BASIC CONSENT & SEXUAL DEFINITIONS
Active* Consent is a programme that has grown out of the University of Galway tradition of research and community engagement. In tackling societal issues like consent, sexual violence and harassment, we have conducted research into young people’s sexual experiences and attitudes towards consent since 2013. With this data, Active* Consent creates original consent education and training resources including workshops, eLearning modules, educational videos, original dramas, and social media campaigns for colleges, schools, and sports organisations.
The Active* Consent programme believes that the most effective form of consent education supports young people’s sexual health and agency and is taught through a sex-positive lens which honours peoples’ choices whether or not they choose to become sexually active.
Active consent (verb) is the practice of actively giving consent and communicating with a partner about consent, boundaries, likes, and dislikes during intimacy, and for all sexual activity. We define active consent as OMFG – ongoing, mutual and freely-given.
In the context of human sexuality, someone who either does not experience or has not yet experienced any sexual desires at all, or who has experienced/does experience sexual desires, but not a desire to enact them with other individuals.
Made up of two things or parts; a system with only two possible options or parts.
Prejudice against bisexuality and bisexual people.
People who may be attracted to more than one gender, or for whom gender identity is not a factor in who they are attracted to. See also pansexuality.
Describes people who have a gender identity which is traditionally thought to “match” their assigned sex. For instance, someone who was assigned male at birth who identifies as a man. Often used in relation to transgender.
To agree to do something or give permission. In the context of sex, a person is giving full consent/is consenting when they freely and actively agree to do something sexual with someone else; however, the person still has the right to change their mind at any point.
A person is NOT consenting if they do not actively agree, have been forced or pressured in some way or are in a state where they are incapable of full consent (such as when asleep, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or below the age of consent).
According to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, we consent to a sexual act if we “freely and voluntarily” agree to it – that’s the Freely Given in OMFG. Legally, this is how you know if sexual activity is non-consenting:
- Force or the threat of force: When someone applies force, threatens to do so, or there is well-founded fear of force.
- Being asleep or unconscious
- Incapable of consenting because of the effect of alcohol or some other drug
- Physical inability to communicate due to a disability
- Mistaken identity or understanding of the act: Being mistaken as to the nature and purpose of the act, or the identity of anyone involved in the act
- Being unlawfully detained at the time at which the act takes place
- Someone else giving permission for you: If consent or agreement to the act comes from somebody other than the person themselves.
Active* Consent summarises this as: Consent is OMFG (Ongoing, Mutual, and Freely-Given).
This law on consent also makes it clear in addition to being FREELY GIVEN, legal consent must always be ONGOING: “Consent to a sexual act may be withdrawn at any time before the act begins, or in the case of a continuing act, while the act is taking place.” And finally, active, positive consent must be MUTUAL, as not saying ‘no’ or using body language to resist does not mean consent is given.
When an individual tells someone else about an experience of sexual assault, rape, or harassment.
In the context of sexuality, a word for sexual orientation which either describes a man who is sexually and emotionally attracted to other men, or a person of any sex or gender who is sexually and emotionally attracted to people of the same or a similar sex or gender. Often used alongside lesbian.
Characteristics that are seen or presented as distinguishing between male and female in a society. Gender may or may not include assigned or chosen: social roles, feelings, behaviours and/or presentation or appearance.
Discomfort with an assigned sex, or feeling like ones assigned sex or body doesn’t match with ones gender.
The way people externally communicate gender identity to others through their behaviour and their outward, chosen appearance.
A person’s own sense of whether and in what sense they feel they might be a man, a woman, neither, a mixture of genders, or another gender entirely.
People who do not adhere to or who protest cultural rules or norms about dress, behaviours or activities for people based on their sex.
Describes someone whose chosen gender identity is neither masculine nor feminine, is between or beyond genders, which rejects binary gender, or which is some combination of genders.
GENDER BINARY/GENDER BINARISM
Classification system of gender into two categories, male and female, and/or the belief that all cultural, social and biological understandings of gender should be informed by this classification system.
Refers to people who are attracted to people who they understand to be of the ‘opposite ‘ gender. ‘Homosexual’ was previously commonly used as the inverse of this to refer to people attracted to the same gender, but should be avoided due to its clinical history and frequent use in homophoic contexts.
Prejudice against non-heterosexual people.
The defining character or personality of an individual; who we feel like we are as a person. Identity is often used to talk about sexual identity – who we are as sexual people, which can include things like our sexual orientation, our preferences and things we like and want in sex and sexuality, our sexual politics — or gender identity, who we feel we are and identify as (even if only to ourselves) in terms of our gender.
When people interlock their genitals and move together as feels good to them for the purpose of sexual stimulation and/or reproduction.
A socially constructed category that reflects real biological variation. Intersex is a general term used to describe a variety of conditions where a person is born with reproductive and/or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to, or isn’t understood to, fit the typical definitions of female or male, and/or is born a chromosomal combination other than XX or XY.
A word to describe a woman or femme individual who is primarily sexually and/or emotionally attracted to other women.
An abbreviation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer, intersex and asexual with the plus connoting an ongoing evolution of named sexual orientations and desires. Grouping these together implies solidarity shared by non-heterosexual individuals and communities, not homogenisation of these experiences and identities.
NON-BINARY GENDER IDENTITY
A term used to describe individuals who may experience a gender identity that is neither exclusively male or female or is in between or beyond both genders. Non-binary individuals may identify as gender fluid, agender (without gender), third gender, or something else entirely. Also used as an umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’.
An event typically in response to physical or intellectual sexual stimulation, controlled by the involuntary nervous system. Orgasm often results in muscle contractions in and around the genitals, other muscular spasms throughout the body, and a feeling of sexual and/or tension release.
An individual who is attracted to someone regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. As “pan-” means all, this orientation is considered by some to be broader than bisexuality as it refuses gender binaries altogether in thinking about sexual attraction.
Allowing sexual intimacy to continue without any form of verbal or non verbal communication. For example, “I would allow my partner to do whatever they like” and on the other side: ”I would keep going until my partner stops me.”
PERPETRATOR & VICTIM/SURVIVOR
These terms are used in the context of sexual violence and harassment. Perpetrator refers to the individual who commits these acts against individuals or groups. The individual who experiences these acts is usually referred to as the victim. Advocacy groups also frequently refer to survivors to emphasise the possibility of resilience and recovery following sexual violence.
People choosing to have more than one sexual or romantic partner at a time. Polyamory usually implies that this is wanted by all parties, negotiated and agreed upon. Polyamory is not “cheating,” unless someone breaks the agreements they have made in polyamorous relationships.
PORN OR PORNOGRAPHY
Written, visual or other kinds of media either expressly designed to elicit feelings of sexual desire and/or which people use to elicit those feelings
When a person intentionally penetrates another’s vagina, anus or mouth with a penis without the other person’s consent. Legally, Irish law defines rape as “Penetration of the vagina by the penis where the man either knows that the woman does not consent to sexual intercourse, or is reckless as to whether she consents or not. Penetration (however slight) of the anus or mouth by the penis. Penetration of the vagina (however slight) by any object held or manipulated by another person” (Rape under Section 2 Criminal Law (Rape) 1981 Act as amended. Rape under Section 4 Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990 as amended.)
Rape myths are false beliefs people hold about sexual assault and rape that shift blame from the perpetrator to the survivor. Rape myths have grown out of the longstanding gender roles, acceptance of violence, and incorrect information concerning sexual violence that exist in our society. These false statements not only shame survivors into silence; they also damage society’s general knowledge of sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. The most effective way to confront and tackle rape myths is to educate on the facts.
Legal or practical rights and freedoms relating to sex, reproduction, and reproductive health. The right to choose when and if to become a parent for ourselves or to become or remain pregnant or not are some kinds of reproductive rights.
Of, or relating to, intimate or passionate love or interest.
Practices which aim to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as use of condoms and other latex/non-latex barriers, regular testing for infections and limiting the number of sexual partners. It’s “safer” instead of “safe” because these practices can reduce risks greatly, but cannot remove all risk.
Refers to either of the main categories (male, female or intersex) that humans, and most other living things, are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions. Hence ‘sex’ is seen as a “biologically given” state. Sex is also used as a term for sexual intercourse.
The overall definition of sexual or indecent assault is an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation in the form of a sexual act, inflicted on someone without their consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts. Not all cases of involve violence, cause physical injury or leave visible marks; sexual assault can cause severe distress, emotional harm and injuries which can’t be seen – all of which can take a long time to recover from.
Legally, the definition of sexual assault falls into two categories, aggravated and not. Aggravated sexual assault involves “A sexual assault that includes serious violence or the threat of serious violence or is such as to cause injury, humiliation, or degradation of a grave nature to the person assaulted” (Aggravated Sexual Assault under Section 3 Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990 as amended.). More broadly, “An assault which takes place in circumstances of indecency is known as sexual assault. It includes any sexual touching without consent and is not limited to sexual touching involving penetration. Technically, the word “assault” also covers actions which put another person in fear of an assault” (Sexual Assault under ] Section 2 Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990 as amended). Absence of consent is necessary to prove in both instances.
Unwanted sexual activity that happens when someone is pressured, tricked, manipulated, threatened, or forced in a nonphysical way. Coercion can make people think they owe sex to someone. It might be from someone who has power over them, like a teacher, landlord, or a boss or even an intimate partner or family member.
Sexual harassment takes place where one or more people make unwanted sexual comments or similar actions in a workplace or college setting, a social situation or anywhere else in the community around us. Legally, the definition of sexual harassment is of “any form of unwanted verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, which in either case has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person” (Equal Status Act, 2000).
Refers to all double standards based on a person’s sex, gender and /or sexuality i.e. prejudice, discrimination, and oppression based on sex or gender or perceived or assigned sex or gender. Traditional sexism is the assumption that femaleness and femininity are inferior to or less legitimate than maleness and masculinity.
Having or promoting an open, tolerant, or progressive attitude towards sex, sexuality, and discussions around sex.
Any sexual act or attempt to obtain a sexual act by violence or coercion.
One of the fundamental drives behind everyone’s feelings, thoughts, attractions and behaviours towards other people. Sexuality is diverse and personal, and an important part of who someone is. This set of specific (and changing) cultural and historical ideas about how people should feel, think and act influence what a society deems to be normal or deviant at any one time.
A slang term for heterosexual individuals.
SOCIAL NORM GAP
The difference between what an individual thinks is important and how important they think their peers feel it is.
Transgender/Trans includes everyone whose gender identity is different than the sex/gender they were assigned at birth, meaning that it can also encompass those who identify as genderqueer or non-binary (see above). Trans is sometimes shortened with an asterisk (Trans*) to emphasise inclusion of these broader communities as Transgender/Trans can sometimes be misunderstood as only including people who transition M to F or F to M. Individuals identifying as transgender/trans/trans* will make a range of decisions about medical or non-medical approaches to transitioning – there is not one way to transition so be mindful of not making assumptions or assuming a moment of completion if you know someone who is Trans.