People who are sexually active must make sure their partners have agreed to take part in a sexual act. The law calls this agreement "consent".
This article explains what it means to consent to sexual activities.
What Consent Involves
Consent means the agreement given to a sexual partner at the moment the partners take part in sexual activities.
This consent must be voluntary. This means that it must be given freely and not forced. Consent must also be informed. Informed means that the person consenting understands the consequences of the decision. If the choice is not free and informed, then the person's consent is not valid.
There is no consent if someone refuses to participate in a sexual activity but is forced into it anyway.
Also, the consent must be clear, and it must be given personally by the person taking part in the sexual activity. Consent based on the words or actions of someone else is not valid.
How Consent Must Be Given
The law doesn't say exactly how consent to sexual activities must be given. It is enough that someone consents through words, through actions or both these ways. Therefore, consent doesn't have to be verbal or in writing.
Absence of Consent
A person doesn't have to go as far as physically resisting a sexual activity to show she doesn't consent to it.
For example, there's no consent to sexual activities in these situations:
- A person's words or actions show she doesn't consent to the sexual activity.
- A person started out by consenting to the activity, but her words or actions show she doesn't consent to continuing the sexual activity.
- Consent is given by someone else, such as a friend or parent.
Silence Doesn't Mean Consent
The saying "silence equals consent" doesn't apply to sexual activities.
For consent to be valid, agreement to the sexual activity must be expressed clearly. Consent can come through words, actions or both.
Time of Consent
Whether consent is verbal or non-verbal, it must be given at the time of the sexual activity.
A person must have a chance to express consent at each stage of the sexual activity. So, before beginning a different type of sexual activity, the partner must make sure the other person wants to continue.
Consent becomes invalid as soon as someone loses the ability to consent. For example, there's no consent from the moment someone loses consciousness or is under the effects of a strong drug.
Taking Back Consent
Sometimes, people consent to a sexual activity, but then change their minds once the activity has begun. If they decide they don't want to continue, they can take back their consent at any time.
If someone expresses refusal to participate in a sexual activity, either through words or actions, the partner must stop immediately. If the partner continues anyway, the partner is committing sexual assault.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.