There is a lot more that goes on during sex than simply saying yes and no, and in the silences, unspoken doubts, fears, mistrust, and confusion can arise.

Rachel Kramer Bussel, “Beyond Yes or No: Consent as Sexual Process,” Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, 2008, 46.


Most broadly, consent is defined as a voluntary agreement between different individuals to engage in sexual activity. It must be freely given, which means that cannot be given by someone who is intoxicated, unconscious, or otherwise considered incapable of giving their consent. It is important to understand that consent is crucial for any (sexual) activity that one person shares with another–without it, it is harassment or assault.

In this module, we will explore the notions of consent and ethical sex. We will interrogate the following questions: what does it mean for a sexual encounter to be consensual? what is affirmative consent and why is it crucial that we move beyond the idea of ‘no’ means ‘no’? This module seeks to dispel the myth that consensual sex has to be good sex and proposes that we need to reconsider whether it is possible to engage in consensual sex given that it takes places within larger socio-cultural structural inequalities.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • Identify the difference between consensual sex and ethical sex.
  • Recognize the relationship between HIV non-disclosure laws and discrimination.
  • Describe what it means “to queer” monogamy.
  • Define affirmative consent. 

Moving Forward

Each module contains a big idea + lesson, assigned resources, and a summary page. Visit each section below by clicking or tapping the images.