Consent is the most important aspect of any sexual interaction you have. But this isn’t limited to just in person interactions! With the growth of technology and social media came the growth of consent violations over these new mediums. So what exactly is digital consent and how do you know when you have it? Well let’s take a deeper look.

Digital Consent is the act of giving consent on any virtual medium. Just like normal consent, it’s fluid and changes often. This means that something you’re ok with in one moment, you may not be ok with another time and that’s absolutely fine! On these virtual platforms, consent still has the same premise, but can be viewed in different forms. It can be as simple as posting a picture of your newborn niece or nephew on social media without the permission of your sibling. This is a consent violation in a much simpler form, but can still have the same negative affect as other more aggressive violations. One of the most common is the sending and receiving of nude images without permission. Oftentimes, an individual might feel compelled to share these nude photos of themself, but without your permission, it becomes a consent violation and they have commited a form of sexual assault. It can come from anyone and isn’t limited to one sex or gender. In some cases, these forms of sexual assault that happen digitally can be punishable by law. 

So how do you ask for consent in this new virtual medium and how can you avoid mistakenly crossing that line? Just like giving permission to do anything, the best way is to simply ask. With simpler forms, such as posting pictures of someone else on your profile, asking is easy and isn’t awkward. But when sexuality comes into play, it’s understandable that it might be an awkward conversation at first, but that doesn’t mean you can't make it sexy! Of course, always start by making sure your partner is comfortable having these virtual sexual conversations and everything else they are comfortable sharing first. This opens things up a little more before risking breaching their consent. Then, after some time and sexier conversation, ask if it is ok to show them yourself or if they are willing to show themselves. Remember, NO MEANS NO and if they decline, then that’s it. Always stick with what your partner is comfortable with and never push or coerce them into more. In many cases, this coercion into any sexualized setting, either in person or virtually, can be considered a sexual assault as well. If you and your partner are ok with sending nude images or videos, it’s also important to wait for permission to save them. Saving these things is another breach of consent, and dispersing them in any way can go against copyright and even revenge porn laws.

Consent is mandatory and important in every sexual setting, but online and in life, it extends beyond just our typical understanding of how to give it or ask for it. Always remember, if someone says no, then that is the end of it. No matter if it is in an intimate setting with a long term partner, or if it is with someone you just met. Crossing that line is inexcusable. 

If you are a survivor of sexual assault or are looking for more information, https://www.rainn.org is an excellent and nationwide service to help you find the resources you need. Additionally, the 24/7 National Sexual Assault Hotline can be called at 800-656-4673 to speak to someone directly. Stay safe everyone!