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What Even is Consent? An Investigation Into Educational and Media Presentations of Consent

Our work was focused on understanding why, after years of messaging, consent remains an ambiguous topic, and there are far too many rapes, sexual assaults, and coercive encounters. We believed that messaging received from media and social norms around sex

Consent in Music Header

Hailey Demko Bieber, Justin. “What Do You Mean.” What Do You Mean. 2015. Lyrics at

The lines that concern consent mostly clearly are:

What do you mean? Oh, oh

When you nod your head yes

But you wanna say no

What do you mean? Hey-yeah

When you don't want me to move

But you tell me to go

What do you mean?

These lyrics clearly explain that sometimes your partner can not be totally sure what they want in bed. In the song Justin keeps saying “what do you mean”, he is clearly communicating with his partner, making sure that the person is okay with what they are doing. Justin acknowledges that it is important to not just take the first answer as an invitation, sometimes people can say yes to having relations but not be totally sure if they are ready.


Outkast. “Spread.” Spread. 2003. Lyrics at

The lines that concern consent most clearly are:

Don't want to make you feel strange, but

Don't let these words be in vain, so

Spread, spread for me

I can't, I can't wait to get you home

Nature knows that I want you, but

Not unless you want me too, so

Spread, spread for me

I can't, I can't wait to get you home

In the lines “Nature knows that I want you, but not unless you want me too”, Outkast says what he wants, but is respectful by saying not unless you want me too. He wont do anything with the person unless they okay with it, he needs it to be mutual. This is how it should be, both sides of the relationship should be on the same page.


Paisley, Brad. “I’m Still A Guy.” I’m Still A Guy. Frank Rodgers, 2008. Lyrics at

The lines that concern consent most clearly are as follows:

But when you say a backrub means only a backrub Then you swat my hand when I try

Well, now, what can I say at the end of the day

Honey, I'm still a guy

These lyrics stated in the third verse of this song are very controversial. The woman swatting his hand away is still a form of saying no, meaning she is not giving consent. The lyrics “Honey, I’m still a guy” is an attempt at an excuse for his actions. However, there is no excuse for not obtaining consent, especially just using being a guy as a reason. These lyrics are promoting men to use their identity as an excuse to ignore consent.


Trainor, Meghan. “No.” No. Epic Records, 2015. Lyrics at

The lines that concern consent most clearly are as follows:

My name is no, my sign is no, my number is no, uh

You need to let it go, uh

You need to let it go, uh

Need to let it go, uh

Nah to the ah to the, no, no, no

Meghan Trainor made it very clear in this song that it is okay to say no. From the title to the actual lyrics Meghan is promoting consent and the importance of it. The lyrics “My name is no, my sign is no, my number is no..” is showing how it is okay to set strict boundaries and not want to give consent. In addition to those lyrics, the lyrics “You need to let it go” are referring to Meghan not giving consent and that the other person needs to leave her alone.


Menzel, Idina. “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Baby It’s Cold Outside. Idina Menzel, 2014. Lyrics at

The lines that concern consent most clearly are:

I ought to say no, no, no sir

Mind if move in closer?

At least I'm gonna say that I tried

These lines indicate that the woman in the situation felt trapped. She wants nothing to do with him, and even wants to leave his house but the man keeps insisting and doesn’t respect her repeatedly saying no. The last line, “At least I’m gonna say that I tried” shows that she was defeated and either gave in, or was fully forced into a sexual act. The last line is also something many rape victims say when telling their story, explaining how they fought back, but unfortunately weren’t successful.


Future. “My Collection.” HNDRXX. A1 Recordings, 2017. Lyrics at

The lines that concern consent most clearly are as follows:

Any time I got you, girl you my possession

Even if I hit you once, you part of my collection

Even if I hit you once, you part of my collection

Even if I hit you once, you part of my collection

These lyrics use common language that exemplify the idea many men maintain consent after they get consent once from a female. The lyrics (repeated three times) “Even if I hit you once, you part of my collection” give the idea that once he gets consent once he has her consent every time after that. The use of the word “hit” can sometimes be used to say, “have sex’ but in this it is unclear what the meaning is and can come off as the fact that “Even if I abuse you, you’re still mine.” This may be perceived that physical abuse negates consent. The line “ Anytime I got you, girl you my possession” leaves us thinking that whenever she is around him, she doesn’t have to give consent and he can use her for his pleasure.


Foxx, Jamie. “Blame it.” Intuition. J Records ,2008. Lyrics at

She say she usually don't

But I know that she front

'Cause shawty know what she want

But she don't wanna seem like she easy

I ain't saying what you won't do

But you know we probably gon' do

These lyrics by Jamie Foxx opens the understanding of “consent” while under the influence. The lyrics “She says she usually don’t, but I know that she front” explains that she’s already said she doesn’t want to but he is going to assume it is an act and do it anyway. He continues with “But she don’t want to see easy” which means he is assuming she wants it but said no to not look easy. Then the lyrics continue to say “I ain’t saying what you won’t do but you know we probably gon’ do” inferring again she has said no and he is ignoring this and will do it anything without her consent because she is drunk and he thinks he knows what she wants.


Marisa Beard “Marshmello & Anne-Marie – Friends.” Genius,

The lines that concern consent are as follows:

Don't go look at me with that look in your eye

You really ain't going away without a fight

You can't be reasoned with, I'm done being polite

I've told you one, two, three, four, five, six thousand times

Haven't I made it obvious?

Haven't I made it clear?

Want me to spell it out for you?

F-R-I-E-N-D-S x2

These lyrics demonstrate the idea of consent by giving the idea of putting someone in the “friendzone” as a way to say “no.” The lyrics repeat at the end, showing the importance behind the lyrics. By saying “Haven't I made it obvious? Haven't I made it clear? Want me to spell it out for you? F-R-I-E-N-D-S” Anne-Marie is necessarily saying no to anything besides a friendship. Friendzoninh someone is a different way to set boundaries and say no to someone. Even though it is a catchy song that was on the charts, it still conveys a good message and brings the topic of consent into a pop song.


Marisa Beard “P!Nk – U + Ur Hand.” Genius,

The lines that concern consent are as follows:

Wanna dance by myself, guess you're outta luck

Don't touch, back up, I'm not the one


Listen up, it's just not happening

This song is about a girl at a bar having fun until some guy comes up to her and puts his hands on her. These lyrics demonstrate the idea of consent by Pink telling the guy to keep his hands off of her and to leave her alone. She is talking about her boundaries which is a major part of consent. The song makes it clear that the guy will be going home by himself and not with her, she doesn't even want him to buy her a drink. This whole song is about telling a guy no and to keep to himself. This song promotes consent by showing that you can tell a guy to back off and say no to him.


Lamar, Dequantes. “I Made It.” I Made It. Niqulus Maximus & Ricky Racks, 2014. Lyrics at

The lines that concern consent are as follows:

I don’t want your ho, just want that cookie from her

She tried to resist so I took it from her

How you gonna tell me no, you must not know who I am

Location of Incident/Timestamp: 2:11-2:21

This part of the song “I Made It’ by Rich Homie Quan, also known as Dequantes Lamar, caused major controversy surrounding Quan condoning rape; “She tried to resist, I took it from her”. The girl clearly doesn't want anything to do with Quan, but he went through with his actions anyway. The lyrics demonstrate Quan not taking no for an answer, thinking that just because he is “famous”, he thinks he holds so much power and can do whatever he wants with a girl regardless of what she says.


“Victorious Cast (Ft. Elizabeth Gillies & Victoria Justice) – Take a Hint.” Genius,

The lines that concern consent are shown below:

Get your hands off my hips, 'fore I'll punch you in the lips

Stop your staring at my hey!

Take a hint, take a hint

No you can't buy me a drink, let me tell you what I think

I think you could use a mint

Take a hint, take a hint

T-take a hint, take a hint

In this part of the song the two characters are singing about two guys not understanding they aren’t interested. The lyrics show the guys keep trying different ways to get the ladies attention however they don't get the hint

they are not interested. The guys touch the girls hip without asking and offer to buy them a drink even after expressing they do not want it. This shows how despite the ladies not wanting this attention from the guys they still continue their tricks thinking it will somehow change their minds.


“John Legend (Ft. André 3000) – Green Light.” Genius,

The lines that promote consent are shown below:

I just need permission so

Give me the green light

Give me just one night

I'm ready to go right now

I'm ready to go right now (Let's go!)

I'm ready to go right now

I'm ready to go right now

In this song by John Legend he sings about wanting to be with a girl and it highlights consent in a positive way. During the song he sings about how much he wants this girl but in the part shown above he mentions he needs permission. He sings about how he is waiting for the “green light” from the girl in order to pursue her. Despite John wanting her right now and that he is ready to go he still waits until given permission which is a positive example of consent. This song highlights consent in a positive way and demonstrates how a guy or girl shouldn’t approach a person unless given the green light.


Slow Down, Alicia Keys, Track 13, 2003 Lyrics on

The lines that promote consent are

“There’s an attraction we can’t just ignore, but before we go too far across the line I gotta really make sure that I’m really sure.”

In this song Alicia Keys sings about wanting this man, but not really being 100% positive if she wants to do anything nonspecific right now. Throughout the song, she is not saying that she doesn’t want things to happen, but just that she isn’t sure if she is ready for it to happen right then. It seems as if she likes the guy, because she also states something about doing “this” before and giving herself to someone for all of the wrong reasons.

Since she had already made the mistake, she wants to take it slow. She wants this to happen throughout the song, but not this soon.


Excuse Me Miss - Jay-Z Lyrics by

Yeah, can I get my grown man on for one second?

Cause I see some ladies tonight that should be hangin wit Jay-Z, Jay-Z

(Pharrell: So hot to trot.. la-dy!)

Excuse me miss, what's your name?

Can you come, hang with me?

Possibly, can I take you out, to-night?

In this part of the song Jay-Z is asking if it is okay to take this girl out. Throughout the song, it seems like people are telling her that he is not a good guy, and to not talk to him, but she doesn’t know him personally. He says that he flaunts his stuff, and that he is a good guy, which makes this girl want him since he is not being forceful. He is interested in the girl, but still asks if it is okay if he can talk to her and ask her out.


Drunk Girl, Chris Janson, 2017, Warner Bros. Nashville Lyrics from =

Take a drunk girl home

Let her sleep alone

Leave her keys on the counter

Your number by the phone

Timestamp = 0:45 - 0:55

This song depicts the idea that someone should not take someone else home and have sex with them when they are intoxicated. Some people would not think twice about this situation, and often encourage this type of behavior but Chris Janson took a different approach. Janson pushes the idea of not doing these things to an intoxicated individual, but instead, make sure they get home safe, they have their belongings, and give them the chance to call you back if they choose to. Since country music commonly shows a misogynistic look at women and others, it was important that Janson did not take that route with his song, however; even though the idea of a person coming into someone’s

home without sober consent is debated, the gesture of walking them into their home is still considered pure when compared to the latter.


We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off, Ella Eyre, 2015 (cover of original song by Jermaine Stewart)

Not a word, from your lips

You just took for granted that I want to skinny dip.

A quick hit, that's your game.

But I'm not a piece of meat, stimulate my brain, no.

The night is young, so are we.

Let's just get to know each other, slow and easily, oh.

Take my hand, let's hit the floor.

Shake our bodies to the music.

Maybe then you'll score.

So come on baby, won't you show some class

Why do you have to move so fast?

We don't have to take our clothes off

To have a good time

Oh no

We could dance and party all night

And drink some cherry wine, oh

The entire song concerns consent but this specific part shows it the most. In this cover version of the song by Ella Eyre, she says “why do you have to move so fast? We don’t have to take our clothes off to have a good time.” These lyrics present the idea that she is not ready to do sexual things with someone and she wants them to take it slow. These lyrics also are saying that you do not have to have sex in a relationship, or in general, to have fun or to have a good time. It is common in society today that people feel used for their body or just for sex, and this song is trying to say that there is more to a person than sex. It is very common that people feel pressured into being ready for things such as sexual acts out of fear their partner will leave or retaliate.


Bored by: Billie Eilish,

Giving you all you want and more

Giving you every piece of me I don't want love I can't afford

I just want you to love for free

Can't you see that I'm getting bored?

Giving you every piece of me, piece of me


I'm not afraid anymore

What makes you sure you're all I need?

Forget about it

When you walk out the door and leave me torn

You're teaching me to live without it

Bored, I'm so bored, I'm so bored, so bored

This song talks about a girl giving a guy everything he has asked for. In the songs she says “ Giving you all you want and more, giving you every piece of me ” She keeps putting her feelings and body on the line for him to love her but she starts to see that he isn't doing the same for her. She starts to see that he only wants her physically and that is all that he wants. Her next line is “ Can't you see that I’m getting bored” she is tired of listening to his lies and giving him everything he asks for she's not afraid to say no to him anymore, he has taught her how to live without him physically and emotionally.


Peer Pressure ( James Bay feat. Julia Micheals),

Put your hands on my body just like you think you know me

Want your heart beating on me, don’t leave me hot and lonely

I don’t usually give in to peer pressure

But i’ll give in to yours

When we met, innocent

Now i'm dead everytime you’re touching me

You’re dancing around on my mind every second

I’m under control till you’re in front of me

Maybe i’m scared, I don’t care, I’m addicted

I’m in it

And you say

In this song, they are talking about glorifying peer pressure and liking another partner to pressure you into doing something physically or emotionally. Also in this song this is about a male being peer pressured by a woman, which usually goes the other way and that is why this song is so unique. This states that women can also violate consent too.


The Killers, “Change Your Mind.” Hot Fuss. Cornerstone Recording Studio, 2004. Lyrics at:

The lyrics that concern consent are:

And if the answer is no

Can I change your mind?

We're all the same and love is blind

The sun is gone before it shines

And I said, if the answer is no

Can I change your mind?

If the answer is no

Can I change your mind?

These are the ending lyrics of the song. The entire song is about trying to change a girl’s mind into giving up consent because “they both feel something” and that she just cannot make up her mind. This is not an example of consent, as this is considered consent through manipulation or coercion. This type of “consent” is not actual consent and if only given because a girl know the harassment will not end unless she tells the person yes.


James, Ro. “Permission.” ELDORADO. 2016. Lyrics at

Timestamp = 0:25 – 1:03

With your permission

Xaria LaMar

I just wanna spend a little time with you

With your permission

Tonight I wanna be a little me on you

Ooh yeah

With your permission

I wanna spend the night sipping on you


You know what I'm talking about baby, yeah

This song discusses how he only wants to do these certain things with a women as long as he has her permission. This is a valued reason of consent because he is talking about her making the decision and it not being forced upon her. The whole song the lyrics express how the its up to her and how he isnt pressuring her to do anything. Some other examples that are said in this song would be “I need you to give me that green light” and “Ain’t no pressure, it all on you.”


Oladokun, Joy. “Shelter.” Carry, 2016. Lyrics at

Timestamp = 0:45 – 1:00

But I can't make you love me even if I try

I'm not gonna force you, you have to decide

I'm asking you to trust me

When I say that I'm not here for the moment

I'm in this for life

The lyrics that are shown is an example of how love can't be forced on people and that it has to be a mutual thing. This song is a prime example of showing that there are a lot of components to love and building them all is how one can gain love and happiness not by forcing what is going on.


Gaga, Lady. “Til It Happens to you”Single, 2015.Lyrics at

“Won't know how I feel

'Til your world burns and crashes

'Til you're at the end, the end of your rope

'Til you're standing in my shoes

I don't wanna hear a thing from you, from you, from you

'Cause you don't know”

These lines are about a victim talking to someone about the incident and the victim calling them out for not knowing what they are going through and what advice would help them because they don’t know. To when people that weren’t there ask the victim “did you ____?”,”did say _____?”


Eli,Lindsay. “Make You”Heart Theory, 2020. Lyrics at

“And even though you can't change it

There's peace in saying it out loud

You'll feel angry, you'll feel sad once you see it's not your fault

And that canyon in your chest is that little girl you lost

It's gonna make you hate yourself

When you didn't hate yourself at all”

The line “you’ll feel sad once you see it’s not your fault” at the time of the incident the victim didn’t even know what consent was at the time it wasn’t her fault she didn’t know. It took her until later into her life what even happened at that time.