Defining consent is a crucial conversation, but it seems that there are a few misconceptions about what constitutes consent.
Let's start with what it isn't.
First and foremost, the absence of"no" does not mean "yes." There are several instances where someone may not feel like they're able to say no: they're afraid for their physical safety, they don't want to disappoint the other person, they feel pressured, etc. Even if someone hasn't said verbally said no - or physically signaled their disinterest - that's not equivalent to consent.
Being in a relationship does not constitute consent. Married, dating, friends with benefits - it doesn't matter. Consent cannot be assumed based on relationship status. And while we're at it, any past sexual history isn't consent, either. Someone's past agreement to have sex isn't an all-inclusive, un-expiring ticket for future sex. Consent should be asked for each and every time.
Additionally, consenting to one activity is not consent to all. This means respecting boundaries and understanding that at any point, both you and your partner have the option to stop if you're not comfortable or interested in proceeding any further.
Clothing is not consent. No matter what a person is wearing (or not wearing), there is no outfit in the world that can equate to consent. Crop tops, short skirts, cleavage, tight pants, drag, high heels, or full-frontal nudity: not consent.
Someone who is intoxicated cannot give proper consent. Someone who is unconscious cannot give proper consent. Someone who is underage cannot give proper consent. It seems that these should go without saying, but given current events, it's worth noting. If you can see that a person is inebriated beyond being able to make a rational and sound decision, is underage, or doesn't seem to be in full control of their body, that should be a pretty clear indicator that they can't agree to any kind of sexual activity.
here's what it is.
Consent must be an active yes. Sexual contact should be mutually agreed upon and there should be a mutual enthusiasm + interest. Honestly, if someone doesn't seem into the idea of having sex (or any other kind of intimacy), don't push it. Nobody should need to be convinced or coerced. And here's the thing: don't worry about killing the mood by asking for consent. It's well worth the potential moment of awkwardness to ensure that both of you are on the same page. After all, if that's the most uncomfortable second of your encounter, you're probably having a pretty good time.
Most of all, consent is about communication. By simply asking, "is this okay?" when changing the degree of activity, and giving explicit permission and or positive affirmation (like letting your partner know that you're open to trying something), you can ensure that both of you will be able to keep your activities safe.
Know that you have an irrevocable right to your own body. Nobody else gets to dictate what you do with it. If you're not interested or not comfortable, you are absolutely allowed to express that, and your partner - or anyone else - should respect this.