Glossary for “Building a Culture of Consent at the University of Toronto” Online Module

  • Updated: July 31st, 2023
  • Terms are organized alphabetically, except when placed in subsections (i.e., gender and sexual violence).
  • Bolded and underlined terms are defined in the Policy.

Able-bodied: Refers to someone who does not have a disability “or does not identify as having a disability”. However, due to the term’s implication that people with disabilities ‘lack’ an able body, some prefer to use the terms ‘non-disabled’ or ‘enabled’.

Able-bodied Privilege: Is the privilege that our society grants people without disabilities by treating non-disabled bodies and people as the preferred normal standard. Because the standard was not created with disabled folks in mind, temporary fixes have historically been added to our social and physical infrastructure as an afterthought. This systemic exclusion is present in various institutions and modalities, such as urban transportation and mobility, access to buildings, availability of accommodations for everyday activities, and much more. The ableism that informs able-bodied privilege results in the discrimination and under privileging of people with physical and/or mental disabilities.

Ableism: According to the Disabled Women’s Network of Canada, ableism refers to how ideas/beliefs are organized and supported based on the premise that the ‘able-body’ is favourable/preferrable over the disabled body. Ableism is based on stereotypical assumptions, such as that disabled people require fixing and are inferior as a result. This view neglects individuality as it defines disabled people solely by their “deviation from the norm”, rather than their holistic selves.

Cisgender: A person who identifies with the sex and gender they were assigned at birth.

Cisgender Privilege: This refers to the privilege and unearned benefits that a cisgender person receives because their gender identity matches their sex assigned as birth. The cisnormativity that informs cisgender privilege results in the discrimination and under privileging of transgender, nonbinary, or non-cisgender people. Cisnormativity refers to the sociocultural privileging of cisgender as the ‘normal’ and preferred gender identity.

Complainant: “Refers exclusively to those who have made a report to the University under the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment and who have engaged in the University’s formal reporting processes. While the terms in the Policy were selected for neutrality, the University recognizes and supports that individuals can choose and use language consistent with their own experience.”

Consent: The Policy defines consent as, “The voluntary agreement of an individual to engage in a sexual act. Consent is positive, active and ongoing, and can be revoked at any time. Consenting to one kind of sexual act does not mean that consent is given for another sexual act or kind of activity. Consent is NOT obtained where a person is incapable of consenting – for example due to intoxication, or where a person is induced to engage in the activity by someone abusing a position of trust, power or authority.”

Culture of Consent: A culture of consent is inclusive of and moves beyond the Policy definition of consent and applies consent to sexual- and non-sexual acts. In a Culture of Consent, consent requires active, positive, and ongoing agreement to voluntary sexual- or non-sexual acts. Consent is necessary for all social interactions, including those we have with strangers, friends, family members, co-workers, partners, etc. This should be apparent in verbal and non-verbal communication (e.g., body language). Consent does not occur in the absence of ‘no’, cannot be given when intoxicated, or unconscious, and can be withdrawn at any time. In a culture of consent, each person’s autonomy, needs, and boundaries are respected, and no one feels pressured or forced to do things they are not comfortable with.

Disclosure: “The sharing of information by an individual with a Member of the University Community (a student, staff member, faculty member, or librarian) regarding an Incident of Sexual Violence experienced by that individual.”

Gender: According to the University of Toronto’s Sexual and Gender Diversity Office, gender is defined as “how we perceive our identity as masculine, feminine, both or neither, regardless of our physical bodies; ideas and norms can change over time and can vary between cultures.”

Genders are socially constructed categories that have historically divided people into two or more categories according to various characteristics. Ideas, definitions, norms, expectations, and stereotypes associated with each gender can change cross-culturally and over time. In the case where someone may find a binary gender system (only two genders) too restrictive, they may feel more comfortable identifying as being nonbinary. Nonbinary is an umbrella term which includes gender identities beyond man and woman or a combination of different genders. For some people, gender may or may not align with a person’s assigned sex at birth. Similarly, a person’s gender identity could be different than their gender expression or the way that others attribute their gender (see gender attribution).

Gender Attribution: “The way that your identity is perceived by others. The act of categorizing people we come into contact with as masculine, feminine, or another identity. This can be related to gender expression and gender identity, and can be mediated by stereotypical and/or cissexist and heterosexist understandings of what a ‘man’ and a ‘woman’ should be. Gender attribution can result in misgendering.”

Gender Expression: “How a person publicly presents their gender, which can include external characteristics and behaviours that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine. Examples include dress (clothing), hair, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns, and voice. A person’s name and pronoun are also common ways of expressing gender.” A person’s gender expression may not align with their gender identity or how they are perceived by others.

Gender Identity: “a person’s innate, deeply felt psychological identification as a man, woman, both, neither, or another gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth.”

Misgendering: “Attributing gender identification, gendered language, and gender expectations to someone that is incorrect or does not align with their gender identity. This can happen through incorrect use of pronouns, gendered language, or assigning gender to someone based on assumptions/without concrete knowledge of how they identify.”

Hook-Up Culture: “Hook-up culture is characterized by particular attitudes and behaviors related to sexual encounters as well as high levels of alcohol use. Specifically, sociosexuality and engaging in sexual encounters without the expectation of future commitment or interaction with the hook-up partner are common.”

  • Sutton, Tara E., & Simons, Leslie G. “Sexual Assault Among College Students: Family of Origin Hostility, Attachment, and the Hook-Up Culture as Risk Factors.” Journal of Child Family Studies, 24:2827-2840.

Institutional: Relating to a “policy, practice or belief system that has been established as normative or customary throughout institutions” such as schools, legal systems and courts, legislative bodies, organizations, and other public institutions. In the context of institutional discrimination, the way in which institutions, using these policies, actions, beliefs, or behaviours, privileges the dominant group, while disadvantaging and discriminating against minority groups.

Institutional Racism: “a concept whereby the social structures produce inequalities based on racial discrimination. Racialized people thus face challenges due to racism from both individuals and institutions (health, education, penal system, etc.). This means that in an equal representation of races, individuals who are white or members of the majority experience fewer negative incidents in their everyday lives in society than Indigenous or racialized individuals.”

Intersectionality: Devised by American legal scholar and civil rights activist Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, “intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.” It examines how “intersections of race and gender, of heterosexism, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, all of these social dynamics, come together and create challenges that are sometimes quite unique.”

Male Privilege: Refers to the privilege that cisgender men inherently have in a patriarchal society which grants them greater access to resources and power, such as higher pay and work or home authority. The misogyny that informs male privilege results in the discrimination and under privileging of non-men. This can look like the expectation that men own women’s bodies and are owed sexual access. However, even within men, other dimensions of identity such as being trans, racialized, or disabled, may complicate a person’s male privilege in the face of various forms of systemic discrimination.

Marginalization: Marginalization occurs when certain identities, statuses, or backgrounds have been socially constructed as less deserving, less important, and less human. “To relegate to an unimportant or powerless position within a society or group.”

Oppression: “’Oppression’ refers to a combination of prejudice and institutional power that creates a system that regularly and severely discriminates against some groups and benefits other groups.”

Privilege: Privilege is unearned power, benefits, and advantages given to certain identities, statuses, or backgrounds. These identities, statuses, or backgrounds are formed when social structures and hierarchies classify people according to presumptions about their innate deservingness and value. Privilege is not about a person’s pursuit or acquisition of power; it is systemic and institutional. Some examples include able-bodied privilege, male privilege, and white privilege.

Report: “The sharing of information by an individual with the Centre or Campus Safety regarding an Incident of Sexual Violence experienced by that individual, with the intention of initiating one of the processes set out in this Policy, which could result in disciplinary action being taken against the Member of the University Community alleged to have committed Sexual Violence. A Report from a Complainant containing information regarding an Incident of Sexual Violence initiates the Reporting process.”

Respondent: “Someone against whom an allegation of Sexual Violence has been made.”

Sexuality/Sexual Orientation: “A person’s identity and/or behaviours based on their desire, romantic, or sexual attractions.”

Sex: Refers to physical aspects of the body, including genitals, chromosomes, and hormones, that are categorized as male, female, or intersex, with many variations within intersex people. Amongst transgender and nonbinary people, their gender does align with their sex assigned at birth.

Sexual Violence: “Any sexual act or act targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened or attempted against a person without the person’s consent. This includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism, gender-based harassment or violence, cyber sexual violence, and sexual exploitation.”

Forms of Sexual Violence Include:

  • Sexual Assault: “Any form of sexual contact without a person’s consent, including the threat of sexual contact without consent. A Sexual Assault can range from unwanted sexual touching to forced sexual intercourse; and a Sexual Assault can involve situations where sexual activity is obtained by someone abusing a position of trust, power or authority.”
  • Sexual Harassment: “Includes but is not limited to engaging in a course of vexatious comments or conduct that is known or ought to be known to be unwelcome. For the purpose of [the University of Toronto’s] Policy, Sexual Harassment includes workplace sexual harassment. Sexual Harassment includes any sexual solicitation or advance made by a person in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the person where the person making the solicitation or advance knows or ought reasonably to know that it is unwelcome. Sexual Harassment also includes a reprisal or a threat of reprisal for the rejection of a sexual solicitation or advance, where the reprisal is made or threatened by a person in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the person.”
  • Stalking: Under the Criminal Code of Canada, stalking is defined as “No person shall… engage in conduct… that causes that other person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.” This can include, someone calling you over and over again; sending you constant email messages; following you, your family or friends; and/or watching you or tracking where you go; or engaging in threatening conduct directed at you or any member of your family.
  • Indecent Exposure: “One definition of indecent exposure is as a criminal offense under the Criminal Code of Canada s.173(2), which reads as follows: “Every person who, in any place, for a sexual purpose, exposes their genital organs to a person who is under the age of 16 years”. Broader, non-legal definitions define indecent exposure as the deliberate act of exposing private parts of the body in an offensive manner, in a public space. This DOES NOT include breastfeeding parents.”
  • Voyeurism: “One definition of voyeurism is as a criminal offense under the Criminal Code of Canada s.162(1), which reads as follows: “Every one commits an offence who, surreptitiously, observes – including by mechanical or electronic means – or makes a visual recording of a person who is in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy if, (a) the person is in a place in which a person can reasonably be expected to be nude, to expose his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts, or to be engaged in explicit sexual activity; (b) the person is nude, is exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts, or is engaged in explicit sexual activity, and the observation or recording is done for the purpose of observing or recording a person in such a state or engaged in such an activity; or (c) the observation or recording is done for a sexual purpose.” Voyeurism is to observe “unsuspecting people while they undress, are naked, or engage in sexual activities. A key element of voyeurism is that the person being watched doesn’t know they’re being observed. The person is typically in a place where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as their home or other private area.” Voyeurism is a form of sexual assault because the person being watched has not consented to the act.
  • Gender-Based Harassment/Violence: “Includes but is not limited to engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct related to a person’s sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.”
  • Cyber Sexual Harassment: “Cyber Sexual Harassment includes but is not limited to Sexual Harassment conducted in whole or in part through electronic means, such as email, web postings, text messaging, and other forms of electronic behaviour.”
  • Cyber Sexual Violence: “Cyber Sexual Violence includes but is not limited to knowingly publishing, distributing, transmitting, selling, making available or advertising an intimate image of a person, knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct. An intimate image includes but is not limited to a visual recording of a person made by any means, including a photographic, digital or video recording, in which the person is nude and/or engaged in sexual activity.”
  • Sexual Exploitation: The “actual or attempted abuse of someone’s position of vulnerability” by someone in a position of power, trust, privilege, and authority to obtain sexual favours or inappropriate acts, by offering services or advantages such as reputation, money, food, academic success, prestige, or other.

Slut-shaming: “Slut-shaming is the practice of disparaging [someone] for acting in a manner that violates norms regarding sexually appropriate behavior. These denigrations, which are often double standards towards [women or feminine presenting people], range from criticizing [people] for wearing [revealing] clothing or having multiple sexual partners to blaming sexual assault and rape survivors for their attacks.”

Survivor (of sexual violence): Any person who has experienced sexual violence or sexual harassment. However, terminology is very personal and some people may prefer identifying with different words.

Systemic: An aspect, belief, or behaviour that relates to an entire system and is often fundamental to dominant social, economic, academic, or political, practices. In terms of systemic discrimination, it refers to systems in society that are founded on principles or practices that marginalize minority groups. For example, the systemic racism imbedded in our society causes racialized groups to face widespread unfair hiring practices, limited access to education, and economic disparities, amongst other discriminations.

Vexatious: Something that is intended to harass, annoy, or cause irritate someone. In the context of vexatious behaviour, the “behaviour is humiliating, offensive or abusive for the person on the receiving end. It injures the person’s self-esteem and causes [them] anguish.” It is “hostile or unwanted” and may be “repetitive in nature.”

Victim-blaming: “Victim blaming can be defined as someone saying, implying, or treating a person who has experienced harmful or abusive behaviour (such as a survivor of sexual violence) like it was a result of something they did, said, [or wore], instead of placing the responsibility where it belongs: on the person who harmed them.”

White Privilege: Defined by American scholar and activist Peggy McIntosh as: “[t]he unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed upon people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.” White privilege usually results in the discrimination and under privileging of racialized or non-white people systemically and interpersonally.