (16) years. Anyone over the age of 16 cannot legally engage in a sexual relationship with anyone younger than 16.

Power Dynamic Within the College
Members of faculty and staff are not able to enter any type of sexual relationship with a student. The consequences of any relationship will always fall on the faculty or staff member, as students are not able to give consent in this situation.

The use of physical violence on someone to gain sexual access


Unreasonable, continued pressure for sexual activity beyond the point when someone has made it clear they do not want to engage in sexual behavior


Lacking the physical and/or mental ability to make informed, rational judgments.

PRSM's Consent Essentials workshop teaches students about consent, and gives them skills and vocabulary for consent practices. For more information, email