I’ve had a great many difficulties finding straightforward, comprehensive, concise and universally applicable definitions of consent on the web. I’ve also had (probably related) difficulties with other people’s ideas of consent conflicting with mine. So I thought I’d do a definition just so we’re all clear on what I mean by “consent”.
Please note the definition of abuse which I’ve published along with this definition.
Consent – The Definition
Permission, approval or authorisation chosen by an individual regarding specific and limited act(s) which impact on them, sometimes with conditions, often in response to a request.
Choosing to permit, approve or authorise specific and limited act(s) which impact on the chooser, sometimes with conditions, often in response to a request.
Criteria – If conditions are specified, the permission, approval or authorisation is only valid as long as the specified conditions are fulfilled.
Permission, approval or authorisation to act is valid only from those who:
- choose it freely, willingly, individually and separately
- have legitimate jurisdiction over the choice
- have fully functional judgment
- are attentive, awake, aware, and alert
- have full knowledge of all relevant facts
- have ample time to consider, decline, and reconsider
Unless explicitly and specifically authorised and unless all the above criteria are fulfilled, permission, approval or authorisation by default are declined. By definition, waiting for permission, approval or authorisation for the specified act(s) and ensuring all the above criteria are fulfilled before proceeding is fully the responsibility of the person requesting it. Proceeding under any other conditions is a transgression.
(noun) – objection, opposition, refusal, prohibition
(verb) – decline, object, oppose, refuse, forbid, prohibit
con•sent•ed | ˌkənˈsɛntɛd | verb
con•sent•ing | ˌkənˈsɛntiŋ | verb
con•sen•su•al | ˌkənˈsɛnsuəl | adjective
con•sen•su•al•ly | ˌkənˈsɛnsuəli | adverb
con•sen•su•al•i•ty | kənˌsɛnsuˈɑlɪti | noun
The necessity for a comprehensive, universally applicable definition of consent is most notable by the abuse which by definition occurs when it is incomplete or absent.
Consent is not about the act itself, consent is about permission to act. So responsibility for that permission belongs to the person choosing whether to consent or not, and responsibility for the act itself belongs with the person seeking the consent of another. Frequently, a transgressor may use the absence of an explicit refusal to justify their transgression. By doing this, the transgressor is abdicating responsibility by holding the transgressed responsible for the transgression(s). This approach is logically flawed in terms of this definition. Consent can easily be invalidated by manipulating the absence of an explicit refusal, by
- ignoring that consent by default is declined (otherwise, why ask?)
- ignoring the responsibility to wait for consent before proceeding
- purposefully limiting or eliminating opportunities to decline
- deliberately withholding relevant information
The absence of an explicit refusal is therefore always an invalid justification for a transgression. Why explicitly request consent if only to proceed regardless of the response?
Single Standard Definition – For me, and I think for most people, defining a single standard is much easier when it has both a name and a behaviour which is on or off, regardless of any other factors which may be less general and sometimes distracting or irrelevant. In this case, the single standard of consent and abuse is based on the following criteria:
1. Regardless of – how, where, when or why consent is being transgressed
– to what extent, by whom and against whom consent is being transgressed
– the severity or triviality of a transgression or by whose judgement
2. All abuses and transgressions of consent – merit being challenged
– are undesirable, offensive, objectionable, repugnant and abhorrent
– are expendable, superfluous, preventable and avoidable
3. All transgressors – are accountable for their transgressions
– merit being challenged for their transgressions
4. All individuals are entitled to – respect for their consent
– support against abuse of their consent
5. Valid respect for consent is always preferable and desirable
In short, all transgressions of consent are always about the behaviour and responsibility of the transgressor. The onus of responsibility to respect consent is always on the person seeking the consent, because the choice to respect or transgress is theirs alone.
ORIGIN – Middle English, from Old French consente (noun), consentir (verb) ‘to feel together’, from Latin consentire, from con- ‘together’ and sentire ‘feel’.
Etymology with help from
Dictionary.app and Wiktionary
Dictionary.app Version 2.0.2 (51.4)
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