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Is Consent Always An enthusiastic yes?

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

The latest consent motto is “Anything but an enthusiastic Yes is a No!” That has led to some confusion, because often we consent to something even when we are not jumping up and down with desire, and there are a lot of legitimate reasons for that.

Personally, I can think of more than a few times when I did something for someone that was not my own explicit desire out of a genuine feeling of generosity, because it was something that they very much wanted. Was I enthusiastic in my generosity? Perhaps enthusiastic is an overstated word in this case. But I was definitely authentic in my willingness to give freely of myself.

That’s why some people are now talking more about “authentic consent” rather than “enthusiastic consent”. What’s important to understand is whether we want to engage in an activity, whether enthusiastically, or willingly.

In our book Creating Consent Culture: A Handbook for Educators, we talk about the difference between being willing, wanting, or tolerating. As my co-author Marcia Baczynski says, tolerating or enduring “is the kind of Yes borne out of fear, coercion, or a lack of belief in one’s own autonomy…It’s the kind of Yes that comes from feeling as if there are no good options and it will garner sadness, resentment, or anger down the road.” Tolerating something is not true consent. It is a trade-off being made in order to meet basic needs of safety or belonging.

On the other hand, an authentically willing “Yes” is positively motivated, and won’t lead to feelings of sadness, anger or resentment.

To learn more about the differences between willing, wanting, and tolerating, or to find out more about these exercises, the workshop, or the book, come learn more at my website,

Order the book here!

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